President concerned at lack of State services through Irish
Higgins’ comments made at reception for former coimisinéir teanga Seán Ó Cuirreáin
President Michael D Higgins and former coimisinéir teanga Seán O’Cuirreáin at yesterday’s reception at Áras an Uachtaráin. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill
President Michael D Higgins has expressed his dismay and concern at the State’s failure to provide services in Irish for Irish speakers.
Mr Higgins made his comments during a reception at Áras an Uachtaráin yesterday afternoon held in honour of former coimisinéir teanga Seán Ó Cuirreáin.
Mr Ó Cuirreáin resigned in December over the State’s failure to improve services to the public through Irish. Mr Higgins described the former coimisinéir as a passionate defender of language rights.
“I would like to pay tribute this evening to Seán’s honesty, his intellectual integrity and to his steadfastness.
Speaking in Irish, Mr Higgins said: “Irish should never be seen as a thorn in the side of the administrative system”.
“As President of Ireland, I wish to state that, not only am I dismayed, but that I am greatly concerned at the apparent low level of ability to fulfil the rights of citizens who wish to interact through Irish with the State and its agencies.
“We should also tackle the poisonous myth that Irish is an obstacle to the acquisition of any other language.
“In my own experience, those who hold that idea would only be happy with a monoglot entirely English-speaking Republic.”
“We need to carefully examine the obstacles that stood in Seán Ó Cuirreáin’s way as he tried to carry out his work; the type of obstacle that led him to believe that he would be better off if he stepped back from the role of
an coimisinéir teanga.
“Very serious doubts have now emerged as to whether the Irish language can continue as a primary spoken language even among the communities in the heart of the Gaeltacht.”
However, Mr Higgins struck a hopeful note on the public’s attitude towards Irish.
“A great change in the attitude of people to Irish is discernible in the results of the recent census. Irish no longer carries the stigma of being connected with poverty and emigration; to Irish people it is now an important symbol of identity.”