Language Commissioner criticises Dept of Education

Changes have been made – Department

 

An Coimisinéir Teanga, Mr. Rónán Ó Domhnaill, has reported the Department of Education and Skills to the Houses of the Oireachtas today because it has failed to fulfil its obligations under the Education Act 1998.

Mr. Ó Domhnaill said that recommendations his office had made as part of an investigation were not “satisfactorily implemented”. He concluded that an attempt was made to compel a Gaeltacht school into accepting a teacher from a redeployment panel even though the school authorities and the teachers in question felt that the teachers had insufficient Irish to carry out their work in that language.

Launching his annual report, Mr Ó Domhnaill said that “the issue involved could not be more important. The Department of Education has not put a system in place which ensures that teachers teaching in Gaeltacht Schools and Gaelscoileanna are fluent in the Irish Language. I simply cannot accept that”.

The Dept of Education issued a statement this morning in which they said that they accepted the “importance” of making sure that a teacher working in a Gaeltacht school had “a sufficient fluency in Irish”. They had made changes, following An Coimisinéir Teanga’s recommendations, “so as to ensure that a Gaeltacht school is not forced to take a teacher who is not fluent in Irish”.

They said that the changes “made to the redeployment arrangements achieve the same outcome as that recommended by An Coimisinéir Teanga albeit in a different manner. The recommendations made by An Coimisinéir Teanga relate to the redeployment arrangements that operated in 2013. The changes that were made to the redeployment arrangements in 2014 enable those teachers who are particularly interested in teaching in a school that operates through the medium of Irish to be identified. This ensures that schools that operate through the medium of Irish, when engaging with the redeployment panels, can select those teachers that have expressed a particular interest in teaching in such schools”.

Since those changes were made, the Department said, “no teacher who had not expressed a particular interest in teaching through Irish has been redeployed to a Gaeltacht school either through the school led redeployment process or through the Panel Officer process”.

The Department recognised the need to strengthen Irish-medium education in the Gaeltacht and had recently published a discussion document for education provision in the Gaeltacht.

President of Conradh na Gaeilge, Mr Cóilín Ó Cearbhaill, said that the An Coimisinéir Teanga’s report showed that the State was “simply not doing enough to protect language rights and to meet the Irish language and Gaeltacht communities need for satisfactory services in their own language”. He said that a “robust” Official Languages Act was needed to meet those challenges.

As part of his work during 2014 Mr Ó Domhnaill carried out an audit on the level of compliance by local authorities to have bilingual recorded oral announcements. Only two local authorities, Donegal and Laois, were found to have recorded messages in compliance with the regulations. Mr Ó Domhnaill said that this demonstrated “the widespread lack of care for the language by the State generally; if local authorities aren’t complying with their language obligations, what hope does a citizen have in getting the proper service from the State generally?”

His office handled 709 new complaints during 2014, a one per cent increase on 2013’s total of 702.

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