A “national effort” will be required to ensure public services are provided to the Irish-speaking community, in line with amended language rights legislation, the newly appointed Irish Language Commissioner, Séamas Ó Concheanainn, has said.
Following a recruitment competition run by the Public Appointments Service (PAS), Mr Ó Concheanainn was appointed to succeed Rónán Ó Domhnaill as Coimisinéir na Teanga. Mr Ó Domhnaill spent nine years in the role before being appointed earlier this year as media development commissioner with Coimisiún na Meán.
President Michael D Higgins appointed Mr Ó Concheanainn to the role at a ceremony in Áras an Uachtaráin on Wednesday, where he was presented with his seal of office. The ceremony took place after his nomination by Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media Catherine Martin was accepted by the Houses of the Oireachtas.
The appointment of An Coimisinéir Teanga is for a term of six years.
The commissioner’s role is to monitor compliance by public bodies with the provisions of language rights legislation and to provide advice to the public regarding their language rights.
Mr Ó Concheanainn said in statement that he was looking forward to the opportunity to make a “significant contribution” towards improving the public services provided by public bodies through Irish to the Irish-speaking community.
Commenting on the amended language rights legislation, Mr Ó Concheanainn said he welcomed that the Official Languages (Amendment) Act, is coming in to effect and added that it would “strengthen the language rights of the Irish-speaking community”.
The new legislation includes significant commitments such as a national plan covering some 500 public bodies that will set out the strategy for upholding the language rights of the Irish-speaking community.
From 2030, the public service will be obliged to ensure that 20 per cent of recruits will be proficient Irish speakers in order to deliver services in Irish to Gaeltacht communities and to the Irish language community.
“It will be critical to have sufficient human resources with proficiency in Irish to deliver the new public services,” Mr Ó Concheanainn said.
“A national effort will be required, including a central role for the Irish-medium higher-education sector in providing the qualified staff that public bodies will require for the realisation of the language rights prescribed in the amended legislation.”
Originally from An Spidéal in Co Galway, Mr Ó Concheanainn spent three years working as director at the office of an Coimisinéar Teanga.
He worked previously in leadership positions at the University of Galway and has extensive experience of working in areas including language legislation, higher education, language planning and community development and rural revitalisation.
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