Conradh na Gaeilge says survey shows need for language bill of rights


THE results of a survey of bilingualism in the state sector was further evidence of the need for a language Act or bill of rights for Irish, according to the general secretary of Conradh na Gaeilge, Mr Sean Mac Mathuna.

The purpose of such legislation would be to ensure that all people "as of right" would be able to conduct their business with the State through Irish. "Frustration is the experience of people trying to do so at present. Despite the Government's guidelines it is still extremely difficult to conduct business with many sectors of the state system."

The report, entitled An Datheangachas san Earnail Phoibli/Bilingualism in the State Sector was published by Bord na Gaeilge, the state body for the promotion of Irish. The report, which covered 1995, analyses the results of questionnaires on bilingualism sent to 181 state organisations, 158 of which replied.

The purpose of the questionnaires was to ascertain the degree to which these bodies implemented the Government's policy of bilingualism during 1995 and the survey was designed for Bord na Gaeilge by the Institute of Public Administration.

Although Bord na Gaeilge detects some hopeful signs it concludes that "the service through Irish being offered by a majority of the organisations surveyed is very deficient".

The board continues: "Some organisations claim that there is no demand for services through Irish. Often what is being reported here is a silence from potential users who are not prepared to have to especially seek out a service through Irish from organisations which do not indicate where exactly the service is available and from whom."

The board finds encouragement in the fact that 42 per cent of state organisations who responded to the survey conduct business through Irish at least once a month and 17 per cent display public notices welcoming the use of Irish.

One in four public sector organisations said they conducted business through Irish with the public at least once a week and more than one in 10 did so daily. A total of 43 out of the 158 organisations replying said they answer the telephone in Irish only or bilingually.

"Eleven of the 19 answering in Irish do so because the organisation name is in Irish, e.g. Bord Gais, Telecom Eireann, Bus ireann etc; three of the local authorities - Laois, Leitrim and Kerry - answer in Irish; a further eight answer bilingually."

Levels of competence in Irish varied greatly among organisations, the highest levels being reported by the Garda Siochana and the lowest by the health boards.

Overall, 52 per cent of the respondents took account of bilingual competence as a factor when recruiting staff whereas 45 per cent did not. The report expressed concern that only 20 per cent of respondents said bilingual forms were in stock at all their offices.

A Department of Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht spokesman, said: "The Department accepts the findings in the report which Bord na Gaeilge submitted to us."