Garda Síochána reported to Oireachtas over Gaeltacht service

Coimisinéir Teanga Rónán Ó Domhnaill cites failures over provision of service in Irish

An Coimisinéir Teanga’s report states that An Garda Síochána failed to implement recommendations made following a 2011 investigation into its compliance with legislation designed to ensure the linguistic rights of the public are protected.  Photograph: Joe O’Shaughnessy/The Irish Times

An Coimisinéir Teanga’s report states that An Garda Síochána failed to implement recommendations made following a 2011 investigation into its compliance with legislation designed to ensure the linguistic rights of the public are protected. Photograph: Joe O’Shaughnessy/The Irish Times

 

A report detailing the failure of an Garda Síochána to satisfactorily address the low number of Irish-speaking Gardaí stationed in the Gaeltacht has been lodged with both Houses of the Oireachtas.

The report was submitted this morning by the Office of an Coimisinéir Teanga Rónán Ó Domhnaill. It is only the second time the Oireachtas has been formally notified by Ó Domhnaill of a failure by a public body to implement recommendations made following an investigation by his office.

The report states that An Garda Síochána failed to implement recommendations made following a 2011 investigation into its compliance with legislation designed to ensure the linguistic rights of the public are protected.

That investigation found the force was in breach of the Garda Síochána Act, which states the Garda Commissioner shall, to the extent practicable, ensure that gardaí stationed in Gaeltacht areas are sufficiently competent in Irish.

It also concluded that the force was in breach of a statutory commitment made under the Official Languages Act, which requires members of the force stationed in Gaeltacht areas to have the necessary qualifications in Irish.

The investigation was conducted after a complaint was made by a member of the public in 2010 who had difficulty conducting his business in Irish at the Garda station at An Bun Beag/Doirí Beaga in the Co Donegeal Gaeltacht.

A number of recommendations were made following the subsequent investigation. It was recommended that the Garda Commissioner take every necessary step to ensure full compliance with the statutory obligation. In addition, the report recommended that the relevant statutory language obligations would be fully complied with at the Garda station at An Bun Beag/Doirí Beaga.

It was also recommended that the Garda Commissioner would examine if there were implications for other districts with Gaeltacht areas.

An Coimisinéir Teanga’s Office monitored the implementation of the recommendations for the period from 2012 to March 2021.

Statistics supplied by the Garda Commissioner’s Office in November 2020 showed that only 35 Irish-speaking Gardaí, out of a total of 95, are assigned to Gaeltacht stations. This equates to 37 per cent of the members located in Gaeltacht stations.

The report stated that it was “noteworthy” that this percentage had not increased since the investigation was carried out in 2011.

“It is now very clear that the investigation’s recommendations have not been implemented by An Garda Síochána,” said Mr Ó Domhnaill.

“The number of Irish-speaking Gardaí who are on duty in the Gaeltacht is inadequate and as a result the Garda Síochána Act is being breached,” he added.

Mr Ó Domhnaill said that in order to achieve a significant increase in the 37per cent cohort “a clear roadmap with specific goals and deadlines” would be required.

Numerous communications, described in the report as “a vast number of contacts”, were made between An Coimisinéir Teanga’s office and An Garda Síochána on the matter during the monitoring period.

“In my time as Coimisinéir Teanga there was more communication with An Garda Síochána than any other public body in the context of implementing investigation recommendations,” Mr Ó Domhnaill said.

“It now falls to the Houses of the Oireachtas to take whatever additional measures they deem appropriate.”