Irish language watchdog criticises RTÉ again at Oireachtas committee

Rónán Ó Domhnaill says RTÉ not fulfilling its remit to provide ‘wide variety’ of programming

An Coimisinéir Teanga Rónán Ó Domhnaill. Grianghraf: Seán Ó Mainnín

An Coimisinéir Teanga Rónán Ó Domhnaill. Grianghraf: Seán Ó Mainnín


RTÉ has thrown the Irish language “on the scrapheap”, the watchdog to protect the language has claimed.

An Coimisinéir Teanga Rónán Ó Domhnaill told an Oireachtas Committee on Tuesday that an in-depth investigation carried out by his office showed that RTÉ broadcast about 100 hours of Irish language programmes on television in 2017, compared to 18,000 hours in English.

“That is equivalent to 0.7 per cent,” said Mr Ó Domhnaill.

“Is léir, faraor géar, go bhfuil craoladh clár teilifíse Gaeilge beagnach caite i dtraipisí ar fad ag an gcraoltóir náisiúnta faoin tráth seo. [“It is clear, sadly, that Irish language broadcasting on TV has been thrown on the scrapheap at this point in time.”]

The Coimisinéir was addressing Comhchoiste na Gaeilge, na Gaeltachta agus na nOileán in Leinster House. The annual report of the Language Commissioner for 2018 was published in April.

He said the situation was a sorry state for any national broadcaster, where the first language was effectively set aside on television.

He said RTÉ’s obligation to Irish was separate to TG4. RTÉ is required to provided a “wide variety” of programming and Mr Ó Domhnaill said it was clear from the paucity of programming that RTÉ was not fulfilling that part of its remit.

He said he hoped RTÉ would now produce a plan on how it would remedy that situation, and move towards fulfilling its obligations to Irish.

He acknowledged RTÉ provided digital and online services though the medium of Irish but he said that did not remove the obligation to broadcast more programmes in Irish.

Mr Ó Domhnaill told the committee, chaired by Galway West TD Catherine Connolly, of several other failures by Government Departments and Agencies in fulfilling their obligations to the Irish language, Irish-speaking communities and those who wish to conduct their business through Irish with the State.

He instanced the Department of Agriculture, which advertised posts for positions in two Gaeltacht areas without any Irish language requirement.

The Department of Housing published its part of the National Development Plan in English alone.

And Cork County Council used Google Translate to translate its website content from English to Irish.

The number of complaints made to his office in 2018 was 634, four fewer than the number of complaints made in 2017. A third of the complaints originated in Dublin while one-fifth came from Gaeltacht areas.

Another major issue highlighted over the past year is the inability of systems used by State agencies to have accurate records of names in the Irish-language version. Some of the systems used by the HSE are not able to record the sínte fada.