One in five recruits to civil service to be proficient in Irish

Cabinet strengthens language legislation to include target dates for compliance

A fifth of new recruits to the civil service will have to be proficient in Irish from 2030 following approval at Cabinet this week of a series of amendments to the Official Languages (Amendment) Bill.

Irish speakers have long experienced difficulties when trying to access State services in Gaeltacht and non-Gaeltacht areas and the amended Bill, which is expected to be passed by the end of the year, proposes a national plan to identify language gaps in the public service.

The Bill will also require public bodies to recognise the correct spelling of names and addresses which use the síneadh fada, which denotes pronunciation or meaning in Irish words.

The Programme for Government contains a provision to strengthen and enact the Official Languages Bill by the end of 2020 and to include periodic reviews to monitor the overall objectives of the act such as ensuring that one-in-five of new recruits to the public service are Irish speakers.

An earlier iteration of the legislation, which was approved by Cabinet last December, was roundly criticised for being ineffective as it did not include mandatory measured targets.

Other measures approved by Cabinet this week include the establishment of a new statutory committee - the Language Services Advisory Committee - which will oversee the provision of a new National Plan for the Provision of Irish Language Services.

This committee is to be established no later than six months after the Bill is enacted and the National Plan is to be prepared and delivered to the Minister for the Gaeltacht within two years after the committee is established.

The Government is also planning to extend the powers of the Coimisinéir Teanga to monitor provisions in other pieces of legislation relating to the use or status of Irish. These could include legislation such as the Education Act, the Planning and Development Act and the Broadcasting Act.

Conradh na Gaeilge’s Julian de Spáinn said: “We particularly welcome the deadline of 2030 for 20 per cent recruitment of people competent in the Irish language.”

“We will examine the wording of the amendment proposed and work to ensure that the target date of 2030 is not weakened in the Bill.

“We will also continue to work to strengthen other provisions in the Bill such as the need to add a target year to the provision of services by the State to the Gaeltacht community through Irish.”

The Bill is due to be debated in the Dáil on Thursday.

Éanna Ó Caollaí

Éanna Ó Caollaí

Éanna Ó Caollaí is an Irish Times journalist and editor of the Irish Times Student Hub