Language experts question merger

 

FIVE INTERNATIONAL language experts have questioned the Government’s decision to merge the office of An Coimisinéir Teanga (Irish Language Commissioner) with that of the Ombudsman.

The merger was announced last month as part of the Government’s public sector reform programme, and has already been criticised by Irish language bodies and by Fianna Fáil.

In a letter to Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Jimmy Deenihan, five specialists in Ireland, Wales, Scotland and Canada question the justification for the decision.

NUI Galway lecturer Dr John Walsh, Prof Colin Williams of Cardiff University, Prof Linda Cardinal of the University of Ottawa, Dr Wilson McLeod of the University of Edinburgh and Prof Rob Dunbar of Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, the University of the Highlands and Islands, say they believe there are “no obvious economic savings” as a result.

Staff in the language commissioner’s office in Spiddal, Co Galway, are already employed by the Department of the Gaeltacht, and share that department’s human resources and financial and services functions.

The language commissioner’s office costs about €600,000 annually and is charged with ensuring language rights are adhered to under the Official Languages Act. Its annual report has been critical of a number of departments and public bodies for failing to meet these requirements.

“The great strength of the Irish system is the independence of the [Irish Language] Commissioner’s office to investigate complaints in strict accordance with its statutory obligations,” the five academics state.

“Without such an independent office and focus for investigation of complaints, we fear that the rights of Irish speakers will atrophy,” they say, calling on Mr Deenihan to reconsider the decision.