Government scraps demand on librarians to speak basic Irish

New arrangement drops Irish language requirement even in libraries in Gaeltacht areas

A Librarian working at the Dun Laoghaire LexIcon library. Photograph: Cyril Byrne / THE IRISH TIMES

A Librarian working at the Dun Laoghaire LexIcon library. Photograph: Cyril Byrne / THE IRISH TIMES

 

The Government has dropped a requirement that librarians employed by the State speak a basic level of Irish even in Gaeltacht areas, the watchdog for the Irish language has disclosed.

Coimisinéir Teanga Rónán Ó Domhnaill has said a working group at the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government recommended earlier this year that the Irish language requirement was an unnecessary entry barrier that prevented librarians with no Irish or those with no opportunity to learn the language from joining the service.

The Department’s new arrangements for recruiting librarians make no reference to any Irish language requirement even in libraries situated in Gaeltacht areas, where Irish remains the common spoken language.

Mr Ó Domhnaill strongly criticised the change at a meeting of the Oireachtas Committee on Irish, the Gaeltachts and the Islands yesterday.

He said that he had raised this issue with the Department, especially the lack of any direction for Gaeltacht libraries, but still awaited a response from it.

He said that a situation now had arisen where librarians recruited to Gaeltacht libraries would not be required to speak any Irish .

“On a wider level, it appears that the general requirement for Irish in the public library service has been cast aside completely,” he said.

He said that the 20 year strategy on the Irish language had determined that positions must be created in organisations where Irish was relevant and necessary.

“I don’t believe that organisations are addressing that aim with any sincerity. He said it was lip service that applied when it came to recruiting people with Irish in the public service.

Mr Ó Domhnaill was outlining the work that has been done by his office in the past year. He said that his office had received 755 complaints, an increase of over 6 per cent. The vast majority of those related to the new postal system Eircode arbitrarily allowing addresses in English tho those who wished to use Irish-Language addresses.

He also criticised the language schemes in many public bodies and public companies, which had not lived up to the spirit nor the letter of the Languages Act. He said that some organisations with 700 to 800 people employed just one or two people with fluency in Irish to deal with citizens who wished to conduct their services in Irish.

He also said that second schemes published by agencies and authorities had actually lowered the commitments. He instanced Westmeath County Council which has moved from promising to provide a bilingual website in 2007, to offer only a static “cúpla focal” on the home page and on other lead pages.

Members of the committee were very vocal about the lack of services in Irish. Senator Trevor O Clochartaigh said it was impossible to do services in Irish with many councils and Departments. His colleague in Sinn Féin Peadar Tóibín said that only €20,000 has been committed by the State to help families outside the Gaeltacht who wish to raise their children in Irish.

Senator Pádraig Ó Céidigh said the people of the Gaeltacht had been let down by the State and the populations of Spiddal, Carraroe, and Rosmuc in Connemara see no effort being made by the Sate.

“This is the heart of it. People want to live and work in the Gaeltacht. They just don’t see it happen.

“The 20 year strategy is only box-ticking. It should be thrown out. We need a new strategy for the Gaeltacht and Irish, “he said.