Ruairí Quinn rejects claims that Irish language services have been damaged

Pearse Doherty says State organisations are ignoring their legal obligations

Ruairi Quinn.

Ruairi Quinn.


Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn has rejected Sinn Féin claims that the Government had done “untold damage” to services for Irish language speakers but he pledged to have a full Dáil debate on the issue before Christmas.

Sinn Féin finance spokesman Pearse Doherty said Irish language commissioner Seán Ó Cuirreáin announced on Wednesday that he intended to resign in February in the wake of the failure to implement legislation that would improve services and support for Irish speakers.

State organisations are ignoring their legal obligations and “in 2½ years in office the Government has done untold damage to the provision of services and supports for Irish language speakers throughout the State”.

Mr Doherty said “the Government changed the rules. Mr Ó Cuirreáin does not think there is any way at all that the new regime would work”.

The Donegal South West TD and Irish language speaker said the commissioner’s resignation “is a damning indictment of the Government’s policy on the Irish language”.

‘Major concern’
The commissioner, in announcing his resignation to the committee on Public Service Oversight and Petitions, said three-quarters of the Irish language schemes had expired. “He expressed major concern about the standard of many of the others,” Mr Doherty said. The commissioner had to take the unprecedented step of resigning “because the Government is totally undermining the work he is doing”.

Compulsory to use English
Mr Ó Cuirreáin expressed his belief to the committee that the Government was moving towards making it compulsory to use English when engaging with public bodies.

Mr Quinn said, however, he had been assured by his colleague Minister of State for Gaeltacht Affairs Dinny McGinley “who has direct responsibility in this area that these criticisms by the commissioner are not accepted and that in due course, when his resignation takes effect, a new commissioner will be appointed”.

Mr Doherty said the Government promised two years ago that it would revise the 2003 Official Languages Act but nothing has happened yet.

Mr Quinn rejected the commissioner’s comments about the Government’s attitude to the language but he offered a comprehensive Dáil debate with the Minister of State for Gaeltacht Affairs “where he can respond to all the Irish language commissioner’s claims”.