Sir, – On December 12th, 1979, Gaeltacht communities all over the country went to the polls to democratically elect seven members to the board of Údarás na Gaeltachta, the semi-State body charged with the economic, social and linguistic development of the Gaeltacht. The other six members were appointed by the Minister for the Gaeltacht.
Údarás na Gaeltachta was established as the result of a 10-year campaign in the Gaeltacht for a democratically elected Gaeltacht authority. While in essence Údarás na Gaeltachta was a warmed up version of Gaeltarra Éireann, the fact that seven of the members of its board were democratically elected meant that Gaeltacht communities felt some degree of ownership of the new body, and allowed Gaeltacht representatives, sensitive to the needs of their electorate to have an important input into policy at board level.
This democratic element of Údarás na Gaeltachta was undone by the Fine Gael-Labour coalition government with the passing of Acht na Gaeltachta 2012, which did away with direct elections, in order to save money as was claimed at the time. Instead, the legislation conferred on Gaeltacht county councils the right to choose six members of the Údarás board. This has resulted in the largest and strongest Gaeltacht area, west of An Spidéal being left with no representative on the Údarás board. This would not have happened if Gaeltacht communities were still allowed to elect their own representatives. – Yours, etc,
DONNCHA Ó HÉALLAITHE,
Co na Gaillimhe.