33 LEADING MEMBERS of Ireland’s Irish language community have called on the Government to abandon proposals to merge the functions of the Language Commissioner with the Office of the Ombudsman.
The government announced proposals to scrap the Coimisinéir Teanga, and add its functions to that of the regular Ombudsman, in November as part of its plans to rationalise the number of so-called ‘quangos’.
The decision was later confirmed by the junior minister for Gaeltacht Affairs, Dinny McGinley, in the Dáil in late November.
The commissioner’s duties include making sure public bodies comply with the Official Languages Act and investigate complaints where bodies are alleged to have failed in these duties, as well as offering advice to public bodies regarding their duties under the act.
In a letter published in today’s Irish Times, the community said merging the two institutions could actually cost more money than it would save, and pointed out that the current commissioner Seán Ó Cuirreáin has been appointed until 2016.
His tenure means the government could have to buy him out of his contract, or face potential legal action if he was to be made redundant.
“Indeed, An Bord Snip Nua when it looked at the office identified no efficiencies to be made and made no recommendation to alter the status of the office of the language commissioner as an independent office,” the group said.
They also pointed to the fact that all political parties had backed the 20-year strategy for the Irish language, laid down by the previous government in 2010, and that closing the commissioner’s office would “undermine the strategy and goodwill behind it”.
The letter is signed by representatives from Údarás na Gaeltachta, Seachtain na Gaeilge, Conradh na Gaeilge, Oireachtas na Gaeilge, Comhaltas, students’ union representatives and legal figures.