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Language Commissioner quits, tells TDs Irish is being marginalised

Seán Ó’Cuirreáin was appointed to the role to monitor how public bodies were increasing the quantity of services provided through Irish.

Image: Fiontar via Flickr/Creative Commons

IRISH LANGUAGE COMMISSIONER Seán Ó’Cuirreáin has announced plans to step down from the role early next year.

He told the an Oireachtas committee this afternoon that he planned to resign from his role over Government failures to promote the language and implement its use by public bodies.

The role of An Coimisinéir Teanga is to monitor compliance by public bodies with the provisions of the Official Languages Act.

The 2003 legislation was aimed at increasing and improving the quantity and quality of services provided for the public through Irish.

The Commissioner position was created to act as an ‘ombudsman’ in the area, and Ó’Cuirreáin was appointed to the role in 2004.

Speaking to the Joint Committee on Public Service Oversight and Petitions, he pointed towards a marginalisation of the language in the public administration system, the inadequate implementation of statutory language schemes by public bodies and the poor standard of the schemes themselves.

President of Conradh na Gaeilge Donnchadh Ó hAodha described the Commissioner’s move as “the worst blow to the Irish language” in many years.

But, he said:

Conradh na Gaeilge can well understand his reasons for stepping down; the Government has made bad decision after bad decision in relation to the Irish language since taking office in 2011

Fianna Fáil spokesperson on Gaeltacht Affairs Michael Kitt said the Government had shown “a lack political will and support” for preserving the language.

“It is deeply regrettable that [Ó'Cuirreáin] now feels he has no choice but to resign before the end of his term following successive cuts to resources, unnecessary delays in progressing policy and a general lack of interest and support for the issue,” Deputy Kitt said.

The 2012 Annual Report from the Language Commissioner said that “for every one step
forward” in the promotion of the Irish language in the public sector, “there appeared to have been two steps backwards”.

In the same year, the Commissioner received 756 reports of difficulties relating to access services in Irish.

Read: Language Commissioner faces questions over ‘backwards’ year for Irish language

Read: More than €12 million spent training Irish language graduates to translate EU legislation >

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