Just getting a language act into legislation does not necessarily help a struggling language like Irish to survive… The Irish Language Commissioner Seán Ó Cuirreáin has noted that even though the legislation exists in the Republic its effectiveness or otherwise is being ignored by a large number of government bodies in the Republic where such an act does actually exist. Lorna Siggins writes:
Even the Government department responsible for the language – the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht – has no updated formal scheme for implementing key elements of the Official Languages Act.
The offices of the President and the Ombudsman are among those public bodies whose language schemes expired more than three years ago, and two-thirds of all public bodies have no scheme, Mr Ó Cuirreáin confirmed in his annual report as An Coimisinéir Teanga, published yesterday in Galway.
And this carelessness extends even into the heart of what’s historically been designated as the Gaeltacht area:
The inquiry was initiated in February 2011 after a native Irish speaker complained he was unable to conduct his business through Irish with gardaí in Gweedore. The inquiry was set aside temporarily when Garda authorities increased to three the number of Irish speakers assigned to the station. However, when no further progress was reported, the inquiry resumed and a formal finding of non-compliance was made by An Coimisinéir Teanga in December 2011.
That’s three up from just one in station staff of nine in the largest and most populous part of the central Gaeltacht in Donegal. The hard core truth though is that it has not been difficult to get by in Gaoth Dobhair for many years now since, unlike the Connamara Gaeltacht, the chosen lingua franca in the public domain has been English now for a couple of generations now.
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty