Civil servants 'wasted time' learning Irish to boost career

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Thu Mar 30 15:31:39 UTC 2006

Forwarded from edling at

Civil servants 'wasted time' learning Irish to boost career

29/03/2006 - 18:38:40

Civil servants who learned Irish to improve their career prospects would
have better spent the time at home mowing the lawn, it was claimed today.
Language Commissioner Sean O Cuirreain said Irish-speaking workers in half
of all government departments and offices may have been denied promotions
because official decisions and agreements were not implemented. “If I were
a civil servant who had gone to night classes to improve my Irish, had
gone to the Gaeltacht to improve my Irish over the years in the hope that
it would help me in promotion and to find out now that it didn’t help me
at all, that marks weren’t given if I worked in those particular
departments involved, I think I’d be fairly aggrieved,” he said.

'Essentially those civil servants in relation to their skills in Irish
being of help to promotion they might have been better off at home mowing
the lawn or painting the ceiling.' Mr O Cuirreain said the system of
compulsory Irish was ended 30 years ago and it appeared that certain
elements in the state system took it upon themselves to effectively
promote compulsory English. “There was a widely held belief that a system
had been established – based on Government decisions and agreements –
which awarded additional marks (6% or 3%) to candidates with an extra
level of skill, ie. proficiency in both official languages of the state,”
he said.

“It now appears that half of all government departments and offices have
not been, or are not, complying with this system in their internal
promotion competitions.” The matter was initially raised by a civil
servant in the Department of Education and Science who argued he had lost
out on promotion because he had been refused the marks to which he was
entitled. Following enquiries, the department confirmed that it had not in
the past rewarded competency in Irish with additional marks in internal
promotion competitions.

It also emerged that they were not alone in this; half of all government
departments and offices had adopted the same approach, the commissioner
said. Trade unions sought the end of the system in the past claiming it
created a sense of grievance for those who did not qualify but the
Government refused in a bid to ensure sufficient competence in the
language to allow citizens do their business with government departments
and offices through Irish. “There will be those who will argue that the
additional skill of proficiency in Irish should not attract such
recognition. That argument is not relevant, however, in this instance,” Mr
O Cuirreain said.

'The core issue here concerns compliance with Government decisions and
agreements, and with matters of fairness, openness and ethics in the civil
service.' An Coimisineir Teanga said he had referred the failure to comply
with the system to the appropriate authorities – the Commission for Public
Service Appointments and the Finance Minister

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