[lg policy] Looking back at Irish language policy

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Wed Jul 25 15:05:28 UTC 2012

Looking back at Irish language policy

Looking back at the controversies of the last sixteen months in
office,  perhaps it is time for Fine Gael/Labour Government to publish
an updated strategy for the Irish language. Most of the divisions over
strategy have surfaced during the debate over the Gaeltacht Bill over
the past couple of weeks and it seems that opposition parties have
pulled away from  Irish language policy favoured by Government.

Minister of State for Gaeltacht Affairs Dinny McGinley TD even
recently acknowledged in the Dáil that cross-party support for the
policy had split for the first time in years during the course of the
debate and it now seems that opposition parties are at odds over
Irish language policy. The flash-points of controversy over the Bill
have been highlighted but it would seem that the aspect which
aggrieved the Irish language community most was the lack of
consultation about the text and aims of the Bill.

It was felt by many that valuable recommendations were side-lined as
Government ploughed ahead with its own legislative agenda. This move
coupled with  the lack of a formal consultation process and the end of
 elections for Údarás na Gaeltachta, would make it easy to sympathise
with sectors of the community who felt these actions were undertaken
against their will.

However when looking back at the decisions of the past 16 months it
would seem to be indicative of a new shift in policy. On examination
there seems to be huge gaps between the 20 Year Strategy published  in
2010 which had cross-party approval and the new Irish language
strategy favoured by Government today.

However we do now know yet which parts of the original Strategy are to
be implemented and which elements are to be abandoned.

Sixteen months later there are still questions as to what are the
‘achievable’ targets and goals as outlined in the Government’s promise
to support the Strategy.
There are questions also over the powers and roles of various agencies
which will be charged with  implementing the new Bill including Foras
na Gaeilge and Údarás na Gaeltachta – given the funding for such
action will have to come out of existing budgets.

Much of the work behind the scenes in planning the  implementation of
the 20 year Strategy is being undertaken by various inter-departmental
committees and  groups, however so far the work of these groups has
been covered in a fog of bureaucracy as little or no information has
been provided as to decisions  made.

Other  issues are of a more fundamental nature- the provision of
services in the Irish language by the public service under the
Official Languages Act.

>>From reading the original 20 year strategy it would seem clear that
the Act and various aspects such as language schemes would remain in
place, however many major changes have been announced by Government
over the past  year.

One such change was the announcement, as per the Programme for
Government in November 2011 that there would be a full review of the
Official Languages Act. However before the competition of the
consultation period for the review, the government declared that the
Office of the Ombudsman was to merge with the Office of An Coimisinéir
Teanga, the central office for enforcement of the legislation.

This followed other changes to the legislation which preceded the
review of the Act including an announcement that Acts of the
Oireachtas need only be published in one of the official languages
online and an amendment to a placenames order signalling that Daingean
Uí Chúis was to be the Irish placename for ‘Dingle’ and that Dingle
could be used as an official placename in the English language.

As the 2011 Annual report of the Language Commisioner notes, “ These
changes were effected in 2011, despite a Government undertaking to
complete  a full review of the Act”.

Tough decisions will have to be made in the coming year as to the
future of the Official Languages Act and any new regulatory system
that may follow.

There will also be questions as to how the Government aims to finance
the implementation of these changes to the public service while
respecting citizens’ constitutional rights.

It’s clear that  the Minister of State for Gaeltacht Dinny McGinley TD
is committed to the Irish language, however the time has come to
sideline bureaucracy in favour of accountability and publish a new and
more upfront language strategy.

Positive action and accountability as well as increased engagement
with the Irish language community would mean that speakers would be
energised to play their part in achieving the ambitions of the

19 June 2012 Gaeltacht Bill 2012 published
26 April 2012: Family support scheme and language planning system
announced for Gaeltacht areas
17 November 2011: Government announcement that Office of Language
Commissioner to merge with Office of Ombudsman
03 November 2011: Review of Official Languages Act
August 2011: Civil Law Act (Misc provisions) foilsithe- Amendement of s7 of OLA
August 2011:  Amendment to Placenames Order- Dingle/Daingean Uí Chúis
March 2011: Programme for Government finalised. It accepts the 20 Year
Strategy however cautions that will implement achievable goals of
strategy. Review of Official Languages Act announced.


N.b.: Listing on the lgpolicy-list is merely intended as a service to
its members
and implies neither approval, confirmation nor agreement by the owner
or sponsor of the list as to the veracity of a message's contents.
Members who disagree with a message are encouraged to post a rebuttal,
and to write directly to the original sender of any offensive message.
 A copy of this may be forwarded to this list as well.  (H. Schiffman,

For more information about the lgpolicy-list, go to

This message came to you by way of the lgpolicy-list mailing list
lgpolicy-list at groups.sas.upenn.edu
To manage your subscription unsubscribe, or arrange digest format: https://groups.sas.upenn.edu/mailman/listinfo/lgpolicy-list

More information about the Lgpolicy-list mailing list