Major Protests Considered Against State's Treatment of the Irish Language

Under the headline "Anger Over State's Treatment of Irish Language - Public Meeting Hears of Crisis in State Provision For Irish Speakers", the Irish Times report on the formation of a national organisation to campaign against the Irish government's failure to support the Irish language.  The article accurately characterises this as a significant development which will bring media attention to the neglect of the Irish tongue by Dublin.

The organising committee held it's first meeting in Dublin over the past weekend.  The sponsors of what may in the long term prove to be an historic assembly, was the Conradh na Gaeilge. The Conradh na Gaeilge is the principal voluntary community organisation that promotes the Irish language in Ireland and abroad; "It's main aim is to reinstate the Irish language as the common tongue of Ireland" (Gaelport).

Conradh na Gaeilge called the meeting in response to the announced resignation of the Irish Language Commissioner, Sean O'Cuirreain, which is to take effect on 13 February 2014. The dramatic announcement by the Irish language Commissioner was a call to action against the Government's language policies which have been characterised as at best indifferent to the survival of Gaelic and at worst as working against the Irish tongue.  Julian de Spainn, Secretary General of Conradh na Gaeilge, was quoted in the article as follows: "(Language Commissioner) Sean O' Cuirreain's resignation has really galvanised people and there is a real sense of crisis that needs to be addressed".  The Secretary General further stated that a "major demonstration" was being considered and that "support could be sought from candidates in the European and local elections next May".

Below are excerpts made by Language Commissioner O'Cuirreain during his testimony before the Irish Parliament's Joint Committee on Public Oversight and Petitions on the 4th December of last year when announcing his intent to resign.  Little can be added to these eloquent words to describe the abuse suffered by the ancient tongue of Ireland at the hands of the current government:

" As we begin to regain our economic sovereignty it would be a travesty  if we were to lose our linguistic sovereignty - a cornerstone  of our cultural identity, heritage and soul as a nation. I believe this to be a clear and present danger.

A dangerous precedent emerged for the first time in 2012 where a language scheme was amended to cancel a previously confirmed statutory obligation which would have cost little and been relatively simple to implement.

Would it not be an unfortunate and cynical practice if confirming language schemes were to become a box-ticking exercise rather than an effective mechanism for developing state services through Irish.

For those generally involved with the protection or promotion of the Irish Language, either professionally or voluntarily, we are in a time of great uncertainty.  Never before have I seen in over 30 years experience - as a journalist or Language Commissioner - morale and confidence so low.  Despite the enormous good will of a majority of the people of this country, the language continues to drift to the margins of society including within much of the public sector; bringing it back to the mainstream is no simple procedure."

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