Méid an Téacs

Will unofficial policy silence Irish forever?

Nollaig 17, 2013

The resignation of An Coimisinéir Teanga, Seán Ó Cuirreáin, adds to the growing suspicion that there is now an undeclared policy in operation to do away with what’s left of Irish in the public life of our country.
As someone who spent 30 years in the civil service,I know the deep dislike of Irish that is common among top civil servants. The days of Leon Ó Broin, TK Whitaker and Noel Dorr are long-passed. Our top officials will not openly express their dislike of Irish. Their tactic is to demean the language by ignoring it and marginalising those few who promote it. There was unanimous cross-party support for the Official Languages Act when it was going through the Dáil — proof that the legislation was positive sentiment about the Irish language and wouldn’t mean much in practice. Despite its limited scope, the Act conferred rights in legislative form for the first time. It provided cover for Irish speakers in pursuing their linguistic rights. But in the eyes of the mandarins, this was exactly what made it ‘a crank’s charter’ — to use a phrase popular in their circles at the time.

Without the active support of top management, the new legislation was doomedfrom the start. But what started as passive inaction in relation to it now seems to have moved up a notch or two to one of active undermining. It reminds me of a phrase used by President Michael D Higgins, when he was speaking at the biennial Tóstal na Gaeilge conference in Galway in 2010. He referred to those “for whom Irish was not half-dead enough.” Mr Ó Cuirreáin was appointed to his office by the President and will now be tendering his resignation to him in what are frustrating circumstances. As the courageous defender of minority rights that President Higgins has always been, and as the guardian of our constitution, I expect Uachtarán na hÉireann will have something to say about what appears to be the current, if undeclared, policy to undermine the standing of Irish in the public life of our country.

John Glennon
Co Wicklow