Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD today challenged the Taoiseach to reconsider his appointment of two Ministers for the Gaeltacht who do not have functioning Irish.
The Sinn Féin leader described the appointments as a “retrograde step” and criticised the Taoiseach’s refusal to reconsider his decision.
Teachta Adams said: “these appointments, and the manner in which the department has been reorganised, are further evidence of the downgrading of the Irish language and Gaeltacht that has been a mark of this government.”
The Sinn Féin President said:
“The appointment of two Ministers with responsibility for the Gaeltacht who do not have functioning Irish is a retrograde step.
“I make no criticism of either Minister. I am sure they are capable representatives and I have worked with Teachta Dála Joe McHugh who has played a positive role as Chairperson of the Good Friday Agreement Implementation Committee.
“But these appointments, and the manner in which the department has been reorganised, are further evidence of the downgrading of the Irish language and Gaeltacht that has been a mark of this government.
“Two years ago Bille Gaeltachta 2012 was universally opposed by Irish Language Rights Groups and led to a Dáil walk out by all opposition TDs as the government forced it though.
“The government has stripped Gaeltacht communities of their right to democratic representation on Údaras Na Gaeltachta and created another quango that is unrepresentative of the people in the Gaeltacht areas.
“Last December the Language Commissioner Seán Ó Cuirreáin resigned in protest at the government Irish language policy. The Commissioner criticised the lack of commitment from state agencies in implementing their duties under the Official Languages Act.
“The government is in breach of its own 20 year strategy for the language and its Irish language and policy has increased the marginalisation of the Irish language in the public administration system and ensured that language schemes by public bodies have been poorly devised and inadequately implemented.
“The two appointments to run the Gaeltacht Department have shocked and outraged Irish language and Gaeltacht groups.
“It was bad enough that neither of the newly appointed Ministers will be able to carry out their duties through Irish but this follows on from a series of bad decisions in respect of the Gaeltacht by the government.
“Fine Gael and Labour have cut the budget of Udarás na Gaeltachta by 75%. The budgets for TG4 and Foras na Gaeilge have also been slashed. An effective cap has been put in place on the Growth of Gaelscoileanna despite the fact that 25% of parents demand their children be educated through Irish. Irish Language experts predict that our language has less than 15 years left as a living language within the Gaeltacht?
“This is a civil rights and equality issue for the people of the Gaeltacht. They should have the right to conduct their business in their first language.”