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O Clochartaigh criticises Gardaí and government departments on failure to conduct business through Irish

24 April, 2012

“It is scandalous that the Gardaí, the Department of Social Protection, and other government departments can flout the law, and that the Government is disregarding their conduct” according to Sinn Féin Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh.

The Galway West Senator was speaking following the publication of the Annual Report of the Language Commissioner, Seán Ó Cuirreáin, which includes details of two investigations undertaken last year, one of which concerned the Gardaí Síochána in Donegal, and regarding the recruitment policy of the Department of Social Protection. The investigation into the Donegal case highlighted the complete failure of the Gardaí in Bunbeg to deal with the public through Irish.

“I think it is incredible that eight out of nine Gardaí in a station in the heart of the Gaeltacht were unable to carry out their functions in Irish, particularly in light of the figures which I obtained from the Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence last week, which showed that 49 Gardaí in Donegal receive additional allowances for their ability to function in Irish.”

The Department of Social Protection breached the Official Languages Act on an issue related to the policy of giving additional points to applicants with Irish for the purposes of their recruitment policy. This was a policy which was put in place following the abolition of the requirement to have Irish to enter the Civil Service in 1975.

According to Senator Ó Clochartaigh,

“The Commissioner’s report highlights the fact that the Department showed little concern for this policy, or for their failure to implement it. It is on account of this attitude and this failure that there is a lack of personnel in the Civil Service with Irish. This begs the question, is this also happening in other Departments?”

“Not only are the Gardaí and the Department of Social Protection failing to carry out their obligations under the Official Languages Act, there has been no action taken on the reports of these investigations since they were laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas. I will be calling for the Joint Oireachtas Committee to invite the Commissioner, and the State bodies in breach of the Act to a meeting, in order to investigate the matters at hand and to discuss the obligations of the State under the Act.

“We will be looking for a clarification on why, in the words of the Commissioner, ‘the enforcement procedures of the Act have failed completely’. 105 applications of enforcement have been brought forward since the legislation was passed, but 66 of those have since lapsed or expired. 20% of those have been lapsed for more than three years, and an additional 20% have been lapsed for more than two years. The Department, and Ministers Deenihan and McGinley are failing entirely in this regard, just as their predecessors did, and this must be corrected.

“The basic rights outlined in the Act are central to the implementation of the 20 year Irish Language Strategy, as these cases concern public services being made available for the Gaeltacht community and the Irish Language community. The Commissioner’s report highlights the fact that the current Government is failing in this respect, and this does not bode well for the implementation of the Strategy.

“Even more seriously, the law of the land is being disregarded by those who are responsible for the enforcement of the law. This cannot continue. The State is quick to enforce other laws, firmly and without qualms, it cannot be accepted that they themselves would operate outside the Law,” according to Senator Ó Clochartaigh.

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