Saying he has no other choice but to leave his post as Irish Language Commissioner, Seán Ó Cuirreáin has resigned over concern that the Irish Official Languages Act of 2003 is not being truly implemented.
Commissioner Seán Ó Cuirreáin has expressed dismay over the deficient progress in the implementing of the Irish Language Act. He said even those who speak Irish cannot communicate properly with government officials. The authorities that are themselves responsible in honoring the provision and making sure it is being observed, do not give enough support. The commissioner said his move was due to the lack of commitment on the side of the State to protect the rights of the Irish speaking population. Mr. Ó Cuirreáin whose resignation takes effect in February next year was the first appointed commissioner to the recently created designation of An Coimisnéir Teanga. The position was made available in February 2004.
The Official Languages Act of 2001 (OLA) or Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla 2003 in Irish is a body of laws that governs the use of the Irish language by public agencies. The designated commissioner holds the duty of monitoring and enforcing observance of the Act’s provisions. Also embodied in the law is the use of Irish language in naming public places and the withdrawal of English as official language in the Gaeltacht. According to Mr. Ó Cuirreáin he had no other recourse but to give up his position since there is no assurance that the implementation of the Irish Languages Act will be complied with.
Among the clauses included in the Act state that:
“The Irish language as the national language is the first official language. The English language is recognized as a second official language. Provision may, however, be made by law for the exclusive use of either of the said languages for any or more official purposes, either throughout the State or in any part thereof.”
The fundamental grounds of the law on languages are embodied in the Constitution. Based on the law of the land, the people can conduct business with the government only in Irish. In order to see the full implementation of the law, public agencies are duty bound to respect the right of Irish speaking people to use their native language in public transactions. According to the outgoing Language Commissioner however, this is not being observed because in the first place, many services are not provided in Irish although they are made available in English.
No language option
Before the official language legislation took effect, people were not given language options. Therefore they had to leave their constitutional right to language preference and proceed to using English just to accomplish their business with government offices. However, despite the enactment of the present Official Languages Act, people are still left with no choice because of lack of proper and strict implementation. The resignation of the Language Commissioner that takes effect early next year is seen to create a void in the system. Nevertheless, the Irish government is expected to come up with measures to address the problem and to ascertain a genuine action so that the law will take effect irrevocably.