Irish language awareness programme being developed for gardaí

Tuesday 12 March 2013 23.52
A total of 756 complaints were made last year to the office of An Coimisinéir Teanga
A total of 756 complaints were made last year to the office of An Coimisinéir Teanga

An Irish language awareness programme is being developed for gardaí following concerns about the competence of some members of the force to conduct business through Irish.

It follows an investigation by An Coimisinéir Teanga, who is launching his annual report in Galway.

The office monitors how public bodies comply with the provisions of the Official Languages Act.

A total of 756 complaints were made last year - the largest number since the office of An Coimisinéir Teanga was established.

Most were resolved informally, but 13 formal investigations were instigated.

In one instance an Irish speaker who had been stopped for a minor road traffic matter in Dublin was arrested and detained until a garda was found to deal with him through Irish.

Coimisinéir Seán Ó Cuirreáin said he was struck by the fact that gardaí who had been educated to Leaving Cert level and completed training in Templemore were unable to ask a driver "Cad is ainm duit?" or seek his address through Irish.

On foot of the investigation, gardaí are to receive a laminated card with useful Irish phrases to ensure they can conduct some business through Irish.

Other issues identified in the report include problems with bilingual signage, a lack of Irish classifications on DVD labels and a shortage of civil servants with competence in the language.

Ordinance Survey Ireland was also found to be in breach of its obligations by not showing place names in Irish - or in Irish and English - on some maps.

In general, Mr Ó Cuirreáin said last year was not a good one for the promotion of the Irish language.

He said for every step forward there appeared to have been two steps back.

The report states that there is serious apprehension among Irish speakers about how the State is protecting and promoting the language.

Speaking on RTÉ’s News at One, Mr Ó Curreáin said he was happy that garda management had taken onboard his suggestion that there is a requirement for a language awareness programme.

"Speaking Irish isn't a crime. When I investigated this matter I detected an attitude among certain members of the gardaí involved in the case that Irish speakers should be treated as if they were speakers of a foreign language in this country which professes to have two official languages.

He said that "Irish speakers don't require any level of service above that which is provided to English speakers".