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Department of Education and Skills revokes Irish language services

Department of Education and Skills revokes Irish language services

A “giant leap backwards” is how the umbrella body for the Irish language voluntary sector, Comhdháil Náisiúnta na Gaeilge has described the new language scheme which came into effect yesterday at the Department of Education and Skills.


The language schemes agreed with public bodies are an integral part of the Official Languages Act 2003. Under Article 11 of that Act, public bodies agree language schemes with the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht which detail the services which the public body propose to provide.

Comhdháil Náisiúnta na Gaeilge has expressed concern over the lack of progression in ratifying new schemes under the current system, which An Chomhdháil believes is a demonstration of a reluctance from the state to provide Irish language services.

The first language scheme came into effect in The Department of Education and Skills in 2005. This three year scheme detailed the services which would be available from the Department to the public through Irish. Having expired in 2008, there was a five year wait before the second scheme would be ratified with the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. “Not only does the second scheme not build on commitments of the first scheme, but many of the previous commitments have now been revoked,” said Kevin De Barra, Director of Comhdháil Náisiúnta na Gaeilge.

 

Pressreleases
Prior to 2005, the Department of Education and Skills generally issued pressreleases only in English. With the ratification of the first language scheme, the Department committed to issuing pressreleases bilingually in both Irish and English when announcing new schemes or policy changes. The new scheme effected yesterday stipulates that Irish language press releases might not be issued simultaneously with their English versions from now on. De Barra contends that “due to the time sensitive nature of pressreleases it makes no sense to issue an Irish version a week after the English version. While this might tick a box for the Department, this approach would ultimately be a waste of resources as it would provide little benefit to the public”.

 

Telephone Services
In 2005, the Department of Education and Skills set out in their first scheme to provide a dedicated telephone number to deal with queries from the public through Irish. The second scheme rescinds this commitment by stating that the on-going provision of this service is dependent on the availability of staff who can provide the service in Irish. In practical terms, adding such a caveat will now mean that telephone services are being provided in a conditional or limited fashion, and therefore it will not be clear to the public what service they are entitled to receive from the Department through Irish.

In relation to services to teachers the new scheme states that a one-to-one telephone service through Irish is and will continue to be available from the Teacher Education Section, ‘subject to relevant personnel being available’.


Administrative Services
Under the first language scheme, a one-to-one administration service was provided through Irish by certain units within the Department of Education and Skills, namely the Teacher Education Section and the Statistics Unit. While the commitments regarding Irish language services provided by the Teacher Education Section are upheld in the second scheme, albeit under a new title, there is no mention of the continuance of Irish language services provided by the Statistics Unit throughout the first scheme.

 

Recruitment
In their second language scheme, The Department of Education and Skills states that through the Public Appointments Service inspectors will be appointed at the recruitment grade level to continue and enhance the delivery of service through Irish. Civil servants currently within the Department of Education and Skills or those transferring from other departments will be awarded extra marks in internal promotion competitions within the Department based on a competency in Irish. While competency in Irish will therefore remain a desirable criterion for posts, it will not be a requirement.

The second language scheme refers to a survey carried out among the current administration team within the Department of Education and Skills in which less than 1.5% claimed to be competent in Irish.

 

Escape Clause
The Department’s second language scheme places a strong emphasis on current financial restrictions and challenges regarding human resources within the civil service. Comhdháil Náisiúnta na Gaeilge believes the Department of Education and Skills is seeking to use the current economic climate as an escape clause regarding the commitments given in the first language scheme which will prove extremely detrimental to Irish language services provided by the State should other public bodies follow suit.

Comhdháil Náisiúnta na Gaeilge will be raising this issue with the Department of Education and Skills and also with the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, the body who ratified this language scheme.

 

© Foilsithe ar Gaelport.com 23 Aibreán 2013

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