By Eoin Molloy
Feidhlim O’ Seoighe, the current Oifigeach na Gaeilge for the USI, posted a photo to his social media accounts on Thursday October 9 showing a letter that had been posted to him by Oireachtas na Gaeilge.
What was significant about the letter was not the content, but the address. An Post had cheekily crossed out O’ Seoighe’s address, which was correct but typed in Irish. This was replaced by an adjacent hand-written English translation of the address.
This is a sad state of affairs for An Post, whose own title is written in the Irish language. Worse still, An Post’s website offers an option for its users to view the website entirely in Irish.
Mr O’ Seoighe released the following statement:
‘As someone who works in the Irish language industry, and who speaks Irish on a daily basis, this is yet another display of the way the civil service, and the government, treat speakers of the first official language of the state.
Under the Official Languages Act 2003, An Post, as a public service, has a responsibility as a public service to ensure that its services are provided in English and Irish. I will be taking a case to the Irish Language Commissioner regarding this issue, and ensure that An Post are reminded again of this obligation.’
Mr O’ Seoighe went on to say that if the ‘government was serious about promoting Irish’ they would first have to ‘acknowledge those who use it.’
This kind of behaviour by state and semi-state companies was often discussed by the now-retired Irish language commissioner, Sean O’ Cuirreain. He believed that successive governments did not take the issue of the Irish language seriously enough.
Mr O’ Cuirreann was a strong critic of state agencies who did not do enough to accommodate Irish speakers. He often spoke of Gaeltacht people who had to always use English when dealing with these bodies.
This is simply not acceptable. It is little wonder that the Irish language described as ‘dying’ with only 2% of our nation’s population speaking Irish at an advanced, fluent level.
As Irish is no longer being used frequently as a working language by state companies and agencies, it is becoming marginalised as a purely academic language. Sure, it is alive and well on campuses but its functional uses are becoming more and more restricted by the day.
The state has a poor attitude when it comes to the preservation of Irish. It was this Fine Gael government that wanted to do away with Irish as a mandatory subject for leaving certs. It is this government that invests in science and technology to pander to multi-national companies, overlooking the teaching and safeguarding of Irish.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology linguist Ken Hale said languages ‘embody the intellectual wealth of the people that speak them. Losing any one of them is like dropping a bomb on the Louvre.’
We must act as stewards of the Irish language. It is our duty to preserve it for further generations. The cause would be helped greatly with assistance from the top down. State companies need to change their attitude towards the Irish language.
Scratching out a citizen’s address in our own mother tongue is disgraceful and disrespectful, and not just to the Padriag Pearses of this world. To say that slighting Irish is only offensive to those who fought and died for our country is a tired old cliché.
Crossing out an address in the Irish language is an affront to every one of us who calls this island home. Too long have we looked on and watched our native language draw its last few breaths. It is high time the government took the Irish language seriously.