Gaelic Invisibilisation

Irish is the first official language of this State.  Those who speak it find unnecessary obstacles in their way.  Sample cases of what Irish speakers face indicate the suppression endured.

For example a Customer in a letter in Irish (copied to the Language Commissioner) told Irish Water on 14/12/2015 that he was being bombarded with bills in English for a property he had not registered.  The Company did not reply or explain how they had the address in question under GDPR.  By telephone – when the Irish-language choice for service was taken – an Electronic Voice said there would be a waiting period of up to two days for calls to be answered.  The Customer had to speak English to the Company and to no avail.

On 17/12/2015 the Language Commissioner said he was not responsible for Irish Water.  On 3/3/2016 the Customer approached the Ombudsman who also said that Irish Water did not come under his remit.  The Ombudsman said the Energy Regulation Commission – CER – should be approached.  Not understanding this, the Customer wrote to the Data Protection Commissioner. He said (in Irish) that private data legalities had been set aside so Irish Water could find people to charge.  He said Customers had a right to know how Irish Water obtained their addresses (even if wrongly).  It continued to issue bills in English to the Customer.

In Irish on 23/3/2016 the Customer asked the Department of the Environment Community and Local Government why bills for which he had no liability were still coming.  The Department noting incorrectly the date on the Customer’s letter and ignoring all the issues referred the matter to CER on 26/4/2016 and forwarded the letter to Irish Water for a direct response – one never came.

Looking at yet another incorrect ‘Overdue Account’ statement from Irish Water dated 31/5/2016 the Customer finally wrote on 13/6/2016 to CER.  In 7/2016 CER in a pro-forma letter of four pages of small print set out – in Irish – the legal requirements to be met before it could engage.  This letter had every appearance of a pro-forma roadblock. Water Charges were now facing a growing political backlash.  They were scrapped before a solicitor who could speak Irish had to be hired.  However, many questions raised remain unanswered to this day.                                                                                                               

This example of Official Minimalism, detailed here, has been lauded as the epitome of public service.  In Psychology, however, it is called Cognitive Sloth and this leads inevitably to the suboptimal outcomes in public administration which consistently feature in the News.

In the administration of Education, again for example, some 67% of third-level students – recently out of second-level education wished Irish to be a compulsory school subject – according to the Union of Students in Ireland survey of 15/03/2021.  Whilst saying that the language should be compulsory, only 5% of students said it was taught as a spoken language – naymodat quodnonhab ett as the Romans said: no person gives what they have not got.  It may be that language teaching overall has deteriorated.

The Health Service Executive apologised to Irish speakers who early on tried to book an appointment for a Covid-19 vaccine online but were unable to do so in Irish.  Some of them sought instead to register in Irish over the telephone – but there were no Irish-speaking operators.  The HSE claimed that deadlines for their online portal would not have been met if several languages were catered for.  A guide ‘About the Irish Health Service’, however, is given online for nearly everyone except Irish-speakers.  It is available in: English,   English/Albanian,   English/Arabic,   English/Bulgarian,   English/Farsi, English/French,   English/Georgian,   English/Kurdish,   English/Pashto  , English/Polish, English/Portuguese,   English/Romanian,   English/Somali,   English/Spanish,   English/Urdu.

The report in 1/2022 on damage done to children in South Kerry Mental Health Services by the HSE reflects on attention to duty right up and down the line.

In areas designated as Irish-speaking, the proportion of daily Irish speakers is falling – with an 11% drop between 2011 and 2016 – from 23,175 to 20,586.  In addition Gaelic populations are everywhere being displaced by official housing policies.  30% of buyers in some areas are tested for fluency in Irish and 80% in others.  Sham tests are common.  In 2020, the Language Commissioner found Kerry County Council had failed to meet the language condition.