Opposition walkout over anti-democratic action
All Opposition members of the Dublin parliament walked out of the Dail chamber on the last day of parliamentary session in a rare protest at the government’s handling of legislation on Gaeltacht (Irish language speaking) areas.
Sinn Fein, Fianna Fail and the Technical Group of independents walked out in unity in protest at anti-democratic legislation being rushed through the parliament by the coalition government before the two-month summer recess.
The legislation will abolish elections to Udaras na Gaeltachta, the local authority that represents Irish language speaking areas, and almost halve its size, from 20 members to 12.
Thirty four opposition TDs were in the chamber and left as committee stage of the Bill, scheduled to take three hours, began with none of the 150 amendments accepted by the government.
Just seven government TDs, all Fine Gael, were left in the chamber.
The Irish language is in crisis, with research showing that the language has between fifteen and twenty years left as a spoken tongue in the Gaeltacht.
Minister of State for the Gaeltacht Dinny McGinley claimed the decision to axe direct public representation on Udaras na Gaeltachta was being taken because just one in four Gaeltacht residents spoke Irish on a daily basis, but did not draw connection between the two.
Sinn Fein’s Peader Toibin said the first Gaeltacht Bill in 60 years had been “forced and guillotined” through the parliament on the last day.
“Despite this bill containing some positive changes its overall effect will be negative. All Irish language groups are calling for it to be suspended to allow amendments to fix the problems,” he said.
“The government has reduced the power of the Coimisineir Teanga [Language Commissioner] and a large number of its departments are breaking the law with regards to Irish language provision without sanction.”
He also pointed to decisions to downgrade three areas on the authority, the Meath Gaeltachtai, Rathcairn and Baile Gibb.
The survival and the growth of the language can be achieved, but Irish “needs more that empty platitudes”, said Mr Toibin.
“Minority languages have been strengthened in the Catalonia, Wales and the Basque Country, through strategic planning, modest resources but most importantly political will.
“Is leir nach bhfuil suim da laghad ag an Roinn no ag an rialtas ple oscailte daonlathas a chuir ar siuil anseo inniu. Mar sin diultaim leis an proiseas in a iomlan. Nilimid sasta fanacht agus taim chun siuil amach chun mo deistin a thaispeaint ar an coras seo.”
[It is clear that neither the Department nor the government is the least interested in having an open democratic debate here today. Because of that, I reject the process in its totality. We are not content to remain and I will walk out to show my disgust at this system.]
Irish-language advocacy groups Conradh na Gaeilge and Guth na Gaeltachta welcomed the Opposition walk-out.
The parliamentary Committee on Gaeltacht Affairs “wasn’t given the opportunity to even discuss the Gaeltacht Bill 2012”, Julian de Spainn, Conradh na Gaeilge general secretary, said yesterday.
“The most important legislation pertaining to the Gaeltacht and the Irish language in almost 60 years was pushed through the Oireachtas before the summer break.”