Conradh na Gaeilge staged a wild cat protest outside the Department of the Taoiseach earlier today to oppose the appointment of Donegal TD Joe McHugh as the the new Minister of State for the Gaeltacht.
The protest was prompted by the fact that the Donegal TD is not proficient in Irish.
Cóilín Ó Cearbhaill, President of Conradh na Gaeilge said: “No one is questioning the ability of the new Minister of State, Joe McHugh, to be a Minister of State; we wish him every success in the future as a Minister of State. We are, however, questioning the Taoiseach’s decision to assign Gaeltacht Affairs to him when he is not proficient in the language. This is neither fair on the new Minister of State nor on the Irish-language and Gaeltacht community.”
Julian de Spáinn, General Secretary of Conradh na Gaeilge said: “10,000 people marched on February 15 in Dublin for fairness and equality for the Irish language and Gaeltacht community. If the Taoiseach is really to represent the whole community in Ireland, and we understand that he personally has a huge interest in the Irish language, then his Government needs to take into account the clear the message of the day which was that the Government must serve the Irish language and Gaeltacht community better in Irish.
“The Taoiseach should therefore, even at this late stage, assign responsibility for Gaeltacht Affairs to another Minister of State who has previously demonstrated their proficiency in the Irish language, such as the Minister of State Aodhán Ó Riordáin who is already assigned to the Department Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, or appoint an additional person who is proficient in the language, such as the Teachta Dála Seán Kyne or someone else.”
According to Conradh na Gaeilge this is the first time since the establishment of the State that the Minister of State for the Gaeltacht is not proficient in the Irish language.
“This further lowers the status of the Irish language and the Gaeltacht community when taking into account that there was a Senior Minister proficient in Irish with responsibility for the Gaeltacht in the last Government, that this was lowered to a Minister of State with a proficiency in the language in the new Government in 2011, and that this is to be lowered yet again by this Government in its appointment of a Minister of State without proficient Irish, and by furthermore assigning another responsibility to him (i.e. natural resources). All this displays a total lack of prioritising the needs of the Irish-speaking and Gaeltacht community in the agenda of the current Government,” Conradh na Gaeilge stated.
De Spáinn said: “It is wrong that the Irish-language and Gaeltacht community will be forced to use English when dealing with the Minister of State for Gaeltacht Affairs in the future.”