More than 1,000 people took part in a three mile march last Sunday to highlight the Government’s failure to provide necessary services through the medium of Irish in the Gaeltacht.
On the day that the language commissioner Seán Ó Cuirreáin officially stepped down from his post, supporters gathered outside the Language Commission office in Spiddal to present a framed letter expressing their gratitude for his 10 years of service, protecting the language rights of both Gaeltacht and non-Gaeltacht Irish speakers. Among those in attendance at the presentation were Éamon Ó Cuív TD who was the minister responsible for recommending Mr Ó Cuirreáin’s appointment as Ireland’s first language commissioner. In the letter, which was read out to the large crowd by the actor and drama producer Darach Ó Tuairisg, an appeal was made to the present Minister for Gaeltacht Affairs, Dinny McGinley, to take a stand with regard to Irish in the Gaeltacht.
The march, with its theme of ‘Slán le Seán’ and ‘Stop le Cur i gCéill’, then continued on to the Department of the Arts, Heritage, and the Gaeltacht in Furbo, where another letter addressed to the Minister McGinley, was handed in demanding that “the State begin to comply with its own legislation and initiate the necessary changes, suggested by the outgoing Coimisinéar Teanga, so that Irish has some chance of survival”.
This latest march follows protests held during Lá Mór na Gaeilge in Dublin on Saturday February 15. The event, coordinated by Conradh na Gaeilge, was sparked following the annoucement by Mr Ó Cuirréain that he would resign as a result of the lack of support for the language rights of the Irish-speaking and Gaeltacht community from the Government in the south. The campaign for human rights gained momentum with the publication of a report by The Council of Europe on January 16 this year, which noted that the growth and promotion of the Irish language in Northern Ireland is being blocked by hostile attitudes in Stormont, and a lack of support for its use in the courts and in education.
Bus loads of protestors from Connemara, Loughrea, Ballinasloe, and Galway city, dressed in Dearg Le Fearg (Red With Rage ) themed regalia and armed with placards joined the estimated 10,000 people who had gathered at the Garden of Remembrance on Parnell Square. Together they marched on to Dáil Éireann to demand their language rights and equality for the Irish language.