by Eoghan Ó Néill
Seán Ó Cuirreáin, assistant head of the Irish language radio service, Raidió na Gaeltachta, has been nominated by the government as the first Irish Language Commissioner. If his nomination is approved by the Houses of the Oireachtas and the President he will take up office in February.
Announcing his nomination at a press conference in Government Buildings in Dublin on Wednesday, Minister for the Gaeltacht Eamann Ó Cuív also unveiled an ambitious timetable to implement various sections of the Acht Teanga, (the Irish Language Rights Bill).
The Minister hopes that major elements of the new Act will be implemented in the coming 12 months. In the first three months of 2004, for example, the Minister has committed the government to appoint and empower the Language Commissioner, implement Article 6 of the Acht Teanga which relates to the right to use Irish in parliament and it's committees, implement Article 9 (2) of the Acht which specifies the right of a citizen to get an answer in Irish, in writing or by e - mail, from public companies, draw up regulations in regard to Article 9 (1) of the Acht which relates to the use of Irish on Public Address systems, on stationary, on signage and on adverts.
The Acht will be implemented in full over a 3 year period and when in force the minister says the difference will be immense.
‘The public will start to feel the results from early 2004’ Minister Ó Cuív told Eurolang.
‘In terms of signage, stationery, and correspondence with public companies people will see a significant difference quickly. Over the whole 3 years the difference will be very significant. Irish will be much more visible to every citizen, services will be provided without hindrance to Irish speakers, and there will be a strong system to ensure that Irish speakers get the rights that they are entitled to. The Language Commissioner is crucial to the whole process and indeed I'm not sure we could do it without a Commissioner. The Commissioner will have very substantial powers and where there is a problem he will be able to resolve that.’
Irish language organisations Comhdháil Náisiúnta na Gaeilge and Conradh na Gaeilge as well as the state body, Foras na Gaeilge, all welcomed the nomination of Seán Ó Cuirreáin.
Pádraig Ó Ceithearnaigh of Comhdháil stressed that Seán Ó Cuirreáin's 24 years experience in the Irish language media would be of immense value in his new role as Commissioner.
Séagh Mac Siúrdáin of Conradh welcomed the appointment and conceded that it would have been difficult to find a better candidate for Commissioner.
And Seán Ó Cuirreáin himself revealed that he had had been offered the new post 24 years to the day when he had first started working at Raidió na Gaeltachta. ‘It's certainly a very big honour for me and for the station. There hasn't been a job like this or a act like thid ever in Ireland ever so it will be an immense challenge. And if the President and the Oireachtas approve the nomination it's a task I will undertake with energy and enthusiasm.’