Dingle: Our Town - Our Name - Our Heritage



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"There was a well publicised period of consultation before this order was signed."
The Irish Times  (The Dingle Letters)
A chara

I refer to the article by Jim Duffy under the heading "Ó Cuív should mind his language, but not with orders", in your edition of July 30th. It is a pity that Mr Duffy chose to spoil his opportunity to make what could have been a serious contribution to a serious debate - how best to work for the future of the Irish language - with a gratuitous side-swipe at the Taoiseach and a long number of statements in reference to me, all of which were incorrect. I would like to thank you for the opportunity to correct these.

Statement by Jim Duffy: "Ó Cuív has adopted the same 'top down' approach that back-fired so disastrously before."

Fact: The change in legislation in relation to placenames was adopted with support from all parties by Oireachtas Éireann. In relation to the Gaeltacht Placenames Order, there was a well publicised period of consultation before this order was signed. No representations were received in relation to An Daingean. The form of each of the placenames in the order is as advised by the Placenames Commission.

Statement by Jim Duffy: "Issuing a diktat that the people of Dingle can't call their town by the name they've known it has infuriated the local community, many of them Irish speakers."

Fact: An Daingean is the original name of the town and it is known as such by Irish speakers. Either the form An Daingean or Dingle can be used following the Placenames Order except for three exceptions, listed in the Official Languages Act, where An Daingean must be used. These are: (1) the large-scale Ordnance Survey maps used for registering land, etc; (2) Acts of the Oireachtas and statutory instruments; and (3) road and street signs erected by the local authority.

It is perfectly permissible to use Dingle for all other purposes, including marketing.

Statement by Jim Duffy: "Insisting that no English appear on road signs in Gaeltachtaí was provocative when all that was needed was that Irish be given its rightful dominance."

Fact: The order in relation to Irish-only road signs in Gaeltachtaí was made by Robert Molloy when he was Minister for the Environment in 1970 - 35 years ago. It seems it doesn't matter how often this simple fact is repeated: there seems to be a complete inability to hear it.

Statement by Jim Duffy: "Irish is entitled to parity of esteem. But that does not mean parity of print runs. Semi-state companies were forced to print equal numbers of Irish and English versions of annual reports, when there was only a tiny demand for the Irish-language version."

Fact: This is incorrect: the Official Languages Act 2003 does not require equal numbers of the Irish and English versions to be printed. In fact, it doesn't require either version to be printed - a number of public bodies have moved to publication of their annual report on CD, which is much more cost-effective.

Statement by Jim Duffy: "With the number of native Irish speakers practically in freefall, the Irish State may well be facing its last chance to save the Gaeltachtaí."

Fact: The number of daily Irish speakers in the Gaeltacht based on recent censuses is not in free fall. In fact there has been an amazing resilience, based on the best statistical information available, in the number of native Irish speakers in the Gaeltacht.

Statement by Jim Duffy: "The Minister needs to work with Irish-speaking communities, not simply instruct them, as past Ministers did."

Fact: I have worked with Gaeltacht communities since I came to live in the Gaeltacht on December 31st, 1973. Since that time I have spent 18 years as the manager of a community development co-operative in the Gaeltacht of Dúiche Sheoigheach and 13 years as a full-time public representative elected by the popular choice of the people in a constituency that includes the largest Gaeltacht in the country.

The reality in relation to the Gaeltacht placenames was that a lot of Gaeltacht people felt it was long overdue that the Irish versions of placenames in the Gaeltacht would be given official status and could be used for official purposes, something that had been denied to them previously. The Oireachtas quite rightly decided to correct this historic injustice.

It is significant that the Order which included An Daingean also included 2,318 other names. Some people in one area, An Daingean, who made no submission during the public consultation phase, have since raised an objection to the Order. The other 2,318 areas have raised no issue subsequently with the Order. The objection seems to be mainly on the basis that the form Dingle can no longer be used for tourist marketing purposes, which is quite simply untrue.

It seems to me on the basis of the consultation process I arranged prior to signing this Order and the bulk of feedback to me and my Department both before and after its signing that the vast majority of the people in the Gaeltacht concur with the view of the Oireachtas in relation to this matter.
Éamon Ó Cuív TD, Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Dublin 4

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