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Once more with feeling: minister sets out the facts in placename controversy
The Irish Examiner  (The Dingle Letters)
THE Coiste Daingean Uí Chúis group profess themselves most depressed at my total lack of understanding in relation to the official name of the town of An Daingean (Irish Examiner letters, April 28).

All I can say is that there seems to be no end to the capacity of the group to avoid understanding the simple facts of the issue.

This I find equally depressing. I will attempt to put the facts on the record one last time.

Firstly, I did consult extensively before making the Placenames (Ceantair Ghaeltachta) Order 2004. The consultation process yielded 24 submissions. Members of the public queried only a small number of placename versions and some of these were changed on the advice of the Placenames Commission, who considered the submissions received.

Difficulty has arisen only in one case since — that of An Daingean/Dingle. Surely this is evidence not that the consultation process was faulty, but that the vast bulk of Gaeltacht people are happy with the placenames order and with what it has achieved?

By the way, An Daingean is listed in the order not just under a townland heading but for the sake of ease of reference, under each separate heading in which it occurs as an administrative unit with legally defined boundaries.

Secondly, signposts within the Gaeltacht area, of which An Daingean/Dingle is a part, have, by law, shown the Irish placename only since 1970. This was introduced by Bobby Molloy as Environment Minister in response to a long campaign by Gaeltacht people themselves to have Irish-only signposts for Gaeltacht placenames.

In practical terms, all the order I made does is to bring signposts outside the Gaeltacht into line with this standard and to deliver more fully in response to that long-standing demand.

I have no doubt that the occasional sign remained in place that did not comply with the law, but as any visitor to a Gaeltacht area over the intervening 36 years could see, most signs in place did show the Irish language placename only.

I repeat that no credible explanation has been put forward either by Coiste Daingean Uí Chúis or any other party to show how tourists were not confused by the previous system (An Daingean only in the town and surrounding area, both language versions on other signposts and maps in English only), and how they will be confused now with An Daingean only on all signposts and tourist maps in both languages.

Thirdly, I repeat that I have not rejected the authentic pre-Norman name ‘Dingle’. I can only bite my tongue and confess bewilderment at the idea that the Irish-speaking, pre- and post-Norman inhabitants of An Daingean named it in English.

Fourthly, I reiterate that it is equally untrue to say that Dingle is removed from all official national maps. In fact, the outcome of the order for tourist maps is the exact opposite. Tourist maps now show, and will continue to show, both language versions.

Heretofore, many showed the English version of Gaeltacht placenames only. The signs in the Gaeltacht were in Irish only. Wasn’t that disparity capable of causing confusion for tourists? The bilingual approach to all tourist maps I have brought about will ensure that any possible confusion for tourists is avoided.

Fifthly, once again let me say that this placenames order will not harm the local tourism industry. Given the extensive media coverage of this issue there can hardly be a person anywhere in the world with internet access who would have difficulty finding the area.

The question is: what will compel them to want to visit it? While at one level the campaign in relation to this debate has been run with great energy and has certainly raised the profile of both An Daingean and Dingle, I believe the long-term interests of the tourism industry in west Kerry call for a more reflective approach.

We know that the nature of the tourist industry is changing. We know that Irish people holidaying abroad — including people from rural areas — are finding city breaks more and more attractive. Tourists coming here are the same: they are turning to the cities and the east coast and less to rural areas.

As minister with responsibility for rural development, this is of concern to me, as it is to my colleague John O Donoghue, Arts, Sport and Tourism minister.

There is one category of rural area that is bucking that trend: the Gaeltacht or, to be more precise, those Gaeltacht areas that have concentrated on developing cultural tourism based on the tremendous natural resource they have in the Irish language.

The Irish language and culture is the bread-and-butter of tourism in Corca Dhuibhne and, if anything, this change I have made will reinforce the distinct attraction of the area to tourists seeking a different cultural experience. If people living in the Corca Dhuibhne Gaeltacht have cause to be depressed, it is due to the absence of any long-term perspective on the other side of this debate.

I might also take the opportunity to respond to Peter Calery’s two questions (Irish Examiner letters, May 3).

The Placenames Commission deals only with advice on Irish language placenames and has no role once a placenames order has been made.

Secondly, as has already been explained to the county council, the legal advice available to me from the attorney general is that the provisions of the local government legislation in relation to plebiscites cannot have effect once an order is made under the Official Languages Act.
Eamon Ó Cuiv
Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs
Dún Aimhirgin
43-49 Mespil Road
Dublin 4

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