Sinn Féin has launched its bilingual 2016 election manifesto, to predictable scepticism from the right-wing press, and I’m sure most of you have seen analyses of its contents over the last few days. So I thought I’d focus here on the party’s Irish language policies, contained on page twenty-six of the fifty-six page document.
“The government parties have done immense damage to the Irish language as a living language. Their policies and approach are hostile and their time in office has been synonymous with a lack of stewardship, leadership or support for the language.
The government’s failure to support the Office of An Coimisinéir Teanga forced him to resign and Dearg le Fearg saw tens of thousands take to the streets in support of Irish language rights. The government parties’ hostility to the language was further evidenced by their ill-fated use of Google Translate on the official 1916 Commemorative website in November 2014. They also made severe cuts to the budgets of Údarás na Gaeltachta and Foras na Gaeilge at a time of crisis in the Gaeltacht in terms of falling numbers of Irish language speakers living there. They failed to implement the Irish Language 20 Years Strategy and maintained a derogation of the status of the Irish Language in the EU.
Sinn Féin, by contrast, is dedicated to the restoration of the Irish language as the spoken language among the majority of the people in Ireland and its prominence in a multilingual society.”
The above charges against the Fine Gael and Labour coalition are entirely – and demonstrably – true. The five year administration of Kenny and Gilmore/Burton has been the most antipathetic government to our national language that we have witnessed in decades, and its renewal simply promises more of the same. However, aside from the fine sentiments, what are the actual details of SF’s policies on Irish rights?