People living in the Gaeltacht are being treated as second-class citizens when it comes to policing according to Sinn Féin area representative Conor D. McGuinness. The Garda Station in An Rinn has not been staffed for several years due to there being no Garda proficient in Irish according to the top police officer in the Waterford Garda Division.
Conor D. McGuinness said, “I am very concerned by comments made by Chief Superintendent Padraig Dunne at a recent meeting of the Joint Policing Committee. He told the meeting that there is currently no officer stationed in An Rinn as there is no one within the Division proficient in Irish. He also said that although Gardaí from Dungarvan patrol the Gaeltacht from time to time, that doesn’t mean those members are proficient in the language.”
There is a legal obligation under An Garda Síochána Act 2005 for the force to station Irish speaking officers in the Gaeltacht. According to their own policies set out under the Official Languages Act the Gardaí must provide a comprehensive service through Irish not only in Gaeltacht areas but also in district-level stations such as Dungarvan, which has recently be named as a Service Town for the Gaeltacht.
Conor D. McGuinness, who sits on the board of Foras na Gaeilge, said “Irish is our national language and the first official language of the state. It is the community language in An Rinn and An Sean Phobal, and its use is growing in the Gaeltacht and around the whole of West Waterford. It is not a hobby, but a real living language that people use day to day. Its deeply concerning that Irish speakers would be denied access to policing services in their own language in this day and age.
“I am also concerned that Garda management think it is acceptable to deny an area a local guard and to use language as an excuse. What message is this sending to local people, and to criminals? Luckily there is an active Community Alert system in operation in An Rinn and Sean Phobal, but we should not be denied a service provided elsewhere in the county. Those of us who live in the Gaeltacht are not second class citizens and should not be treated as such,” he added.
“I have raised this issue with the Language Commissioner and I have written to the Justice Minister demanding they take action to address the failing. I am calling for a Garda with Irish to be assigned to the Dungarvan District immediately, for Irish language classes to be arranged for Gardaí locally, and for the station in An Rinn to be re-opened incrementally,” he concluded.