A protest organised by Misneach na Gaillimhe took place at the Quadrangle on Wednesday 11 January against the decision to no longer have fluency in the Irish language as a requirement for the Presidential post at the university.
This decision came late last semester when, according to The Irish Times, members of Údarás na hOllscoile voted to remove the requirement as it was felt it limited the pool of candidates for the role. This however was not a unanimous decision and some members of Údarás na hOllscoile were also strongly against the move at the time of the decision.
Student Independent News spoke with NUI Galway Students’ Union Irish Officer Clíodhna Nic Giolla Chomháill after the protest. Nic Giolla Chomháill believed the protest was paramount to conveying the message that the decision was one that not all students and staff were satisfied with.
“The reason we came out, was, as a bilingual university, we felt it was a terrible decision. It was a shock to us all, and while there was a process, and it wasn’t a decision taken lightly, it took students and some of the lecturers by surprise,” she said.
“We were making sure to show we weren’t going to take it sitting down,” she said.
“There was people from all sorts there, lecturers and students from different faculties, so it was good to see the wide variety of people.”
According to The Irish Times, some members of Údaras na hOllscoile said that there should be a commitment on the behalf of a new president to understanding the importance of the Irish language. This was a point reiterated by Nic Giolla Chomháill.
“The reason we were out today was because we all think the President should have Irish – but, you do then have to ask yourself the question what is it to have Irish? Is it enough to have respect for the Irish language and to open official University events in Irish?”
The University’s current policy on the role of Irish is to deal with in “an effective and realistic way, with the support of the relevant State agencies, to the totality of the needs – education, economic, developmental and cultural – of the Irish-speaking community as a living community, in the Gaeltacht and in the country at large”.
Nic Giolla Chomháill, as a member of the Students’ Union who stand to protect the needs of all students on campus, said that the Students’ Union was against the decision.
“In the Constitution of the Students’ Union, our mission statement is “to represent its members and promote, defend and vindicate the rights of its members at all levels of society”,” explained Nic Giolla Chomháill.
“As a Union we represent all of our members, among which are Irish speakers who are strongly opposed to this decision. As a Union we will stand by them and support them.”
Nic Giolla Chomháill said she had been attracted to attend the University for its long-standing relationship with the Irish language; NUI Galway is a bilingual university in a bilingual city.
“I’m from Tyrone and I came to Galway because it was a bilingual campus and had such a good reputation for the Irish language.”
Students’ Union President Jimmy McGovern also pledged to continue the support of the Irish language on campus.
“The promotion of the Irish language is very important to NUI Galway Students’ Union … Despite the decision taken by Údarás na hOllscoile, NUI Galway Students’ Union will continue to promote the Irish language on campus and will continue to vindicate the rights of our Irish speaking members,” he said.
-By Sorcha O’Connor
Image: Seán Ó Máinnín/Tuairisc.ie