IRISH DAILY MAIL 17/7/2012
Gardener gagged by the State
EXCLUSIVE By Paul Drury
A GARDENER has been threatened with dismissal from his job in a national park… for daring to speak out in opposition to the controversial new Gaeltacht Bill.
The move has been described by Irish language activists as ‘incredibly heavy-handed’ and ‘dictatorial’ and an attempt will be made later in the week to raise the affair in the Dáil.
The new Bill, which abolishes direct elections to the board of Údarás na Gaeltachta, is being fiercely resisted by many Gaeltacht groups and Irish language organisations.
Opposition politicians have accused the Government of attempting to railroad the legislation through the Dáil, without proper debate.
But the unprecedented threat to Dónal Ó Cnáimhsí, a gardener in Glenveagh National Park, Co Donegal, is being interpreted by those opposing the Bill as a sinister new twist.
Mr Ó Cnáimhsí is a prominent and long-standing member of Guth na Gaeltachta, the organisation that has been most vociferous in its opposition to the new legislation.
The threat came in a formal letter from his employers, the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, after he put his name to a number of press releases and gave a radio interview.
To add insult to injury, the letter was in English – even though Mr Ó Cnáimhsí is a native of the nearby Gaoth Dobhair Gaeltacht – and he was addressed in it as ‘Mr Bonner’.
A former chairman of the local GAA club , Mr Ó Cnáimhsí is regarded as a pillar of his local community.
He has recently been on paternity leave. The letter, dated July 4, was only forwarded to him on July 11 with a request to reply before July 13.
Last night Mr Ó Cnáimhsí, who has worked at Glenveigh for the past ten years, refused to comment, other than to confirm that he had received a letter.
The letter from the department’s head of HR, reform and corporate governance, Mary Hurley, warns the gardener that he ‘may have breached’ the terms of his employment.
‘This is nothing less than an attempt to muzzle a local community representative,’ said Éamonn Mac Niallais, spokesman for Guth na Gaeltachta. ‘It smacks of dictatorship’.
It is understood that local Sinn Féin TD Pearse Doherty will attempt to raise the threat to Mr Ó Cnáimhsí in the Dáil later in the week.