Many people have asked me this question repeatedly over the last few months.
The job referred to being the first-ever Tourism Officer for the Donegal Gaeltacht which I applied for.
The answer is, sadly: no.
I put my best foot forward, especially after a bewildering, indeed intriguing, start to the whole saga.
Realizing I had a chance to contribute to local economic development using my 30 years of experience in international journalism, public relations and tourism, I checked the website of Donegal County Council, the main funder of the job.
The application form was there – but only in Irish.
While having ‘A’ level Irish, I’m not fluent enough to complete such an important document accurately. So, I contacted the council asking for the English-language version.
That’s when the saga began.
I called back and informed the lady that, as Ireland has two official languages, the post must be advertised in both Irish and English (even EU documents are translated in both languages).
I then phoned my local councillor, Sinn Fein’s John Sheamais O’Fhearraigh. He called the county council offices.
“Please check your e-mails, Sean,” he said, calling me back.
“I already have,” I replied. “There’s one from the council saying there’s no English-language application form.”
I did so.
To my great surprise, there was another e-mail from the council. From a different lady to the first one I had spoken to, perhaps her supervisor.
Surprise, surprise, it contained the supposedly non-existing English-language application form.
But a short time later, I received yet another e-mail – from the same lady, this time recalling the previous e-mail. Had someone in the council administration pressured her to stop English-language application forms being sent in?
By now, utterly confused – and suspicious – I decide to ignore the ‘recall’ and send in the English-language application form anyway.
An inside-job, attempts at cronyism? Bureaucratic mix-up?
Both are inexcusable for both harm development of the Gaeltacht where I am proud to live.
What really matters is that with no English-language application form on the council website and different Donegal council staff members saying the application must be completed as Gaeilge, people not fluent in Irish but perhaps well-qualified for the job were being overlooked (some might say, discriminated against).
Ultimately, the Tourism Officer’s main role is to re-brand and promote the Gaeltacht to attract more tourists, both international and Irish, to help increase business for local hotels, cafes, bars and Airbnb and bed-and-breakfast operations so they can hire more people. And to help the Irish-language stay alive by keeping people here rather than forcing them to seek their livelihoods elsewhere. The main target therefore is not the small minority of Irish-language speakers, most of whom already know this part of Donegal.
For such a key role then, is fluency in the Irish language the most important criteria?
What is even more bewildering is that while I received my rejection letter on August 16, the winning candidate was not named until recently. Why did it take the selection committee almost a full six months to decide, when they already knew way back last summer whom they didn’t want?
I congratulate Máire ní Fhearraigh as the new Gaeltacht Tourism Officer. She will need everyone’s help and support to make tourism in the Gaeltacht a resounding success.