On Easter Monday 2005 the Irish Government officially abolished the name Dingle. The 2005 Placenames Order (backed up by the legislation of the 2002 Official Languages Act), decreed that in Gaeltacht areas, the English language version of a placename was no longer permissible in Acts of the Oireachtas, Statutory Instruments, Land Registry and Ordinance Survey maps and all Local Authority signposts within and outside the Gaeltacht.
The effect of the Order was; without any consultation with the local community, Dingle, the capital town of West Kerry, and largest Gaeltacht town in the Country, was overnight abolished and henceforth would be officially referred to, and signposted solely as “An Daingean.”
Seven hundred years of history, a multi million euro tourist industry and the rights and wishes of the local community were ignored.
A lengthy dispute between Dingle and the Government (most notably the Department of the Gaeltacht and Minister O’Cuiv) ensued.
PLACENAMES ORDER BYPASSED LOCAL GOVERNMENT PROTECTIONS
The Official Languages Act, and The Placenames Order gave the Minister for the Gaeltacht extra powers, which allowed him to bypass the natural democratic protections that had been in place under Local Government Acts. Under the Local Government rules, a town’s name cannot be changed unless a majority of the Local Authority representatives agree to the change, public notices are published, submissions received, and a plebiscite (vote by secret ballot) of the local community affected is held. The Local Authority presents the successful plebiscite result to The Department of the Environment and the final decision on a name change rests with Government.
Dingle was not allowed the democratic protections of Local Government Acts.
FORMATION OF COISTE DINGLE DAINGEAN UÍ CHÚIS
On the 28th November 2005 a public meeting was called in support of Dingle Daingean Uí Chúis. Senator Joe O’Toole, guest speaker, spoke to a packed hall about the democratic deficit in Minister O Cuiv’s Placenames Order. He stated, “If someone tried to change the name of a townland or a village in County Dublin there would be outright war. The people of the Gaeltacht are the only people in this country who are being deprived of that democratic right. This is how the political establishment deals with small groups of people and they’ve been doing it for hundreds of years. They make them feel on the wrong side of the argument. They do everything, except address the issues. This issue is not about language but about people’s rights and I want people to be angry and passionate about that.”
Fergus O’Flaherty reported on a recent meeting with Minister O’Cuiv, saying; “When we met Minister O’Cuiv lately, he told us to get it into our heads that there’s no such place as Dingle or Daingean Uí Chúis by law. I don’t agree with that, and I will never agree with that, and I want the support of the people to get the names reinstated. I want to thank the County Councillors for voting in favour of a plebiscite. But the Minister said that he will not accept the result of that plebiscite, so now it becomes a question of democracy versus dictatorship.”
Dingle Peninsula Tourism Chairwoman, Sile Gorman said, “twenty years ago our children had to emigrate because there was no employment in the area, but now, because of tourism, our children have a real choice and can remain on the peninsula, the Government have spent millions promoting the Dingle Peninsula brand and now they want to throw it away.”
It was agreed to form a committee to promote the re-establishment of the town’s traditional names Dingle Daingean Uí Chúis. Canon Jack Mc. Kenna, historian and author of “DINGLE” was invited to be president and Fergus O’Flaherty agreed to chair Coiste Dingle, Daingean Ui Chuis, (the Dingle Name Campaign Group).
KERRY COUNTY COUNCIL AGREE TO HOLD PLEBISCITE
In October 2005, West Kerry Councillor, Seamus Mc. Gearailt put forward a Motion to hold a plebiscite for Dingle under the Guidelines of the 1946 Local Government Act. The Council asked the County Manager to seek independent legal advice on the matter.
The Dingle plebiscite came on the Council agenda again in May 2006. The County Manager reported to the Council that the independent legal advice confirmed that the town of Dingle was entitled to hold a plebiscite. However, Mr. Riordan cautioned that the Government might not recognise the plebiscite, as the Department of the Gaeltacht and Rural Affairs had informed him that the plebiscite would be in contravention of the Official Languages Act.
The Council voted 20 to 1 in favour of granting Dingle a plebiscite on the reinstatement of the names Dingle Daingean Uí Chúis
The Results of the Dingle Plebiscite: 20/10/06
1224 people were entitled to vote.
1095 people voted. (90% of the electorate).
70 voted No
1005-voted YES to reinstate the town’s bilingual names; Dingle Daingean Uí Chúis
93% voted in favour of re-instating Dingle Daingean Uí Chúis.
PLEBISCITE GOES TO CENTRAL GOVERNMENT.
November 2006 council meeting ratified the results of the Dingle Plebiscite, but not without controversy. John Kennedy, spokesperson for Todhchaí na Gaeltachta, a newly formed group that opposed the re-instatement of the town’s bilingual names, was granted special permission to address the Council meeting, to outline their opposition to the Plebiscite.
Kate O’Connor, Secretary of Coiste Dingle Daingean Uí Chúis was invited to respond. She addressed the issues raised and reaffirmed the Dingle viewpoint. The plebiscite was once again put to a council vote.
Three Fianna Fail Councillors broke the Fianna Fail whip, and the final vote was 15 votes to 10 to submit the results of the plebiscite to the Department of the Environment.
ONE PLEBISCITE RESULT; TWO CONTRADICTING LAWS.
The 2007 General Election saw the Fianna Fail government re-elected, with the support of the Green Party and of some Independents. Jackie Healy Rae, Independent TD for South Kerry joined the government benches. Ever colourful and an adept politician, he released the following press release:
"The name Dingle-Daingean Uí Chúis continues to be a main priority for me, it will be high on my list of demands. When the gang from Dublin come to talk to me, Dingle will be put back on the table. It is my convicted view that the people of the town publicly demanded the reinstatement of the town’s names in the plebiscite last year. I will continue to stand behind them and ask the powers to pay heed to their public wish. It is only proper order that the names Dingle and Daingean Uí Chúis be brought back, it is of great importance to the entire county”.
In December 2007, Mr. Healy Rae arranged a private meeting between Minister for the Environment, and leader of The Green Party, John Gormley and Coiste Dingle Daingean Uí Chúis (accompanied by Senator Joe O’Toole), in Dail Eireann.
Minister Gormley acknowledged that the Placenames Order had resulted in fundamental disparity and that Dingle should be entitled to the same rights and privileges as the rest of the country. He accepted the clear overwhelming democratic mandate from the people of Dingle, and that local democracy should be regarded and he conceded that as things stood, “the two laws did not speak to each other.”
In April 2008 Minister Gormley announced Local Government legislation would be drafted to recognise that Local Authority plebiscites would supersede the 2005 Placenames Order.
The Department for the Environment drafted legislation and it was to be included in the Lord Mayor of Dublin Bill. However, this bill lapsed.
DINGLE DAINGEAN UÍ CHÚIS REINSTATED
2011 brought another general election, and a change of power. The new government made up of Fianna Gael and Labour almost immediately implemented the Department of the Environment drafted legislation, to recognise the Dingle Plebiscite.
The Environment Miscellaneous Provisions Bill 2011 passed all stages in The Dail and The Seanad and came into law in July 2011. It provided that recognition would be given to the Dingle Plebiscite and Dingle in English and Daingean Uí Chúis in Irish would be the official names of the town. It also provided that in future, a plebiscite held by a local community would supersede the Placenames Order, and that official names in Irish only or in English and Irish would henceforth be recognised. The Dingle Name Campaign Group were invited to Seanad Eireann to observe the passing of the bill through its final stage in The Seanad.
In 2013 (eight years after the introduction of the Placenames Order), the names Dingle and Daingean Uí Chúis finally reappeared on all Kerry County Council Road signage.
The Coiste would like to thank everyone who contributed to this chapter in Dingle’s story. A special thank you to all the Kerry County Councillors who voted in favour of allowing the Dingle Plebiscite, especially; Councillor Seamus Cosai Mc. Gearailt for proposing the motion and working on behalf of Dingle throughout, the County Manager Mr. Martin O’Riordan, Charlie O’Sullivan who oversaw the plebiscite on behalf of Kerry County Council, Senator Joe O’Toole for his unfailing support, Jackie (RIP) and Michael Healy Rae, the Department of the Environment and Ministers John Gormley and Phil Hogan. Many thanks also to the journalists who covered the story and a special thank you to all the people who wrote to newspapers about Dingle throughout the years. We would also like to thank Tom Fox for making his book, "Dingle Down The Years" available to the website, and for the use of some of his photographs.
Finally, we would like to acknowledge and remember Canon Jackie Mc. Kenna (RIP) for his help and the use of his wonderful book “Dingle”.
Míle buíochas as do chabhair agus do thacaíocht.
Kate O Connor:
Coiste Dingle Daingean Uí Chúis