Objective 3: The Irish language community inside and outside the Gaeltacht will be given encouragement and support to transmit Irish to the next generation as a living household language. Towards this end, a wide range of services in Irish will be provided.
Objective 4: The Gaeltacht will be given special support as an Irish speaking area.
Objective 11: In order to promote Irish nationally and to strengthen it in the Gaeltacht, the work being done by the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs and by agencies under its aegis will continue to be reinforced.
The 2007 Report on the Linguistic Study of the Use of Irish in the Gaeltacht recommends that the main strategic focus of language policy in the Gaeltacht should be on supporting and empowering future generations of young Gaeltacht parents to raise their children through Irish. The Report reinforces in particular the importance of maintaining and increasing the proportion of active Irish speakers in Gaeltacht areas.
It is against this background that the major changes outlined in this Strategy are being implemented by Government. The development of a comprehensive language planning system at community level in the Gaeltacht is central to the strategy that will be put in place to ensure that Irish survives as the community language in the Gaeltacht.
Linguistic status of Gaeltacht communities – new legislation
The Government accepts the broad thrust of the recommendations in the Report on the Linguistic Study of the Use of Irish in the Gaeltacht with regard to Gaeltacht status being based on linguistic criteria. This will be given statutory status through a new Gaeltacht Act. The legal definition will be broadly based on the criteria outlined in the Report with some fundamental modifications.
As already referred to, Údarás na Gaeltachta will be fundamentally restructured as a national Irish language agency – Údarás na Gaeilge (with its headquarters in the Gaeltacht) - with responsibility for Irish language matters throughout the State, as well as keeping many of its present functions. Legislation will be prepared in order to place the new body on a statutory footing. Údarás na Gaeilge will be run by a board made up of both elected representatives and members appointed by the Minister.
In parallel with this, a Gaeltacht Advisory Committee will be established, made up of elected Údarás na Gaeilge and local authority members living within the Gaeltacht, to advise specifically in relation to matters relating to the Gaeltacht. Údarás na Gaeilge will provide secretarial back-up to the Committee.
For language planning and implementation purposes, the various types of language maintenance and strategic interventions (including integrated language plans) will be based on the identified linguistic needs of the various communities with the intention of increasing numbers of daily Irish speakers.
In the case of majority Irish-speaking communities, the emphasis will be on protecting and strengthening these strong language communities by ensuring the linguistic sustainability of Irish as the community language of these regions. In the case of other Gaeltacht regions where the daily Irish speakers are a significant minority, the emphasis will be on strengthening the Irish language community networks that continue to exist there.
Communities that cannot comply with the criteria in the new legislation will be afforded a period of 2 years to develop plans to ensure that they maintain their status as Gaeltacht communities. Communities who fail to develop acceptable sustainable plans within the two-year period will no longer be included in the Gaeltacht.
Plans will be reviewed every seven years and areas that do not achieve the linguistic criteria for the Gaeltacht set down in the new Act will cease to have Gaeltacht status. New areas may also be included in the Gaeltacht if they meet the linguistic criteria laid down in the new Act.
Language Planning in the Gaeltacht
Under the new Act, a language planning process will be instigated whereby a language plan will be prepared at community level for each Gaeltacht district. These plans will integrate the approach in relation to linguistic issues, education, physical planning, and social and community development. Community buy-in and participation will be critical. Resources will be made available to implement the language plans.
These plans will be first and foremost language-centred, incorporating all aspects of community life in these districts. In order to address the threat to the sustainability of the Gaeltacht as a linguistic entity, priority will be given to language planning activities necessary to stabilise the position of Irish as the community language. These language plans will comprise activities/plans under the following headings:
- ➢ Education Planning
➢ Family Support Services, including childcare services, pre-school services, language advisory services for families, after-school services, networks for Irish-speaking parents and children, pre-marital and ante-natal advice services, language awareness programme for families, speech therapy and psychological services, and public health services.
➢ Youth Services, including the promotion of language awareness among the young in the Gaeltacht, Gaeltacht summer colleges and camps.
➢ Local Government Services.
➢ Local and Physical Planning, including infrastructural development, economic development, housing and settlement policy.
➢ Community Development.
➢ Planning for economic, industrial and local business development, including the promotion of language awareness among business service providers in the Gaeltacht districts.
➢ Development of Cultural/Educational Tourism.
➢ Religious Services.
➢ Care for the Elderly.
➢ Care of children with special needs.
➢ Health Services.
Particular emphasis will be placed on the promotion of an Irish language youth culture in the Gaeltacht, which will see the further development of Gaeltacht youth services and a linkage through the Gaeltacht Summer Colleges with national youth organisations.
The State will also develop a comprehensive set of supports for Irish-speaking families in the Gaeltacht in consultation with parents of young children and infants, and expectant parents.
Planning and Development in the Gaeltacht
The Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government will prepare extensive planning guidelines to assist local authorities with regard to the implementation of the Planning and Development Act in the Gaeltacht so as to ensure the protection of the unique linguistic identity of the Gaeltacht.
In recognition of the need for greater collaboration between national and local government and between various sectors in delivering a more integrated efficient service, the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government, in co-operation with the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs and City and County Managers, will aim to develop new shared services with appropriate and specialised expertise for all Gaeltacht areas in the planning arena.
Gaeltacht area plans will have the same status as town plans. As well as being approved by the local authority, Gaeltacht area plans will be approved by Údarás na Gaeilge to ensure adequate input from the perspective of the sustainability of the language into the plans.
Delivery of services to Gaeltacht communities
As many non-language services as is practicable will be delivered in the Gaeltacht by the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs and Údarás na Gaeilge, in recognition of their proven ability to deliver services through Irish. It is not therefore proposed to transfer any existing schemes operated by Údarás na Gaeltachta or the Department to other Departments or agencies, but an examination will be made of other programmes that could be delivered in the Gaeltacht by the Department and the Údarás.