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 8: The State will continue to support Foras na Gaeilge in the context of the British-Irish Agreement Act 1999.
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.
Objective 12: The use of the Irish language by the Garda Síochána and the Defence Forces will be continued and developed.
Objective 13: The Government recognises the vital role of the Irish language voluntary sector and will continue to support it.
As already stated in Section 6, a number of significant structural changes are to take place:
- • New legislation will provide for fundamentally restructuring Údarás na Gaeltachta as a new national Irish language agency – Údarás na Gaeilge - with responsibility for Irish language matters throughout the State, as well as keeping many of its present functions.
- • Foras na Gaeilge will continue to be supported in providing resources and supports to the language on an all-Ireland level.
- • A further category of language community will be recognised in the new Act to allow for targeted initiatives to develop new language communities/networks outside the Gaeltacht. These will be predominantly in urban communities that have achieved the essential critical mass of community and State support for the Irish language.
- • 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 relevant players will co-operate in aiming to develop new shared services with appropriate and specialised expertise for all Gaeltacht areas in the planning arena.
- • The possibility of Údarás na Gaeilge carrying out, on an agency basis, functions through Irish for other public bodies, both inside and outside the Gaeltacht, will be investigated.
Language awareness and language training programmes need to be developed/strengthened so that a higher proportion of public service staff are truly functional in Irish and can deliver services in Irish to customers who seek them. The Department of Finance and the Public Appointments Service will devise appropriate arrangements to increase the cohort of the public servants who are functional bilinguals. These arrangements will be put in place over time, recognising the present constraints on public sector recruitment. They will be supported by the development, within the existing overall national qualifications framework, of an independent, standards-based accreditation system for Irish language competency within the public service. A National Diploma in Bilingualism and Language Practice will be designed and offered, so as to support the delivery of quality services to the public in both Irish and English.
The Official Languages Act has adopted the “language scheme” as a core instrument by which bilingual services are to be provided. Future language schemes will specify the posts within an organisation that require an Irish language competency requirement.
Local Language Initiatives and Plans outside the Gaeltacht
The Report of the Linguistic Study of the Use of Irish in the Gaeltacht recommended recognition of distinct types of language communities within the Gaeltacht for which targeted, appropriate language planning interventions would be devised. The Government considers it appropriate that a new type of ‘network Gaeltacht’ be recognised in the new Act. This category will allow for targeted language planning initiatives to develop new language communities/networks outside the Gaeltacht. These will be predominantly in urban communities that have achieved a basic critical mass of community and State support for the Irish language, such as childcare facilities through Irish, Gaelscoileanna, second level education through Irish, Irish language youth clubs and other services, including mother and toddler groups, Irish language religious services, etc. Specific criteria to be developed for this category will relate to public attitudes, language ability, provision of Irish-medium education and the willingness to actively participate in Irish language initiatives.
The Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs and the new Údarás na Gaeilge will provide supports for such language plans. Support will also be available from Oifigigh Ghaeilge employed by local authorities and other experts within existing bodies.
The aim of a local action plan will be to draw together local people and public/voluntary groups to facilitate the use of Irish locally. This will be done through the increased co-ordination and public awareness of existing activities. The approach will be to map and identify Irish language vitality in the local area. It will be supplemented by a language audit process which will identify ongoing strengths and weaknesses and provide time-series evidence of the impact which language-related policies and reforms would have on actual language use. These plans will be integrated with County Language Plans and will include the development of social and resource centres.
In the long-term, the local action plans will;
- - create social conditions that will nurture positive attitudes towards Irish and an increase in its general use;
- - normalise the use of Irish as a medium of social and institutional communication; and
- - emphasise the close relationship between language and attitudes which relate to quality of life issues, the environment and the local economy.
Local language initiatives will include the establishment of 'one-stop community shops' to
- • provide advice to new parents who wish to raise their children bilingually;
- • offer guidance on the range of Irish medium educational opportunities which are available;
- • assist public and voluntary organisations who wish to increase their use of Irish; and
- • encourage business who wish to offer a bilingual service to their customers.
County Language Plans
All counties with designated Gaeltacht areas, including ‘network Gaeltacht’ areas, will be required to prepare and implement County Language Plans. Each such plan will contain initiatives to increase the percentage and number of daily Irish speakers on a yearly basis through specific targeted initiatives for that county. These measures will be delivered by stakeholders with assistance from language planning experts. Following an evaluation, this approach may be extended to other counties.
Language Plan for Dublin City and County Councils
A substantial number of daily Irish speakers reside in Greater Dublin and in its catchment area. The presence of the Irish language in the capital city is of great symbolic importance, both to the people of Ireland and to visitors arriving in Dublin on business or for tourism. A major Irish language promotion plan for Dublin City and its surrounding environs will be developed and implemented in the first period of Phase II. The key target of this plan will be to increase the proportion of daily Irish speakers in Dublin year on year by increasing the visibility of the language and by providing opportunities for normal daily use of the language in the city.
The Important Role of the Voluntary Sector
The local voluntary sector will have a strong role to play in the development of local language initiatives and plans. It is important, therefore, that the sector be accorded a voice and an opportunity to contribute to policy at local level, and that support be provided to groups that want to engage with the language at national and local levels in line with the aims and content of this Strategy.
The Irish language is a central part of the ethos of national voluntary organisations, such as GAA and Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann. The Government recognises their key role in promoting the language. The State will develop and intensify its support for these organisations in promoting our language. Other voluntary sporting and cultural organisations have the potential to have a central role in widening use of the Irish language out beyond the schoolroom. The Government will proactively engage with such organisations to unlock the potential of their community-based sporting and cultural activities to contribute significantly to the Strategy.
At present the State provides funding for many diverse Irish language organisations. A more integrated ‘cradle to old age’ approach will be taken with a radical re-organisation of State-funded language organisations being undertaken to provide comprehensive language support services on an area basis.
Physical resource centres
Dedicated resource centres will be developed in the centre of Dublin and other major urban areas. Such centres might include theatre space, coffee shops and restaurants, bookshops, offices for Irish language organisations, internet centres, historical materials, meeting and conference rooms, display areas, and research and development start-up units. In other areas, existing resource centres, including the regional resources centres established by Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann with public funding and centres run by other cultural, sporting and local development bodies, will with the agreement of the body concerned serve as a centre for Irish language promotion and activities.
An Garda Síochána and the Defence Forces
Maintenance and development of the position of the Irish language in the Garda Síochána and the Defence Forces is important, both because of the symbolic importance of these Forces in our national life and because of the services, particularly in the case of the Garda Síochána, provided to the public. Measures already in train under the Official Languages Act to strengthen the position of Irish as an internal working language in Gaeltacht areas and other Irish-speaking units, in services to the community and in the symbolic role of the Garda Síochána and Defence Forces in national life and on state occasions will be further developed.