The first steps towards a viable Irish Language Strategy.
At a public seminar hosted yesterday by Comhdháil Náisiúnta na Gaeilge, experts in language planning, in relation to the Irish language, spoke on the steps which must be taken to implement the 20 Year Strategy for the Irish Language.
Údarás na Gaeltachta, Liam Ó Cuinneagáin said: “It is important that the proposed role of Údarás na Gaeltachta is clarified, and that the methods of implementation of the Strategy are agreed. While the proposed role of Údarás na Gaeltachta is a national one, an tÚdarás will continue to function in Gaeltacht regions only, until such a time as the relevant arrangements have been made to give an tÚdarás a national function”.
The Irish language Commissioner, Seán Ó Cuireáin, spoke of the results which were now apparent from a decision taken in the 1970s, to remove the requirement of civil servants to be competent in both English and Irish, and declared this decision an “abject failure” for the Irish language. He cited the Department of Education and Skills, which recently revealed that only 1.5% of its administrative staff had sufficient competence in Irish to be able to provide service in that language. “That department is by no means unique and the absence of competence in Irish is common through most Government departments and agencies,” he said. (See more on the Commissioners address : Richie Ryan made language marginal!)
Speaking at a political debate on the Irish language held as part of the seminar were: Minister Pat Carey T.D., Fianna Fáil; Frank Feighan, TD., Fine Gael; Brian O’Shea, T.D., The Labour Party; Aengus Ó Snodaigh, T.D., Sinn Féin; and Dominic Ó Brollcháin, MLA, SDLP. Among the issues discussed were, Irish as a Leaving Certificate subject, addressing the Irish language in the Civil Service, support structures for the 20 Year Irish Language Strategy and an implementation plan for the Strategy, and the issue of the functions of Údarás na Gaeltachta.
Arising from the seminar, below are the preliminary demands for election 2011 which Comhdháil Náisiúnta na Gaeilge will discuss with all political parties:
• An Chomhdháil demands adequate resources and supports are provided to Údarás na Gaeltachta to maintain its enterprise functions in Gaeltacht areas.
• An Chomhdháil demands every support be given to families who wish to raise their children through Irish, both in Gaeltacht areas and across the country.
20 Year Strategy for the Irish Language
• An Chomhdháil demands the correct structures be established to implement the 20 Year Strategy for the Irish language effectively and efficiently, and that the expertise and skills of the Irish language voluntary sector be utilised fully in this regard.
• An Chomhdháil demands that the functions of Údarás na Gaeltachta be clarified, and ratified in the necessary legislation, and that a timescale be laid down for the enactment of such required legislation, which will give the Strategy a legislative foothold.
Irish in the Education System
• An Chomhdháil demands full support be given to the Irish language as a core subject at Leaving Certificate level, and as a minimum entry requirement to third level courses.
• An Chomhdháil demands that a provision be made in the education system to provide an Irish language curriculum which takes into account the requirements of students who are fluent in the language.
• An Chomhdháil demands a review of the education system, to find better methods of ensuring all children at both primary and secondary level are fully proficient in Irish.
• An Chomhdháil demands provision is made to facilitate the requirements of parents in relation to Irish language education.
Irish in the Civil Service
• An Chomhdháil demands the Official Languages Act 2003 be fully implemented across the entire Civil Service.
• An Chomhdháil demands the Civil Service be reorganised in order to provide increased services through Irish on a proactive basis.
Comhdháil Náisiúnta na Gaeilge recommends exercising affirmative action in the Civil Service recruitment process in favour of candidates who are competent in both English and Irish.
Speaking at the public seminar, Director of Comhdháil Náisiúnta na Gaeilge, Pádraig Mac Criostail commented: “In order to improve the status of the Irish language, it is necessary that Irish language policies, effected by the next Government, have a factual basis, and utilise the measures of best practice from the field of language planning. The election demands outlined by Comhdháil Náisiúnta na Gaeilge draw on the expertise of the Irish language sector, and on public consultation. An Chomhdháil will seek assurances on each of the above demands from all parties”.
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