The Minister of State said: "I am delighted that final decisions have been made by the Government regarding the implementation of the 20-Year Strategy for the Irish Language. As a result, officials in my Department, the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, can proceed with drafting the Heads of the Gaeltacht Bill. I hope that the Bill will be published as soon as possible, depending on the Government's legislative schedule."
The new definition of the Gaeltacht will be based on the 20-Year Strategy and on the recommendations made in the Comprehensive Linguistic Study of the Use of Irish in the Gaeltacht. The Minister of State said: "My Department, in conjunction with other State bodies, will work closely with Gaeltacht communities on the ground in order to assist them in developing and implementing language plans, which will incorporate all aspects of community life."
Regarding the implementation structures for the 20-Year Strategy for the Irish Language, the Minister of State said: "These Government decisions will ensure that existing structures will be used to deliver the Strategy and that the functions of the key stakeholders with responsibility for implementing the Strategy, both within and outside of the Gaeltacht, will be clearly defined."
The Minister of State said: "As a result of these Government decisions, I believe that the future of Údarás na Gaeltachta is secure, that Údarás na Gaeltachta will retain its statutory functions and that Údarás na Gaeltachta and other enterprise agencies will cooperate to ensure investment in the Gaeltacht."
New definition of the Gaeltacht
• Provision will be made in the Gaeltacht Bill for a new statutory definition of the Gaeltacht, which will be based on linguistic criteria rather than on geographical areas, as is currently the case.
• Provision will be made under the legislation for a language planning process in order to prepare language plans at community level for each Gaeltacht area and for the Minister to approve and review those plans periodically.
• Statutory status will be given to a new type of 'network Gaeltacht' area outside the existing statutory Gaeltacht areas. These will be areas, predominantly in urban communities, that will have a basic critical mass of community and State support for the Irish language.
• Gaeltacht Service Towns, i.e. towns which service Gaeltacht areas, will also be given statutory status.
Implementation structures under the 20-Year Strategy for the Irish Language
• The Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht will retain primary responsibility for matters concerning the Irish language, both within and outside of the Gaeltacht.
• Foras na Gaeilge will continue to fulfil its responsibilities on an all-island basis as an agency of the North South Language Implementation Body.
• The Department, in partnership with relevant State bodies, will be responsible for the implementation of the Strategy outside the Gaeltacht. The potential for Foras na Gaeilge to deliver certain elements of the Strategy, on an agreed basis, will be explored.
• Údarás na Gaeltachta will be responsible for the implementation of the Strategy within the Gaeltacht.
Údarás na Gaeltachta
• The status quo will be maintained regarding the current functions of Údarás na Gaeltachta, including its enterprise functions, subject to the following:
(c) statutory provision to enable the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht to direct Údarás na Gaeltachta to focus its limited resources towards specific enterprise sectors; and
(d) the development of a mechanism to facilitate Údarás na Gaeltachta to cooperate with other enterprise agencies, particularly with regard to significant Gaeltacht projects with high potential. (Labelled c and d in the English Language document issued by the Department they are lablled a and b in the Irish version!)
• Provision will be made under the Gaeltacht Bill to significantly reduce the Board of Údarás na Gaeltachta and to end the requirement to hold elections.