Irish Language: Statements.

Níl aon amhras ach gurb é an rud is tabhachtaí atá tarlaithe ó thaobh na Gaeilge de le bliain anuas ná seoladh ráiteas an Rialtais i leith na Gaeilge ag ócáid i dTeach bhFarmleigh mí na Nollag seo caite. Ba é seo an chead ráiteas dá leithead a cuireadh amach le beagnach 40 bliain.

Ar ndóigh, ba é an príomh cinneadh a fógraíodh mar chuid den ráiteas ná go n-ullmhófar Straitéis 20 Bliain don Ghaeilge. Is léir go bhfuil an-spéis ag daoine i ráiteasaí faoin nGaeilge. Muna bhfuil spéis an an bhFreasúra ann is dócha gur fearr an rud a chur ar athló. Is minic a bhíodh sé le cloisint roimhe seo nach raibh aon straitéis no plean fadtéarmach náisiúnta ann don Ghaeilge agus nach raibh aon fhís ag an Rialtas maidir le forbairt na Gaeilge don ghlúin atá amach romhainn. Is chun dul i ngleic leis an ndúshlán sin gur chinn an Rialtas gur ceart straitéis 20 bliain a fhorbairt. Tá súil agam go mbeidh an straitéis nó an plean 20 Bliain seo ullmhaithe faoi cheann bliana.

Má bhaineann an straitéis 20 bliain don Ghaeilge leis an aimsir atá amach romhainn, baineann go leor eile de thionscnaimh an Rialtais i leith na Gaeilge leis an aimsir láithreach. Ar ceann de na cinn is tabhachtaí ar fad daoibh sin tá an Acht Teanga atá ar an saol anois go maith os cionn ceithre bliana.

Tá sé i gcéist go mbainfí amach spriocanna an Achta go príomha trí scéimeanna teanga a aontaítear idir mise mar Aire agus comhlachtaí poiblí aonair. Is creat pleanála a bhfuil stádas reachtúil aige é scéim teanga go mbíonn tréimhse trí bliana aige agus a bhíonn le hathnuachan nuair a bhíonn an tréimhse trí bliana sin istigh. Go dáta, tá 69 scéim teanga a chlúdaíonn 124 comhlacht poiblí, mo Roinn féin ina measc, daingnithe agam agus foilsithe. Chomh maith le sin, tá 59 scéim teanga eile á bplé ag mo Roinn leis na comhlachtaí poiblí atá i gceist le súil go mbeidh siad daingnithe agus foilsithe a luaithe agus is féidir. Ní fada anois go mbeidh tréimhsí na gcéad scéimeanna teanga a d'aontaíodh istigh agus tá mo Roinn ag díriú anois ar an gcur chuige cur ceart a bheith againn agus an dara babhta de scéimeanna a athnuachan againn leis na comhlachtaí poiblí lena mbaineann siad.

Leagtar síos in alt 9(1) den Acht gur féidir liom mar Aire rialacháin a dhéanamh maidir le húsáid na Gaeilge agus an Bhéarla i bhfógairtí béil, ar stáiseanóireachta, ar chomharthaíocht nó ar fhógráin. Anuraidh leag mé os comhair gach Teach den Oireachtas dréacht-rialacháin a bhain le húsáid na Gaeilge agus an Bhéarla ag comhlachtaí poiblí i bhfógairt béil réamh-thaifeadta, ar stáiseanóireacht agus ar chomharthaíocht. Ghlac an Dáil agus an Seanad ar aon leis na dréacht-rialacháin seo ar 14 Nollaig 2006. Ina dhiaidh sin, agus ar mholadh ó bhall den choiste, an Seanadóir O'Toole, scríobh mó Roinn chuig gach comhlacht poiblí atá clúdaithe ag an Acht chun deis eile a thabhairt dóibh a gcuid tuairimí a nochtadh faoina dréacht-rialacháin sular shínigh mé iad. Tá an próiseas comhairliúcháin sin críochnaithe anois agus tá mé ag súil go mbeidh mé in ann na rialacháin a dhéanamh go han-luath tar éis tuilleadh plé leis an gcoiste cuí. Níl mé ag rá go bhfuil moill ann ach sin an fáth nach bhfuil siad daingnithe agam. Shíl mé go mb'fhearr dul ar ais chuig an coiste agus cur i láthair a dhéanamh faoina haighneachtaí a fuair mé agus ansin a rá deis a thabhairt don choiste a thuairimí a nochtadh faoina gníomhaíochtaí atá i gceist a thógáil de thoradh na n-aighneachtaí seo.

I mí Iúil 2003, síníodh an tAcht ina dhlí agus tá gach cuid de i bhfeidhm ó mhí Iúil anuraidh. Is fiú dúinn breathnú siar ar an phointe seo agus féachaint cén tionchar a bhí ag an Acht go dtí seo, go mór-mhór ó thaobh mar atá sé imithe i bhfeidhm ar chomhlachtaí poiblí. Díol spéise ar leith a bhí ann domsa a fheiceáil le déanaí gur fhógair an tSeirbhís um Cheapacháin Phoiblí go raibh painéal ar leith le bunú ag an tseirbhís de dhaoine le líofacht sa Ghaeilge i bpríomh-ghráid earcaíochta na Státseirbhíse — i. oifigeach cléireachais agus oifigeach feidhmiúcháin. Is cinnte gur dul chun cinn suntasach é seo a léiríonn go bhfuil an tAcht ag dul i bhfeidhm i gceart ar chomhlachtaí poiblí. Tuigeann comhlachtaí poiblí anois gur ann do phobal na Gaeilge, gur mian leo leas a bhaint as seirbhísí Gaeilge ach iad a bheith ar fáil, agus mar sin, gur gá do na comhlachtaí féin dóthain bhall foirne le Gaeilge a bheith acu chun freastal a dhéanamh ar an éileamh sin. Tréaslaím leis An tSeirbhís um Cheapacháin Phoiblí as na comórtais seo a reachtáil. Tá sé tábhachtach anois a chinntiú go mbeidh líon mór iarrthóirí istigh ar na comórtais mar tá na poist ann.

Ag féachaint romhainn is fiú dúinn a bheith ag smaoineamh anois ar sciar nó céatadán áirithe do phoist nó folúntais de chuid na seirbhíse poiblí a bheith líonta le daoine cáilithe a bhfuil líofacht sa Ghaeilge acu, chomh maith le Béarla, bíodh siad laistigh no lasmuigh den Ghaeltacht.

Tá léargas tugtha agam sa Teach seo go minic faoi na nithe atá curtha i gcrích agus mar sin níl i gceist agam iad a liostáil anseo arís. Ó tharla áfach go bhfuil an cheist ardaithe sna meáin arís le cúpla lá anuas, agus go deimhin go bhfuil ceist Dála faoi ón Teachta O'Shea inniu, ba mhaith liom tagairt ar leith a dhéanamh uair amháin eile don chostas a bhaineann le haistriúcháin.

Ba mhaith liom a mhíniú arís eile gurb é an t-aon dualgas reachtúil atá ar chomhlachtaí poiblí faoi láthair maidir le haistriú cáipéisí go Gaeilge ná an dualgas a thiteann orthu faoi alt 10 d'Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla 2003. Faoi alt 10, tá dualgas ar chomhlachtaí poiblí cionroinnt an-teoranta d'eochair-cáipéisí a aistriú, mar shampla, tuarascálacha bliantúla agus cáipéisí a leagann amach tograí beartais phoiblí ar nós páipéir uaine no bán. Is eochair-cáipéisí iad seo ina bhfuil comhlachtaí poiblí freagrach don gnáth-phobal, dá gcustaiméirí, agus dúinne mar Bhaill den Oireachtas maidir le comhlíonadh a ndualgas poiblí.

Tá dhá theanga oifigiúil sa tír seo agus feictear domsa — go deimhin, bhí gach éinne sa Teach seo ar aon intinn faoi seo nuair a bhí an tAcht seo á phlé againn mar Bhille — go bhfuil an ceart ag an saoránach cáipéisí don chineál seo a bheith ar fáil sa dá theanga oifigiúil. Comhionannas i soláthar seirbhís phoiblí atá ann. Go deimhin, ní mór dom a rá chomh maith gur iarradh orm, le linn na díospóireachta ar an mBille, glacadh le leasúcháin a chiallódh go mbeadh sé de dhualgas ar chomhlachtaí réimse níos leithne de dhoiciméid a fhoilsiú go dátheangach agus go comhuaineach, ach nár ghlacas leis na leasaithe a moladh.

Gan amhras, níl sa chostas aistriúcháin ach céatadán beag den chostas iomlán a bhaineann le doiciméid den chineál seo a chur ar fáil agus go deimhin is costas suarach agus fánach é i gcomhthéacs buiséad riaracháin formhór na gcomhlachtaí poiblí. Is amhlaidh, áfach, go dtarraingíonn costais aistriúcháin aird ar leith mar gur cosúil nach mbíonn sé de acmhainn ag go leor comhlachtaí seirbhís aistriúcháin a sholáthar iad féin agus gur gá dóibh mar sin leas a bhaint as saineolas ón dtaobh amuigh. Tá bealaí éifeachtacha ann chun costais a laghdú, go háirithe má chuirtear na cáipéisí ar fáil ar an Idirlíon le híoslódáil seachas an iomarca cóipeanna a chur i gcló.

Tarraingíodh aird ar an ábhar seo níos luaithe an tseachtain seo i gcás Comhairle Contae Chorcaigh agus tá sé suntasach go bhfuil tuairisc sa nuachtán laethúil Gaeilge inniu ag tuairisciú go ndearna 3,667 duine leagan Gaeilge de na pleananna áitiúla i gContae Chorcaigh a íoslódáil, saor in aisce ó shuíomh Idirlín na comhairle. Cén fáth a mbacfadh éinne leis an chóip chrua a fháil nuair tá sé in ann dul isteach agus an píosa atá uaidh a íoslódáil? Faighim go leor de na tuarascálacha seo sa phost agus dá mbeinn chun iad uilig a léamh, bheadh an oifig lán. Má bhíonn an tuarascáil de dhíth orm arís, téim ar líne agus faighim an chuid den tuarascáil atá uaim. Tá laghdú mór ar na cáipéisí atá ag dul amach i gcóip-chrua ag Airí agus is rud maith sin. Tá chóir a bheith gach tuarascáil bhliantúil ar fáil ar an Idirlíon anois.

Anuas ar sin, ba mhaith liom a rá, mar atá a fhios ag na Teachtaí go rí-mhaith, go bhfuil méadú ar na meáin Ghaeilge le blianta beaga anuas, gan trácht ar mic léinn, srl., a bhaineann agus a bhainfidh úsáid rialta as na cáipéisí seo. Ní fíor a rá agus ní ghlacaim leis gur beag an tairbhe don Ghaeilge agus do lucht labhartha agus úsáide na teanga cáipéisí dá leithead a bheith ar fáil i nGaeilge. Is a mhalairt ar fad de thuairim a bheadh agam mar go dtugann siad deis don teanga téarmaíocht nua a chruthú agus cruthaíonn sé freisin gur féidir leis an teanga maireachtáil mar theanga bheo san saol teicneolaíochta, cumarsáide seo.

I mí Mheitheamh na bliana 2005, chinn Comhairle na nAirí an Aontais Eorpaigh go mbeadh stádas mar theanga oifigiúil oibre de chuid an Aontais ag an nGaeilge ón gcéad lá d'Eanáir 2007. Ar ndóigh, tháinig an chinneadh seo i bhfeidhm ag tús na bliana seo. Baineadh amach an stádas seo don Ghaeilge tar éis feachtais láidir ón Rialtas a raibh tacaíocht aige ó na páirtithe uilig i nDáil Éireann agus ó eagraíochtaí Gaeilge mar Chonradh na Gaeilge, Comhdháil Náisiúnta na Gaeilge agus Stádas.

Roimhe seo, bhí conarthaí agus cáipéisí áirithe á n-aistriú go Gaeilge, ach as seo amach beidh i bhfad níos mó doiciméad i nGaeilge á gcur ar fáil. Tá sé anois de cheart ag comhaltaí na hÉireann an Ghaeilge a labhairt sa Pharlaimint sna tosca ceanna ina labhraítear an 20 teanga oifigiúil eile de chuid an Aontais. Beidh iarrthóirí ar phoist de chuid an Aontais in ann an Ghaeilge a chur san áireamh chun riachtanais teanga a chomhlíonadh ar an mbonn céanna le haon teanga oifigiúil eile.

Tá an Rialtas ag obair le Coimisiúin na hEorpa chun a chinntiú go mbeidh na hacmhainn ar fáil chun freastal ar an stádas atá ag an nGaeilge. Tá ciste ar leith bunaithe ag mo Roinn chun maoiniú a chur ar fáil le haghaidh sainchúrsaí tríú leibhéal sa Ghaeilge. Cinnteoidh na sainchúrsaí seo go mbeidh leordhóthain ateangairí, aistritheoirí agus dlíodóirí-teangairí ar fáil chun freastal a dhéanamh ar riachtanais an Aontais Eorpaigh ó thaobh na Gaeilge de.

Chomh maith le sin, tá córas creidiúnaithe d'aistritheoirí forbartha ag Foras na Gaeilge ar iarratas uaimse. Chomh maith le bheith ina áis thar a bheith tábhachtach ó thaobh chúrsaí aistriúcháin sa mbaile, beidh an córas seo ina chúnamh tábhachtach ó thaobh soláthar aistritheoirí Gaeilge don AE. Tá dhá sheimineár reáchtáilte ag Foras na Gaeilge go dáta, i gcomhar le Coimisiún na hEorpa, chun aistritheoirí a chur ar an eolas faoi folúntais d'aistritheoirí Gaeilge sa Choimisiún. Cheana féin, tá an caighdeán cuí faoin gcóras bainte amach ag 97 iarrthóir.

Bhí go leor moltaí ag Coimisiún na Gaeltachta, ceann acu ná go dtabharfar stádas oifigiúl oibre don Ghaeilge, agus baineadh sin amach. Bhí tuairim agus 20 moltaí i dtuarascáil Coimisiún na Gaeltachta agus tá formhór na moltaí sin curtha i bhfeidhm, nó gníomhachtaí sonracha tógtha orthu. Maidir leis an staidéar teangeolaíochta, d'eascair sé sin as tuarascáil Coimisiún na Gaeltachta. Tá dianstaidéar déanta againn air agus ar na moltaí atá ann. Tá cuid acu inchurtha i bhfeidhm agus cuid eile a mbeidh deacair a chur i bhfeidhm. Tá deis gníomhú ar an cheist anois agus tá coiste comh-aireachta le bunú. As seo go ceann bliana, beidh plean gníomhaíochta á réitiú.

Tá plé mór le déanamh. Tá dhá thaobh sa mheá. Tá daoine ann a chreideann nach fiú ach díriú ar an bhfíor Ghaeltacht, mar a thugtar air, is é sin, na ceantair ina bhfuil ós cionn 67% den phobal ina gcainteoirí laethúla Gaeilge. Ceaptar go mba ceart an iarracht ar fad a dhíriú ar na ceantair sin agus beag beann a dhéanamh de na cheantair eile. Is teoiric spéisiúil í, ach is ceann teangeolaíoch í a bhfuil laige ag baint léi. Tá sé thar a bheith spéísiúil nach maireann aon cheantar taobh amuigh den Ghaeltacht ina bhfuil aon rian de chainteoirí laethúla Ghaeilge a bheadh thar an meán, mar shampla, iarthar an Chláir, Béara nó sna ceantair ina raibh Gaeilge fairsing go maith nuair a bunaíodh an Stát, áiteanna a baineadh amach agus a cuireadh taobh amuigh de theorann na Gaeltachta. Tá sin le feiceáil má thógann muid ceantair ina bhfuil, mar shampla, 40% den phobal ag labhairt na Gaeilge go laethúil taobh amuigh den chóras oideachais. Sin an t-uafás daoine le hais nó taobh amuigh den Ghaeltacht. Má bhaintear an dream sin as an Ghaeltacht, tá cruthúnas láidir ann go n-ísleoidh siad iad féin an-tapaidh go dtí an leibhéal atá ar fáil taobh amuigh den Ghaeltacht. Ní dócha gur sin a theastaíonn ó dhuine ar bith.

Glacaim leis go gcaithfidh na pleananna díriú ar na ceantair Gaeltachta ar bhealaí éagsúla. Ní chreidim, áfach, gur tairbhe na Gaeilge ná na Gaeltachta í ceantair ina bhfuil an Ghaeilge fós i bhfad níos láidre ná mar atá sí taobh amuigh dóibh a bheith bainte amach as an nGaeltacht. Tá ceantair áfach, mar shampla Béal an Mhuiread, agus is féidir a rá chomh fada siar le 1966 gur beag an cás a bhí acu, fiú ag an am sin, iad a chur isteach sa Ghaeltacht. Go deimhin, is beag an difríocht atá idir iad agus na ceantair taobh amuigh den Ghaeltacht. Tá cuid acu siúd i mo dháilceantar féin, thart ar chathair na Gaillimhe. Tá ceist mhór le freagairt faoi na cheantair sin agus tá próiseas leagtha amach sa tuarascáil teangeolaíochta faoi cén chaoi is ceart díriú ar na ceantair sin. Creidim go bhfuil fiúntas leis na moltaí sin, is é sin, go gcaithfidh na pobail sin rogha a dhéanamh, go gcaithfear plean a leagan amach agus deis a bheith acu an plean a chur i bhfeidhm. Mura gcuirtear i bhfeidhm ansin é, is cóir go mbeidh siad taobh amuigh. Má thograíonn siad gan plean a réiteach agus gan a bheith páirteach sa Ghaeltacht, caithfear cinneadh sciopaidh a dhéanamh.

Creidim go bhfuil an-bhunús leis an chur chuige sa staidéar teangeolaíochta, ach do na ceantair a mbeidh sásta plean a réiteach agus a chur i bhfeidhm. Caithfimid an oiread oibre a chur sna ceantair sin agus a cuirtear sna ceantair láidre Gaeltachta, ach é a dhéanamh ar bhealach éagsúil. Sin an léamh atá agam as an staidéar teangeolaíochta. Is cosúil, áfach, go bhfuil léamh eile ag daoine eile a chreideann nach ceart mórán a dhéanamh taobh amuigh de na ceantair láidre Gaeltachta. Ní ghlacaim gur sin a bhí i gceist ag údar na tuarascála, ná gur leas na Gaeilge an cur chuige sin. Creidim go bhfuil staidéar fíor-láidir ann gurb é a tharlódh sa chás sin ná go dtiocfadh meath an-sciopaidh ar na sciatha cosanta atá ag na bhforbartha, ó thaobh na Gaeltachta de, agus go lagfadh ansin an croí iontu, go mór mar nach mbeadh na ceantair idir eatharthu ann níos mó.

Bhí sé thar a bheith spéisiúil dul thart ag Oireachtas na Gaeilge. Bhí trí aicme duine ann, iad ar fad ag labhairt Gaeilge, an dream as an bhfíor-Ghaeltacht, go leor as na Gaeltachtaí nach bhfuil chomh láidir ach atá dílis don Ghaeilge, agus an-chuid daoine ó thaobh amuigh den Ghaeltacht. Bhí siad ar fad go sona sásta lena chéile ag labhairt na Gaeilge.

Fáiltím roimh an deis seo staid na Gaeilge, go speisialta na moltaí a rinne Coimisiún na Gaeltachta cúig bhlian ó shoin, a phlé. Ó tháinig tuairisc Choimisiún na Gaeltachta amach, tá cuid mhaith de na moltaí ann curtha i bhfeidhm. Mar shampla, tá an Ghaeilge mar theanga oifigiúil agus mar theanga oibre san Eoraip. Tá an Bille Teanga achtaithe de réir dlí chomh maith. Dul chun cinn de chineál é sin, dar ndóigh. Freisin, eisíodh preasráiteas ag deireadh na bliana seo caite i Farmleigh, an áit ar cuireadh straitéis ar mhaithe le chur chun cinn na Gaeilge chun tosach. Ba mhaith liomsa cúpla cheist a chur ar an Aire faoi cad a tharla ó shin.

Tá Fóram na Gaeilge ceaptha le comhairle agus treoir a thabhairt don Aire. Cé chomh minic agus a thagann an fóram sin le chéile? Cén uair a raibh an cruinniú deireannach acu agus cén uair a bheidh an chéad cruinniú eile acu? Is é ceann de na freagraíochtaí a bhí ar Fhóram na Gaeilge ná moltaí a chur ar fáil don Aire agus don Roinn. Cén moltaí a chuirfí i bhfeidhm nó cén moltaí atá ann don straitéis Gaeilge a bhí le cur ar fáil ar fud na tíre? Ceann de na moltaí a bhí ann, ná go raibh státseirbhíseach le ceapadh ar a mbeadh sé de dhualgas iomlán air amharc i ndiadh an phlean straitéiseach. An bhfuil an státseirbhíseach sin ceaptha nó an bhfuil a fhios againn cé hé nó cé hí?

Bhí saineolaithe le ceapadh a mbeadh a gcuid tuairimí le fáil maidir leis an plean straitéiseach do chur chun cinn na Gaeilge ar fud na tíre. An bhfuil na saineolaithe sin ceaptha? An bhfuil siad in ann a gcuid tuairimí a chur i bhfeidhm agus an mbeidh na tuairimí sin sa phlean straitéiseach? Dúradh ag an phreasagallamh i mí na Nollag anuraidh, go raibh an plean straitéiseach le bheith i bhfeidhm taobh istigh de dhá bhliain. Tá bliain imithe agus tá sé le bheith i bhfeidhm i 2008. An gciallaíonn sin an lá deireannach de 2008 nó an chéad lá?

Cuireadh airgead ar fáil sa cháinfhaisnéis, €300,000, fá choinne an taighde uilig. Céard a rinneadh leis an airgead sin? Ar cuireadh ar fáil é, cé mhéad de atá caite agus an bhfuil cuid de fágtha go fóill? Chomh maith le sin, dúradh go dtabharfar tacaíocht speisialta do thuismitheoirí a bhfuil fonn orthu a gcuid páistí a thógaint le Ghaeilge taobh amuigh den Ghaeltacht. Ní faoin Ghaeltacht atáim ag caint go fóill, tiocfaidh mé chuici sin, ach faoin chuid eile den tír. Tugadh an gheallúint sin do thuismitheoirí a raibh fonn orthu páistí a thógaint le Ghaeilge agus oideachas trí Ghaeilge a chur ar fáil dóibh sna gaelscoileanna. Caithfidh mé admháil go bhfuil sár-obair á dhéanamh ag na gaelscoileanna. Cibé a tharlós don Ghaeilge sa Ghaeltacht fhéin, tá comharthaí dóchais go mairfidh an Ghaeilge mar theanga de thairbhe na hoibre atá á dhéanamh ag na gaelscoileanna.

Tá deacrachtaí á gcruthú do na gaelscoileanna, áfach, i láthair na huaire. Tá deacrachtaí cinnte á gcruthú do na gaelscoileanna ag comhghleacaí an Aire, déanaim tagairt go speisialta don Aire Oideachais agus Eolaíochta. Is í an fhealsúnacht a bhí ag na gaelscoileanna go dtí seo ná go mbeadh gach ábhar á dhéanamh trí Ghaeilge ag na daltaí a rachadh isteach ag ceithre bhliana d'aois — an tumoideachas. Anois tá an Aire i ndiaidh teacht trasna ar sin agus a rá go gcaithfidh na gaelscoileanna an Béarla a theagasc mar ábhar oifigiúl gach lá sna gaelscoileanna. Tá conspóid mhór le sin. Tá sé cruthaithe ag na gaelscoileanna, le leathchéad bliain anuas, go n-éiríonn leis an tumoideachas, agus níl easnamh Béarla ar aon dalta iontu ach an oiread. Ba mhaith liom tuairimí an Aire a fháil. Cad a shíleann sé den riail úr maidir leis an tumoideachas? An gcaithfimid an Béarla a theagasc sa chéad dhá bhliain? Tá sé sin iontach tábhachtach chomh maith. Tá comharthaí dóchais ar fud na tíre. Cathain a dtiocfaidh an straitéis i bhfeidhm? An bhfuil an Státseirbhís réidh chun é seo a chuir i bhfeidhm le tacaíocht an Aire?

Mhol Coimisiún na Gaeltachta gur cheart dúinn tuaraiscí, ar nós an tuairisc a d'fhoilsigh an Dr. Harris maidir le caighdeán na Gaeilge sa chóras bunoideachais, a chuir ar fáil. Is cúis imní dúinn iad na conclúidí a bhain an Dr. Harris amach maidir leis an íslú tubaisteach atá tagtha ar theagasc agus caighdeán na Gaeilge i measc na ndaltaí sna gnáth-bhunscoileanna — níl mé ag caint faoi na gaelscoileanna. Ní theastaíonn uainn go mbeadh Gaeilge sna gaelscoileanna agus gan Gaeilge ar bith sna scoileanna eile. Caithfimid díriú isteach ar an cheist mór sin. B'fhéidir go gcaithfimid rud éigin a dhéanamh faoi oiliúnt múinteoirí. B'fhéidir gur chóir go mbeadh coláiste speisialta ann chun múinteoirí a oiliúnt trí Ghaeilge. Bheadh éileamh ar na múinteoirí sin sna gaelscoileanna agus sna Ghaeltacht chomh maith. Deirtear liomsa go bhfuil deacrachtaí móra ag gaelscoileanna agus scoileanna Gaeltachta múinteoirí a fháil a bhfuil an caighdeán oiriúnach acu chun múineadh i gaelscoileanna nó scoileanna Gaeltachta.

Ba mhaith liom labhairt mar gheall ar an staidéar teangeolaíoch ar úsáid na Gaeilge sa Ghaeltacht, ar a dhein an Aire lainseáil coicís ó shin ag Oireachtas na Gaeilge. D'eascair sé sin ó Choimisiún na Gaeltachta. Tháinig na saineolaithe le chéile chun obair iontach a dhéanamh. Cé go bhfuil an tuairisc ar fáil, ní fhaca mé ach achoimre de go fóill. Sílim go bhfuil nach mór 600 leathanach sa tuairisc ar fad — d'fhéadfá a rá go bhfuil sé chomh mór leis an Encyclopaedia Britannica. Tá achoimre de 60 nó 70 leathanach déanta air. Mar duine a rugadh sa Ghaeltacht — tá an chuid is mó de mo shaol caite sa Ghaeltacht agam — caithfidh mé a rá go ndearbhaíonn tuairimí agus conclúidí an tuaraisc sin na rudaí a fheicimid ag tarlú sna ceantair Gaeltachta. Is millteanach agus uafásach an scéal é nach í an Ghaeilge teanga baile beagnach 50% de na daltaí a théann ar scoil don chéad uair sna ceantair is láidre Gaeltachta. Is ceist iontach é sin. Níl freagra na ceiste sin agam. B'fhéidir gur féidir linn naíscoileanna a chur ar fáil ar fud na nGaeltachtaí, ionas go mbeidh deis ag daltaí an Ghaeilge an fhoglaim sa naíonra sula dtéann siad go dtí an bhunscoil. B'fhéidir gur chóir dúinn dhá chineál scoileanna a fhorbairt sa Ghaeltacht — scoileanna ina bhfuil an Ghaeilge mar an teanga teagaisc agus labhartha, agus scoileanna eile dos na tuismitheoirí atá ag iarraidh a gcuid páistí a theagasc trí Béarla.

Ar ndóigh, tháinig an cheist sin chun cinn go mór le cúpla seachtain anuas i gCorca Dhuibhne. Tá conspóid mór sa Daingean mar go bhfuil cuid de na tuismitheoirí ann ag iarraidh a gcuid páistí a theagasc trí Bhéarla agus tá cuid eile acu sásta leis an Ghaeilge. Ní shílim go bhfuil sé sin réitithe go fóill. Cé gurb é an Béarla an teanga fá choinne an chuid is mó de na hábhair a theagasc i Gairmscoil Mhic Diarmada ar Árainn Mhór i mo dháilcheantair fhéin, tá áthas orm a rá go bhfuil malairt tuairime ag teacht ar muintir na háite anois. Tá pobailbhreith le chur ar siúl ar an oileán, i measc tuismitheoirí an lá inniu agus an lá amárach, chun a fháil amach cé acu teanga ab fhearr leo. Fanfaimid go dtí go gheobhaimid amach cinneadh na hoileánaigh.

Tá an-chuid moltaí sa staidéar teangeolaíoch. Cé go raibh an choimisiún ag déanamh taighde le cúig bliana anuas, bhí orainn fanacht beagnach bliain go dtí gur gcuireadh an tuairisc ar fáil. Bhí an Aire agus an Roinn ag suí ar an staidéar le bliain anuas, ach tá sé curtha ar fáil anois. Tá an dealramh ar go bhfuil fochoiste den chomhaireacht chun breathnú air ar feadh bliain nó dhó eile. Dúirt an Aire nach mbeidh ann ach bliain — féachfaimid más mar sin é. De réir an tuairisc, muna ndéantar rud éigin taobh istigh de achar ghearr — caithfimid na moltaí a chur i bhfeidhm, mar shampla — b'fhéidir go mbeidh na ceantair is láidre Ghaeilge i láthair na huaire ar an chaighdeán chéanna leis na ceantair is laige taobh istigh de 20 bliain. Tá sé cinnte go bhfuil brú uafásach ar an Ghaeilge sna ceantair Ghaeltachta. Tá na staitisticí ann. Chuir an choimisiún an obair agus an saothar isteach ann. Ní féidir linn é a bhréagnú.

Is féidir leis an Ghaeilge a bheith mar theanga oifigiúla na tíre seo, is féidir linn Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla a bheith againn agus is féidir linn an Ghaeilge a dhearbhú mar theanga oifigiúla ag leibhéal na hEorpa, ach muna féidir linn dul i bhfeidhm leis na ghnáthdaoine atá ina gcónaí sna Gaeltachtaí agus an taoide seo a stopadh agus a chasadh ar ais, is cinnte go mbeidh muid i bponc. Is glaoch géibhinne, nó distress call, í an tuairisc seo. Caithfimid rud éigin a dhéanamh go práinneach. Tá straitéis náisiúnta againn maidir leis an Ghaeilge a chur chun cinn go náisiúnta. Tá moltaí an staidéar teangeolaíoch againn chomh maith. Ba mhaith liom a fháil amach an bhfuilimid ag dul i mbun comhoibriú. An bhfuil na grúpaí éagsúla chun teacht le chéile? An mbeidh siad ag teacht salach ar a chéile?

Ag deireadh na scéala, sílim go bhfuil an tuairisc faoin Ghaeltacht chun ualach uafásach a chuir ar an chóras oideachais. Ní shílim go bhfuil na hachmhainní ag an chóras sin chun an scéal seo a réiteach. Tá múinteoirí oilte ag obair i scoileanna Gaeltachta ina bhfuil an Bhéarla mar teanga teaglaigh ag leath na ndaltaí. Mar nach bhfuil ábhair agus áiseanna eile ar fáil, caithfaimid díriú isteach agus rud éigin a dhéanamh ar son chúrsaí oideachais. Is iar-mhúinteoir mé féin. Nuair a bhí mé ag caint le múinteoirí aréir, dúirt siad liom gurb í an dátheangachas an deacracht is mó atá acu sna scoileanna Gaeltachta. Tá na teaghlaigh beagnach dátheangach de thairbhe. Caithfimid dul i bhfeidhm ar na teaghlaigh. Is é ceann de moltaí an staidéar teangeolaíoch ná gur cheart dúinn deontais a thabhairt do theaghlaigh sa Ghaeltacht. Níl mé ag caint faoi scéim labhartha na Ghaeilge. Áitítear gur cheart deontas fiúntach de €5,000 a chuir ar fáil chun a dhéanamh cinnte gurb í an Ghaeilge an teanga teaghlaigh. Is moladh úr agus réabhlóideach é sin. Bhí comhartha ceiste agam i gcónaí mar gheall ar daoine a íoc as teanga a labhairt. B'fhéidir go gcaithfimid smaoineamh ar a leithéad de phlean. Tá sé molta go ndéanfaí cigireacht ar an scéim. Cén dearcadh ata ag an Aire faoi sin?

Tuigim ó tuairiscí a tháinig amach seachtain ó shin go bhfuil an t-Aire sásta €3,000 sa bhliain a thabhairt d'fheirmeoirí a ligeann do dhaoine siúl ar a gcuid talamh.

Chonaic mé na fógraí agus na tuairiscí sna nuachtáin.

Níor chuir mé aon fhógra amach.

Deirtear go raibh chomhráite ar siúl. Níl a fhios agam an raibh an t-Aire, nó ionadaithe an Aire, ann. An bhfuil sé sin fíor? B'fhéidir go gcaithfimid smaoineamh ar a leithéad de phlean.

Is é an rud atá i gceist ná feirmeoirí a íoc as obair a dhéanann siad ar ráta in aghaidh na huaire.

Agus tuismitheoirí a íoc as obair a dhéanann siad as an teanga a cur chun cinn. Ní thig linn a bheith ag brath ar an chóras oideachais. Caithfear é a fhágáil ag na tuismitheoirí sa deireadh thiar thall agus aon sprioc a thig linn a thabhairt dóibh chun é sin a dhéanamh is cinnte go gcaithfear smaointiú air.

Tá súil agam go mbeidh deis againn moltaí staidéir teangeolaíochta a phlé níos mionna ins an Dáil gan mhoill, mar tá siad réabhlóideach agus tá todhchaí na Gaeltachta i gceist. Má chaillfimid an Ghaeilge ansin beimid ag briseadh an nasc atá ann leis na mílte bliain, is cuma cad a dtarlaíonn sa chuid eile den tír. Tá an dualgas sin orainn uilig. Níl mé ag cur dualgais ar an Aire féin. B'fhéidir gur chóir go dtiocfadh coiste il-ghabhálach den Dáil le chéile mar is ceist náisiúnta í seo don teanga agus do chultúr na tíre, agus caithfimid uilig dul taobh thiar de chibé moltaí nó straitéis atá i gceist.

Tá áthas orm labhairt sa díospóireacht seo. Le déanaí thug mé Aire na Méara Fada, Minister of the Long Finger, ar an Aire. Deirim é sin arís. Inniu, tá mé chun labhairt as Gaeilge agus as Béarla. For the purpose of today's debate, I intend to address the House in both Irish and English. We are discussing two documents, the statement on the Irish language issued by the Government in December 2006 and the 2002 Coimisiún na Gaeltachta report.

The main decision in regard to the 2006 Government statement was to prepare a 20-year strategy for the Irish language. Last week, I put a parliamentary question to the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs in regard to the progress on implementing the recommendations of the statement. I also asked how many meetings had taken place of the executive committee. The Minister informed me that the principal decision was to develop a 20-year strategy for the Irish language. He went on to say he held a meeting, Fóram na Gaeilge, on 5 March 2007. This forum was in existence throughout the life of the last Dáil and was charged with developing this strategy. It was agreed to form a sub-committee that would operate as a connection between the forum and his Department from the point of view of preparing the strategy. This sub-committee met in May and, among other the matters, discussed the employment of a consultant to assist the Minister's Department in preparing the strategy. I was informed that the Department had been discussing the process since then with a number of proposals having been made in regard to employment of the consultant. In the reply which issued on 31 October, the Minister informed me that the sub-committee would meet on Friday, 2 November. That is remarkable progress.

The Minister stated it was proposed to consult the public as part of the process of preparing the strategy and a series of public meetings would be held in various parts of the country. That is certainly an improvement on how the Minister acted while the Official Languages Act 2003 was passing through the Dáil. He informed a private meeting with the Irish language organisations in Spidéal that it was as well that English speaking people did not know about the Act because it would be difficult to pass if they did. At least he is going to allow open debate on this occasion.

He also stated that the process for developing the strategy would take approximately two years.

It will be finished this time next year. Take that from me.

That is shorter than two years. Why did the Minister tell me two or more years would be required?

It is two years from the time of the ráiteas.

That is typical of this Minister. It is clear that he does not have the support of his Government colleagues on the initiatives he wishes to take on behalf of the Irish language. Today, we are discussing the Coimisiún na Gaeltachta report and not specifically the comprehensive linguistic study of the use of Irish in the Gaeltacht. No hard copy of that is available and I understand that it is difficult to retrieve the document from the Department's website. The Coimisiún na Gaeltachta report was published in May 2002.

A study of Gaeltacht schools was published by An Comhairle Um Oideachas Gaeltachta agus Gaelscolaíochta in May 2005. An Comhairle was established 2002 under the provisions of section 31 of the Education Act 1998. The study finds that the future of the Gaeltacht is intertwined with the future of the education system in the Gaeltacht. Therefore, if there is no resolution to the present crisis in the education system, the future of the Gaeltacht is at risk. The findings in this report are in line with the findings of the recent study, so I am not sure what we were waiting for in terms of addressing the situation.

The Minister's press release on the launch of the linguistic study on the use of Irish in the Gaeltacht states that, while noting the report, the Government did not necessarily accept its recommendations. The Minister added that a Cabinet level committee is being established to consider matters arising in the context of the reports and their analyses and recommendations with a view to agreeing an integrated action plan within 12 months to secure the future of Irish as the community language in the Gaeltacht. I understand the Minister has indicated that all Ministers are entitled to take part in this committee. It will be interesting to see how many take part. In order to flush out what is really happening in regard to the Irish language in this Government, quarterly reports on the committee should be made to the Oireachtas regarding the progress it made and the Ministers who attended it.

I am sick and tired of studies, committees and fora being established when little or nothing is happening in regard to the crisis facing the Gaeltacht and the Irish language generally. This Minister is overly dependent on legislation as the way to revive the language and strengthen its development. Radical thinking is needed for Irish. If the language is to have any chance, the various State functions in regard to it should be co-ordinated through the Taoiseach's office. There should be a full audit of the amount of money spent by the State in various ways on the Irish language, which could easily be of the order of €1 billion.

We should identify all the money being spent, what it is being spent on——

I did not interrupt the Minister.

I have one point.

Behave yourself.

On a point of information, if the Deputy asserts that money spent on TG4 represents spending on the Irish language, that is the equivalent of saying money spent on RTE represents spending on the English language. By that calculation, if €1 billion is spent on Irish, €51 billion is spent on English. That was exactly the point made in 1950 in regard to the need to spend money on the Irish language.

I am sure the Minister believes his interjection has some relevance but he is the only one who thinks so.

It highlights the Deputy's cock-eyed mathematics.

Cock-eyed mathematics.

Deputy O'Shea, let us get back to the momentum we had previously.

It was the Chairman who allowed him to continue.

The Minister indicated that there was information available which he felt would be useful to the debate.

That was a wonderful interjection. That absolutely——

It totally demolishes the Deputy's nonsensical argument.

Ar aghaidh leat.

We should identify all the money that is being spent, on what it is being spent and whether objectives are being achieved. If they are not being achieved, we must move quickly to make the adjustments necessary. However, in the absence of a proper strategy on the Irish language, there is no overall policy position to which all other elements of action regarding the Irish language can relate.

Tá sé ag teacht.

That is the basic issue which must be addressed. I am glad to hear the Minister is revising his position of last week.

Tá sé ag teacht.

An bhfuil? Tá go maith. What is happening with regard to seachtain na Gaeilge?

A special Oireachtas committee dealing with the Irish language solely, in all its ramifications, should be set up. Furthermore, a high level committee should be formed between the Department of Education and Science, RTE, TG4 and Radió na Gaeltachta to maximise the resources available for promoting the Irish language and explaining to people the cultural gem that is the Irish language, the fact that it is now in danger and what exactly we would lose should we lose our language. We must convey the message that engaging with the Irish language can bring joy and can enrich us. This is not something that will come from compulsion and legislation.

Recent reports into what it costs to produce some documents in Irish, which are neither bought nor read by anyone, indicate strongly the need to review the operations of the Official Languages Act and to have the political courage to make the appropriate amendments to that Act.

Tá sé tábhachtach go gcothaítear cumas leanaí an Ghaeilge a labhairt chomh luath agus is féidir, ábhar a bhfuil mé ag plé leis le fada. Ba cheart gramadach na Gaeilge a shimpliú agus na briathra neamhrialta a chur ar leataobh go bhféadfadh páistí dul i ngleic leis an Ghaeilge agus an seans acu í a fhoghlaim agus a labhairt níos luaithe.

Ina theannta sin, caithfear fáil réidh den tuiseal ginideach, ní fiú leanúint leis a thuilleadh ó thaobh leanaí a mhealladh don teanga, agus daoine fásta gan cumas labhartha na Gaeilge fosta. Dá mbeadh an Ghaeilge níos fusa dóibhsean, chuirfidís chuige níos tapúla ná mar atá.

Ba cheart don Roinn, nó cibé Roinn is cuí, féachaint ar cad is féidir a dhéanamh. Tá focail eile ag teacht isteach sa Ghaeilge anois, ach tá siad "artificiálta", chun focal den tsort a úsáid. Is ceart rudaí praiticiúla a dhéanamh, sin an fáth go molaim go gcuirfidh an tAire coiste ard-leibhéal ar bun idir An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta, TG4 agus Raidió na Gaeltachta chun gur féidir an fheidhm is fearr a bhaint as na háiseanna sin chun an Ghaeilge a fhorbairt agus a chur os comhair na ndaoine cé chomh tábhachtach agus atá an teanga.

Céard atá i gceist? Tá logainmneacha ann ar fud na tíre ar fad, ní féidir éalú as sin, mar shampla, Port an Dúnáin sin Portadown. Tá a lán staire ag baint leis na logainmneacha. Má thuigeann leanaí foinse na logainmneacha sa cheantar, bíonn suim acu sa stair. Is as Contae Phort Láirge mé féin, the harbour that is shaped like a thigh, agus má fhéachann duine ar an léarscáil, feicfidh sé cén fáth go bhfuil an logainm sin ann. Focail ar nós dún, trá, cill, mór agus beag, tá siad uilig ann.

Impím ar an Aire rud éigean a dhéanamh. Tá na coiste agus tuarascálacha uilig againn ach cur chuige atá uainn.

Tá sé tráthúil go bhfuil muid ag déileáil leis seo. Níl an tuarascáil léite ina iomlán agam, tá sé beagáinín ró-fhada le léamh i gceann cúig nó sé lá ach tá a lán ann ba chóir dúinn machnamh an-dhian a dhéanamh air. Is gá dúinn gníomhú go práinneach uirthi.

Tá sé leagtha amach go soiléir sa chuid atá léite agam go dtí seo go bhfuil cruachás ann ó thaobh na Gaeltachta de agus todhchaí na Gaeilge sna ceantair sin. Tá údair na tuairisce ag brath orainn agus tá dúshlán tugtha dúinn gníomhú go práinneach dá réir mar tá cruachás ann agus caithfimid gníomhú tapaidh a dhéanamh. Tá sé luaite sa tuarascáil go bhfuil tréimhse de deich nó 15 bliana againn chun roinnt den chreimeadh agus den mheath atá ag teacht ar phobal labhartha na Gaeilge sa Ghaeltacht a athrú go bhfásfaidh an líon Gaeilgeoirí a úsáideann an Ghaeilge chuile lá sa Ghaeltacht.

Is trua liom an sórt cacamais a chuala mé ón Teachta romham faoin Ghaeilge agus faoi chaiteachas uirthi. Is trua go dtarlaíonn sin go leanúnach, ní amháin anseo ach lasmuigh fosta. Aon airgead a chaitear ar an Ghaeilge, is ar son leasa na Gaeilge é. B'fhéidir gur féidir é a chaitheamh níos fearr beagáinín ach sa deireadh is cóir dúinn i bhfad níos mó a chaitheamh ar shlánú na Gaeilge i gceart.

Is trua go bhfuil muid fós ag an staid a bhfuil an Ghaeltacht ag dul i laige ann in ainneoin polasaí an Stáit ó thús an Ghaeilge a athbheochan agus sochaí dátheangach a bhunú, nó ar a laghad go mbeadh stádas ag an Ghaeilge. Theip ar an Stát agus is féidir seo a léiriú trí staid na Gaeltachta a mheas. Tá cinnte iontacha déanta maidir leis an Ghaeilge thar na blianta, ach níor cuireadh na hacmhainní cuí leis na chinnte sin. Freisin, níor dhéileáil éinne riamh leis an naimhdeas a tháinig ón Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta le tamall de bhlianta maidir leis an Ghaeilge. Sin ceann de na príomh fáthanna go bhfuil meath ag tarlú. Chomh maith le sin, níl muid tar éis díriú isteach ar an dúshlán mór, is é sin, conas is féidir linn an meon sin a athrú. Conas is féidir linn cur ina luí ar an Roinn go bhfuil air, ní amháin déileáil leis an éileamh maidir le gaelscolaíocht, ach é a chothú? Ba chóir don Roinn déileáil le ceisteanna maidir le tumoideachas blianta ó shin. Is dóigh liom go ndearna an Aire cinneadh mícheart le déanaí. Ba chóir go gcuirfeadh sí ar leataobh an cinneadh sin agus go mbeadh tumoideachas á mholadh, ní amháin sna scoileanna Gaeltachta agus breac Gaeltachta, ach i ngach scoil, ionas go mbeidh muid in ann teacht ar ais i gceann 20 bliain agus go mbeidh athrú iomlán tagtha ansin ar an ghéarchéim maidir leis an Ghaeilge sna gaeltachtaí agus timpeall na tíre.

Is trua nach mbeidh an oiread sin daoine ag léamh na tuarascála seo mar leagtar amach ann cé chomh thábhachtach agus atá an cheist seo. D'aithin muid, na daoine atá gafa le cur chun cinn na Gaeilge, go raibh an scéal seo le teacht. Is trua, áfach, go raibh orainn fanacht leis an tuarascáil seo le spreagadh a thabhairt. Bhí daoine ag rá go leanúnach go raibh meath ag teacht ar an ghaeltacht agus, dá réir sin, ar an thobar sin ó thaobh na teanga agus ár gcultúr de.

Caithfimid díriú ar na ceisteanna atá leagtha amach sa tuarascáil maidir le conas is féidir linn déileáil le ceisteanna pleanála sa Ghaeltacht, le ceisteanna maidir le hoideachas agus maidir leo siúd atá sásta a pháistí a thógaint le Gaeilge. Mar léiriú ar mheon an Stáit maidir leis an teanga in am nach raibh an Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta na rialacha a athrú nó a chur ar leataobh ar mhaithe leis an Ghaeilge, seo scéal. Is cuimhin liomsa freastal ar scoil Dhún Chaoin nuair a bhí baol ann go ndúnfaí í. Chuaigh mo chlann, clann Dick Burke, a bhí mar Coimisinéar, agus cúpla clann eile chun na scoile sin gach mí Meitheamh chun na huimhreacha a árdú ann ionas go gcoinneofar ar oscailt í. Tá an scoil fós beo agus trí nó ceithre mhúinteoir ann.

De réir na tuarascála, tá meath ag tarlú, fiú i nDún Chaoin, maidir leis an méad daoine atá ag tógaint páistí trí Ghaeilge, nó an méad daoine atá ag labhairt Gaeilge lasmuigh den chóras oideachais. Níor éirigh go hiomlán linn mar sin. Conas is féidir linn an dream a bhfuil cónaí orthu sa Ghaeltacht, nó atá ag obair nó ag freastal ar scoileanna sa Ghaeltacht, a mhealladh chun casadh go huile agus go hiomlán ar an Ghaeilge? Cad iad na hacmhainní breise atá de dhíth? Cén uirlisí breise ar chóir dúinn a lonnadh sna Gaeltachtaí chun a dhéanamh cinnte de go dtarlóidh athrú suntasach faoi cheann deich mbliana nó mar sin, ionas nach rachaidh na Gaeltachtaí i laige arís?

Tá athruithe ann le tamall blianta anuas, ach ní dóigh liom go bhfaca muid go fóill toradh iomlán na cinnte a tógadh, mar shampla, an cinneadh maidir le teilifís na Gaeilge. Measaim go bhfuil tionchar nach beag aige. B'fhéidir go mbeadh an tuarascáil i bhfad níos measa murach teilifís nó raidío na gaeltachta. Arís, bhí ar an phobal raic a thógaint chun cead a bheith acu na stáisiúin seo a chur ar fáil. Molaim an iar Aire, an Teachta Michael D. Higgins, a thóg an cinneadh teilifís na Gaeilge a chur ar fáil.

Tá cinntí eile déanta chomh maith. Mhol mé an tAire nuair a chuir sé an Bille i dtaobh na teangacha oifigiúla fé bhráid an Oireachtais. Tá súil agam go bhfeicfimid tairbhe an Achta sin amach anseo, ainneoin go raibh mé ag troid leis an Aire faoi é a dhéanamh níos foirfe agus ag iarraidh go mbeadh forálacha ann a bheadh in ann déileáil leis na ceisteanna atá tar éis teacht chun cinn sa tuarascáil seo.

Tá dúshlán mór romhainn Gaeilgeoirí díograsacha agus gníomhacha a lonnadh sna Gaeltachtaí arís, ionas go mbeidh daonáireamh iontu a léireoidh go bhfuil níos mó Gaeilge á labhairt agus níos mó Gaeilgeoirí ag freastal ar scoileanna Gaeltachta. Ceann de na fadhbanna atá luaite sa tuarascáil ná go bhfuil méad na Béarlóirí atá ag freastal ar scoileanna Gaeltachta ag dul i méid. Is gá acmhainní agus am an chóras oideachais a chaitheamh ar na daoine seo a Ghaelú. Ba chóir freisin breis maoiniú a thabhairt do na scoileanna Gaeltachta chun cinntiú nach gcuirfidh an líon daltaí le Béarla as an ghnáth obair scoile mar go gcaithfidh an múinteoir níos mó ama a chaitheamh ag múineadh Gaeilge dóibh.

Caithfear, freisin, breis acmhainne a chur ar fáil do thuismitheoirí nach bhfuil Gaeilge ar a thoil acu atá ag bogadh isteach i gceantair gaeltachta ó cheantair eile. Is cóir go mbeadh tumoideachas ar fáil do thuismitheoirí nó aon duine eile, is cuma an bhfuil páistí acu nó nach bhfuil nó más daoine ar phinsean iad, a bhogann isteach sna cheantair seo. Is cóir go mbeadh sin mar chuid de na coinníollacha pleanála. Ba chóir go mbeadh an córas pleanála ag déileáil leis na ceiste seo i dtaobh daoine atá ag iarraidh cur futhu sa Ghaeltacht. Is gá athrú suntasach a dhéanamh maidir leis an cheist pleanála agus is cóir coinníollacha teanga a chur i bhfeidhm maidir leo siúd atá ag iarraidh cur fúthu sa Ghaeltacht. Sa deireadh thiar, is rud ársa atá againn sna Gaeltachtaí. Má leanann muid ar aghaidh ag ligint do theaghlaigh Béarla bogadh isteach sna ceantair sin, is léir go leanfaidh leis an damáiste atá déanta cheana, mar atá léirithe sa tuarascáil. Tarlóidh an rud céanna má ligeann muid do chomhlachtaí a oibríonn go huile agus go hiomlan trí Bhéarla lonnú sa Ghaeltacht.

Má táimíd dáiríre faoi chothú na Gaeilge, caithfidh muid oibriú agus gníomhú de réir na ceisteanna móra atá leagtha amach sa tuarascáil seo. Sin an cheist: an bhfuil muidne sa Teach seo dáiríre faoi? Más gá, caithfimid breis maoiniú a dhéanamh. Ní féidir leis an Aire thall é sin a dhéanamh, ach is féidir leis an Rialtas agus an Aire Airgeadais é a dhéanamh. Caithfimid léiriú de na céimeanna a bhfuil an Rialtas sásta a thógaint chun tobar na Ghailge a athlíonadh a fheiscint sa chéad buiséad eile agus sna buiséid ina dhiadh sin. Conas gur féidir linn cuir leis an Ghaeltacht amach anseo? An chéad rud atá le déanamh againn ná déanamh cinnte nach dtiocfaidh meath níos mó ar an Ghaeltacht.

Ceist mór is ea ceist an chóras oideachais. Measaim gur chóir duinn díriú isteach ar na ceisteanna eile atá luaite sa tuairisc. Cad iad na impleachtaí a bhaineann le grádú na Gaeltachtaí — na trí grád atá leagtha amach? Is ceist mór é sin. Aontaím leis an Aire gur chóir dúinn ár am a thógaint maidir le sin. Ní féidir linn am a ghlacadh go deo, ach is féidir linn suim mór airgid a infheistiú sa chóras oideachais, nó tumoideachas do tuismitheoirí, láithreach. Measaim gur chóir go dtiocfadh an Aire ar ais le moltaí den shórt sin. Ba cheart dúinn léiriú don domhain go bhfuilimid sásta ár ghnó a dhéanamh trí Ghaeilge. Is maith an rud é go raibh an Aire in ann am a fháil chomh tapaidh chun déileáil leis an tuairisc seo. Bhí sé beagáinín ró-thapaidh, i slí amháin, mar nach raibh an tuairisc faighte againn luath go leor.

Tá am an Teachta beagnach caite.

Críochnóidh mé tar éis dom a luadh go bhfuil moladh curtha agam chuig an Príomh Aoire maidir le lá Ghaeilge a eagrú sa Teach. Léireodh ócáid den shórt sin gur féidir linn gach rud sa Teach — na coistí ina measc — a dhéanamh trí Ghaeilge. D'fhéadfamis déileáil le ceist na Gaeilge, ar a laghad. Tá súil agam go bhfuil an Aire agus na hurlabhraí sásta cuidiú liom an suí sin a eagrú mar chuid de Seachtain na Gaeilge 2008. Ba cheart dúinn sampla a thabhairt gur féidir linn ár gnó a dhéanamh go hiomlán trí Ghaeilge don chuid eile den am. B'fhéidir go n-úsáidfear níos mó Ghaeilge sa Teach as sin amach agus go mbeimid in ann gníomhú de réir an tuairisc seo. Éiríonn a lán eile ón dtuairisc sin, ar nós ceisteanna oideachais. Measaim go mbeidh orainn teacht ar ais chuige. Tá súil agam go mbeidh an choiste ag déileáil leis.

Ba mhaith liom labhairt go háirithe mar gheall ar an Ghaeilge agus an Ghaeltacht i mo dháilcheantar fhéin. Measaim go bhfuil an Ghaeilge láidir go leor sa Mhí Thoir. Tá ceantar Gaeltachta againn i mBaile Ghib. Nuair a bhreathnaímid ar an dtuarascáil, is léir gur Ghaeltacht sa ghrád C is ea Baile Ghib — tá an dealramh ar an scéal gur Ghaeltacht lag atá i gceist. Tá sé sin fíor go pointe áirithe. Nuair a bhí mé ag canbhasáil san áit sin — fuair mé an-tacaíocht ó muintir na Gaeltachta — d'fhoglaim go bhfuil a lán Ghaeilge á labhairt sna tithe agus sna scoileanna, go háirithe — i gcúrsaí oideachais, mar shampla. Tá nascanna sóisialta láidre i Gaeltacht na Mí. Bíonn oícheanta Ghaeilge acu. Nuair a bhí mé ag léamh an nuachtán áitiúil an tseachtain seo caite, dúirt an ceannlíne go bhfuil amhras mór faoi Ghaeltacht Bhaile Ghib. Tar éis dom an tuairisc a léamh, measaim nach bhfuil aon amhras faoi stádas na gaeltachta ar chor ar bith. Má tá an pobal áitiúil ar iarraidh an stádas sin a choinneáil agus an Ghaeilge a labhairt, ní bheidh aon fadhb acu. Tabharfaidh mé gach uile tacaíocht dóibh. Aontaím leis an Teachta McGinley go gcaithfidh gach pháirtí obair le chéile ar an ábhar tábhachtach seo, a bhaineann le stair agus cultúr na tíre.

Níl na moltaí sa tuarascáil a bhaineann le gráid A, B agus C ró-shoiléir. Deirtear gur chóir dúinn stratéis forbartha eacnamaíochta a chuir ar fáil dos na Gaeltachtaí. Dá mbeadh straitéis ghearr-théarmach ann le haghaidh eacnamaíocht Bhaile Ghib, measaim go dtiocfadh a lán fiontar as. Is í an fhadhb is mó i mBaile Ghib ná go bhfuil na tithe go léir scaipthe go fairsing — tá an séipéil in áit amháin agus tá an siopa in áit eile. Tagann daoine le chéile sa scoil. Measaim nach mbíonn an aifreann trí Ghaeilge gach Domhnach. Tá a lán fadhbanna pleanála san áit freisin. Tháinig daoine go dtí mo chlinic cúpla seachtain ó shin chun caint liom mar gheall ar an dtalamh atá zónáilte i mBaile Ghib. Tá sé scríobhta go dearfa i phlean forbartha na chontae go bhfuil cuid den dúiche zónáilte. Tarlaíonn sé go minic nach mbíonn an talamh úd le díol, áfach. Ní féidir é a cheannach. Tá bac á chuir ar daoine le Gaeilge nach bhfuil ón cheantair atá ag iarraidh bogadh isteach sa Ghaeltacht agus páirt a ghlacadh i pobal na háite. Tá sé molta go mbeadh Baile Átha Buí mar baile seirbhíse Gaeltachta. Measaim go mbeadh Cheannanas Mór níos fearr mar baile seirbhíse Gaeltachta mar go bhfuil sé idir an dá Ghaeltacht. Bheadh Baile Átha Buí an-oiriúnach do Rath Chairn — tá a fhios againn go bhfuil an Ghaeilge i bhfad níos láidre i Rath Chairn ná mar atá i mBaile Ghib. Tá sé an-tábhachtach go bhfuil oifig an chomhairle chontae agus rudaí eile i gCeannanas Mór.

Iarradh orm inné litir a scríobh chuig an Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta mar gheall ar choláiste dara-leibhéal lán-Ghaeilge atá á phleanáil i gContae na Mí, gar le Droichead Átha. Tá an-éileamh ann do scoil den shórt sin. Bhí baint agam le gaelscoil a bhunaíodh i mí Meán Fómhair seo caite. Bhí an iomarca daoine ag iarraidh a gcuid páistí a chlárú sa scoil sin. Measaim go bhfuil todhchaí na Ghaeilge geal go maith taobh amuigh de na Gaeltachtaí. Mar a dúirt an Teachta McGinley, tá na gaelscoileanna ag déanamh an-iarracht agus tá dea-tairbhe le feiceáil de bharr sin. Caithfimid leanúint ar aghaidh le sin taobh amuigh den ghaeltacht. Má tá oideachas dara-leibhéal ar fáil i gaelcholáiste d'iad siúd atá á lorg, cuireann sé sin go mór leis an Ghaeilge. Tabharfaidh mé an-tacaíocht don meánscoil nua lán-Ghaeilge taobh amuigh de Droichead Átha. Cuirim fáilte roimh an tuarascáil seo. Má tá an pobal ag iarraidh go mairfidh na Gaeltachtaí, mairfidh siad le cabhair ó gach éinne agus ón Stáit.

Go raibh míle maith agat. I am delighted to speak today on the Government statement on the Irish language and on the Irish language in general. I am not afraid to admit I do not speak Irish but I make an effort to speak Irish and have a strong interest in the Gaeltacht. There are three Gaeltacht areas in the constituency I represent and I am delighted to say that, in the recent general election, people in those areas gave me 32% of the vote, which is something of which I am very proud.

Before the last general election TG4 carried out a poll, the results of which were amazing. People who spoke Irish in the Gaeltacht were asked which of the five Deputies in Mayo best represented the Gaeltacht and I was delighted when they answered that I was the person who best represented them and that I spoke a language they understood, even if it was not Irish. Fine Gael has always supported the Irish language and will continue to do so.

Fine Gael founded this State and set up the Department of the Gaeltacht. My own county provided one of the finest Ministers for the Gaeltacht, P. J. Lindsay. He is still talked of in the Gaeltacht, although I only knew him for a very short time. He was only in the job for a short time and people say it is a pity he was not there for longer because we would probably have a stronger Gaeltacht now. He was not afraid to use his ministerial power to do what had to be done. At that time Fine Gael talked about the revival of the language but that was a long time ago. It has been 75 years since the foundation of the State and hypocrisy about the Irish language persists. I hope I do not offend anybody in what I say. The first meeting took place yesterday of the Joint Committee on Arts, Tourism, Sport, Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs. There are 24 committees of the Oireachtas, 24 chairmen and 24 vice-chairmen but not one committee exclusively for the Gaeltacht. It is a disgrace that the Houses of the Oireachtas do not have a committee dealing exclusively with the Gaeltacht. I propose that the Minister talk to the Taoiseach about setting up a 25th committee to deal with the Gaeltacht.

I note that a further ministerial committee is being proposed by the Government. This means the end of the report which was published last week. The Minister may do his best but the Cabinet sub-committees will have no interest in the Irish language because there has been no interest for the past 75 years.

I went through the educational system and I learned catechism and mathematics and everything, including writing, through Irish. Yet I left school without being able to speak a word of Irish. Why is it still the case that 95% of people who have completed their schooling are not able to speak a word of Irish? This is a sign there is something wrong with the way they were taught. Why has there been an upsurge in gaelscoileanna all over the country? It is because people want their children to learn Irish but they are of the view that the national schools are not able to do so. If that is the case there is something wrong with the educational system.

The Minister has responsibility for the Irish language. The Minister for Education and Science is trying to interfere with the gaelscoileanna. She wanted the gaelscoileanna to use Irish but now she wants the gaelscoileanna to teach English. As somebody who does not speak Irish, this does not make sense to me. I suggest the Minister, Deputy Ó Cuív, take the Minister for Education and Science aside and ask her why, if the gaelscoileanna are working, they should now have to spend ten or 20 minutes a day teaching English. This does not make sense and something must be done.

There has been too much hypocrisy associated with the Irish language for too long. I would love to be able to speak Irish and I am sure everybody in this House would love to be able to speak Irish. There are two reasons I cannot speak Irish. The education system is not right. The Minister and Deputy McGinley are two excellent Irish speakers. I meet Irish speakers from the Gaeltacht on a daily basis who talk to me in English as I do not have Irish but other people who are Irish speakers but not from the Gaeltacht will put up their noses at those of us who cannot speak Irish. They put up their noses again when we try to speak a few words of Irish because they think they are better than everybody else because they can speak the Irish language.

If we want to teach the Irish language, we must ensure that people enjoy learning the language. I always remember being abused by a Christian Brother — I use the word "abused" — when I could not pronounce the word "focal". I will never forget that word until the day I die. He beat me and battered me until I said it. I will not put on the record of the House the word I used, after which he told me to sit down. I should have used that word sooner and I would not have been black and blue. My father wanted to go to the school the next day to use a few words in Irish to him but I stopped him. This is the reason the Irish language is the way it is; the people who taught it in the past. If they could not teach you, they tried to beat it into young people. This is the reason the Irish language is in the state it is today.

The gaelscoileanna along with the revival of Gaelic music, dance and culture, are doing more for the Irish language. The Oireachtas festival was held in Westport last week. I come from Cathair na Mart. The people of Westport responded to the Oireachtas event last weekend. It was an excellent exhibition of the Irish language, Irish culture and young people enjoying themselves without having to take over a town. They came and enjoyed themselves and it was a great weekend. Everything went well and people enjoyed the sean nós and the dancing and the Irish culture at its best. I compliment Piarais Ó Raghallaigh and his wife and everybody involved for the hard work.

I have never visited Farmleigh but maybe I will have dinner there when I am a Minister or spend a night there.

That will be a long time. The Deputy should visit it soon.

An event was held in Farmleigh on 21 December 2006 at which the Minister made a statement about the future of the Irish language. Forum na Gaeilge was an advisory group set up by the Minister. How many times has the group met? How many times did it report to the Minister? When will it meet next? The Minister was to appoint a civil servant to set up an Irish language strategy. What work has this person undertaken? I wish to know the name of the person. A total of €300,000 was set aside for the Irish language strategy. How much of this money was spent? The Minister was to bring in expert advisers to advise him on how to revive the Irish language and how to teach people to speak the language. What has been happening in this regard? I would love to see more people being able to speak Irish.

I wish to bring an issue to the attention of the Minister which I raised with the Minister for Transport this morning. I refer to signage in Irish and the spelling of names in Irish in the Gaeltacht. They cannot even spell the names properly on the signposts. I ask the Minister to speak to the Minister for Transport and to the local authorities to ensure that incorrect signage is taken down and corrected immediately. It is difficult enough for foreigners looking for Clonbur who see it written in Irish but not even spelled correctly. I ask the Minister to deal with this matter immediately.

Unfortunately I do not have the legal power to deal with this matter and neither has the commissioner. This is a tricky issue because it is a handbook rather than a regulation. I agree with the Deputy. There is no excuse for what is happening. The local authorities can get the proper, official forms from the placenames branch. I do not understand how they cannot copy down the official spellings for use on the signs.

I do not like to interject because the Deputy is in full flow but he may remember the famous sign over near Cross, for Inishmacatreer, known in Irish as Inis Mhic a' Trír. They managed, in some marvellous achievement, to put a different version of the Irish name on both sides of the same sign. This is the one that took the biscuit, in my view. It should be given full marks for total codology.

The Deputy has five minutes but I will give him a few more seconds.

I ask that the Deputy be allowed to continue because he is good. Please give him another five minutes.

If a sign is spelled incorrectly, the Minister and his Department should deal with it immediately.

I have no power to do so.

I would love to be able to speak Irish and I am making an effort to learn. Certain people had a little go at me about the Irish language. As I said at the time, I was not as lucky as some of them as I was not born with a golden spoon but I survived without it. I would love to be able to speak Irish. Two of my three children are very good Irish speakers. They got no support or help from me but the reason they are good is because they wanted to learn Irish. It was taught to them and not beaten into them.

It is time the Minister and the Department worked out a better system for teaching Irish in primary schools. There is no reason a young child starting in first class and leaving in sixth class should not know the Irish language. It should be like a first language to them. They would then have no difficulty in continuing their studies of the language. I am delighted to speak on this motion. I hope the Minister and his Department and those who love and are interested in the Irish language, and are not talking down to those who cannot speak it, will be provided with resources from the Government. I hope also that the Minister for Education and Science will support the Minister, the Irish language and the gaelscoileanna because that is the way forward.

Táim an-bhuíoch a bheith ábalta labhairt sa díospóireacht tábhachtach seo. Le do thoil, beidh mé ag labhairt as Gaeilge agus as Béarla. I can only speak from my own experience. Mar Bhaile Atha Cliathach, níl mórán seans agam an teanga a úsáid, or to use it as much I would wish. However, unlike the previous speaker, I was privileged and lucky to have attended a Christian Brothers' school which was immersed in the Irish culture and Irish language. I was also lucky in the individuals I met during those years. Like the Minister, who was immersed in the Irish culture, as a result of meeting those people I spent a number of years i gCill Chiaráin i gContae na Gaillimhe, in the Gaeltacht area. I am forever grateful for that opportunity.

When I left school and went out to work there was not much of a chance for me to practise my Irish. Despite being in the Civil Service and having the occasional opportunity to use Gaeilge, I found a distinct lack of opportunity to use the language. However, many of the changes that have taken place in recent times are as a direct result of the Minister's interest in the language and culture and the changes in the public services where people have a choice as whether to correspond or speak to a person as Gaeilge. There was no such choice a short number of years ago. That is the change I see.

Níl sé ceart nó fíor a rá nach bhfuil suim ag an Rialtas sa teanga nó sa chultúr. It is just not right to say the Government or the previous Administration do not have an interest in or have at the heart of its policies the future of the Irish language or Irish culture. The Government has set down the basic principle that the Gaeltacht will be given special support as an Irish speaking area and has demonstrated this commitment not just in words, but by substantial investment. More than €800 million has been spent on the Gaeltacht and the islands since 1996. This year we will spend more than €100 million on supporting and nurturing the Irish language. I see the difference that makes.

Ba mhaith liom cúpla focal a rá faoi na gaelscoileanna. There are a number of gaelscoileanna in my area. As Deputy Ring said, there is an element of fashion in the way people choose to send their children to gaelscoileanna. There is also the willingness of my generation to have their children taught through Irish. That is something we bring with us from our experience of the school system. I see the link between gaelscoileanna and Gaelic games which is of huge benefit to children and parents. I have no doubt that whatever needs to be done to support the gaelscoileanna around the country will be done. Particularly outside the Gaeltacht areas there is an onus on us to ensure people are given the choice and the opportunity to pursue their education trí Gaeilge or through a mixture of Irish and English and whatever subjects they choose as they go through college. That the gaelscoileanna have become so popular is testament to the way the Irish language has been marketed in recent years. That is what it is about. It is about the selling the Irish language and Irish culture.

Deputy Ring referred to last weekend and the excellent footage we saw of people, young and old, enjoying themselves and having a good time, all centred around Irish culture and the Irish language. It is a privilege to see that when it is done properly. I admire people such as Senator Labhrás Ó Murchú and Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann and the commitment those people have to Irish culture and the way they promote it everywhere they go. No matter where they are in the world or in the country, they will always promote Irish culture and the Irish language. We need to promote and support such people as much as possible.

I see the difference in children in my own area. I am particularly aware of their confidence around the gaelscoileanna and their willingness to engage with one as Gaeilge and to become involved in Gaelic sport, football and hurling, and boys and girls mixing and enjoying themselves through a medium which others would find difficult to understand. That is not the fault of those other people. It is part of the way we grew up.

I have been privileged and lucky to meet people who are totally committed to the language. I am disappointed that I do not get the opportunity to use it as much as possible. However, even in public services that is changing. If I want to have a discussion as Gaeilge or to use a mixture of Irish and English I can do so. I can telephone somebody and practise what I have managed to retain in the time since I left the educational system.

Ba mhaith liom cuple focal a rá faoi TG4 agus comhghairdeas a ghabháil le muintir TG4. It has done a huge service since its establishment. This comes through in the young people. TG4 goes out of its way to appeal to young people and links sports with popular music. That is something that will pay dividends in the future. As a nation, we should be proud of the way we have managed to grow that particular institution over the years.

Finally, ba mhaith liom comhghairdeas a ghabháil leis on Aire. As an individual, he has done exceptional work in promoting and ensuring the future of the Irish language. As a Government and as a party, we on this side of the House have always shown our commitment to the Irish language. We have always shown our support for the Gaeltacht areas around the country. We will continue with that support. Le cuidiú Dé beimid ar ais anseo at some stage in the future continuing to support and congratulate the Minister and I wish him all the best.

I wish to raise a matter on which I have spoken here previously, that is, the cost of translating documents into Irish — documents that nobody reads. This, as people may be aware, is a consequence of the Official Languages Act passed a couple of years ago by the Minister.

It was passed by the Houses of the Oireachtas.

If that is the Minister's only defence, it is fairly pathetic.

On Monday, the Irish Examiner published figures which came from local authorities around the country on how much they were spending on translating their local development plans and their local area plans. Last year, Cork County Council spent €90,000 translating its development plan. Nobody requested the Irish copy. In my county, Waterford, €26,000 was spent and not one person requested a copy. Limerick County Council expects to spend more than €100,000 on the 21 local area plans in addition to the cost of the development plan. Kilkenny County Council’s two local area plans will cost €7,707. No requests have been made for a copy there. It should be noted that the article stated there was a high level of interest in Galway for the copy that Galway County Council has. That said, it does not come close to excusing the kind of blatant waste that we are witnessing thanks to the provisions of the Official Languages Act.

I asked the officials in my own local authority, Dungarvan Town Council, how much they had spent. They were able to give me the figure for last year's draft development plan, which was approximately €5,000. I asked the official what he would use the money for. He did not miss a beat in saying that he would have used it for footpaths for disabled people and for renovating the playground. I also contacted the director of services who might be dealing with the matter in Waterford County Council. He confirmed the Irish Examiner figure of €26,000 and also said that not one person had come from the Gaeltacht in Ring to ask for a copy. He described the provisions as ridiculous. He went on to make a suggestion. Even though he believes that the provisions are appalling he said it would be better if the council were allowed to simply translate these items and put them on a website as opposed to printing. Approximately half the cost——

They are not required to print them.

That is what they are doing and the Department needs to talk to these people.

The law does not require printing.

They are not aware of that.

We told them thousands of times.

The Minister needs to tell them again.

The Deputy should tell them I said they do not need to print them. They can simply put them on the web.

Allow Deputy Deasy to speak without interruption.

It is so hard——

I ask the Acting Chairman to ask the Minister to stay quiet.

Deputy Deasy without interruption.

Look, Deputy——

The Minister has made his point.

The Minister has created so much confusion that he needs to start clarifying the regulations.

Chairman, would you ask the Minister to stay quiet. He is eating into my time.

The Minister will have the right of reply at the end of the debate.

The Deputy should just tell them.

Deputy Ó Cuív is the Minister and he should be clarifying these matters.

I did so many times.

The Official Languages Act has become one of the worst——

Níl aon rud níos measa ná an té a theastaíonn uaidh bheith bodhar do léiriú a thugtar dó.

Beidh seans ag an Aire ag deireadh na díospóireachta.

The Official Languages Act has become one of the worst unfunded mandates in the country. I still maintain that the Department had no clue as to how much it would cost when the Bill was drafted. It will cost tens of millions. I said that at the time and that is what it will run to. Local authority officials are public officials and we read in the newspaper that public officials effectively admit they are wasting money. Instead of preventing waste, Department spokespeople are saying that that amounts to a public service. Effectively they are saying that wasting money is a public service. What we are dealing with is a public disservice. It is interesting to note that the newspaper article to which I alluded mentioned that costs are set to rise substantially in coming years as most county development plans and the local area plans are up for renewal.

This debate occurred in the North of Ireland recently. The Northern Ireland Minister for Health, Social Services and Public Safety stopped issuing advertisements and other documents in Irish and Ulster Scots. He said that the cost over five years had been €216,000 and that a translation service would still be made available on request. Here is the interesting bit. He told a colleague in the Northern Ireland Assembly that the savings realised would be returned to the health and social services budget. "Obviously in an area like health and social services every penny is precious because health and social services is dealing with every single man, woman and child in Northern Ireland and their health and their well being." I was reminded of what the Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Harney, said in the House yesterday, apologising for what happened in the health services. If I made the practical suggestion that the money we are wasting in this area could be put into the health services I know I would be met with derision by the Minister, Deputy Ó Cuív. That is where the money should go. We are wasting money and we should put it into an area where it is needed. They identified the issue in the North and they did it. God help us, I know there is not a snowball's chance in hell of that ever happening here.

Hundreds of thousands of euro have already been and, ultimately, tens of millions of euro will be stripped from local authority and Department budgets in order to satisfy the Minister's own personal whims when it comes to the Irish language. I know this because every Irish speaker with whom I have ever discussed the matter believes it is a joke.

That is not true.

The Minister will listen. While he does not like it, the Irish speakers are saying that.

It is utter nonsense.

Chairman——

The Oireachtas decided, not me. The Deputy's side of the House wanted more of this. I can show him the amendments tabled by his party——

If that is the Minister's only defence, he is pathetic.

—— seeking more translation and not less——

The Minister will have an opportunity to reply at the end of the debate.

—— and I refused to give in to them. The Deputy should get his facts right.

This is Deputy Deasy's time.

The Minister drafted the legislation and he is wasting this kind of money.

I resisted the demand from the Opposition for more translation. That is what the Deputy's party wanted. He should not twist the truth.

If that is the Minister's defence, it is pathetic. He must admit he made a mistake. He drafted the Bill and is wasting millions of euro.

I did not make a mistake because I did not give in to the Opposition.

Minister, please allow Deputy Deasy to continue with his contribution.

It is really hard.

The record of both Houses will show that. The great Seanadóir O'Toole wanted everything in the Gaeltacht in Irish only.

The Minister can make these points in his five-minute contribution at the end of the debate.

I am not living three years ago: I am living in the present. The Minister is wasting money in the present and it has been confirmed by public officials in every local authority in the country. The Minister should stop living in the past.

The Deputy should check his facts.

Deputy Deasy without interruption. The Minister has made his point.

It is very easy to get Deputy Ring to table a Private Members Bill to amend the Act and I will debate it.

Deputy Deasy has only two minutes left and the Minister is eating into his time.

I will list some of the Minister's grand accomplishments regarding the Irish language since becoming Minister in 2002 — translating documents that no one will ever read; making Irish an official EU language; and endless committees, fora and reports on the Irish language. It might also be worth pointing out that since he took up his job as Minister in 2002, according to the census figures there are now fewer Irish speakers.

According to the census figures, in 2002 there were 1.66 million Irish speakers and in 2006 there were 1.57 million Irish speakers.

The Minister should tell the Central Statistics Office it is wrong.

I will get those figures this afternoon.

That is the Minister's legacy so far. Useless——

The number has gone up and not down. The Deputy obviously read the wrong figures.

The Minister will have five minutes at the end.

The Minister should tell the Central Statistics Office it is wrong.

The census is right. The Deputy's figures are wrong.

The Deputy should check his figures again.

Deputy Deasy without interruption. The Minister will have an opportunity to reply.

On a point of information.

There are no points of information, only points of order here.

The situation is——

I am sorry. The Minister must wait until the end of the debate.

I will finish up with this. As far as I am concerned that is the Minister's legacy so far. It is a useless harebrained policy that has fewer Irish speakers to go with it.

Beidh mé ag plé ábhair thábhachtach inniu, an Ghaeilge agus a ról sa todhchaí. Tá mé ag freastal ar ranganna faoi láthair chun feabhas a chur ar mo chuid Ghaeilge mar tá a fhios agam go bhfuil sin tábhachtach. Le cúnamh Dé, tá súil agam go mbeidh mé in ann díospóireacht iomlán a phlé trí mheán na Gaeilge i gceann cúpla míosa. The Irish language is a beautiful rich language. Obviously on 1 January it became an official working language of the EU, which I welcome. It has been reported in the media that there is a shortage of translators and more students need to be encouraged to study Irish at third level.

The Irish language is in crisis. As Deputy Deasy said, fewer people speak the language now than in 2002. Shocking statistics emerged from the report published last week. The study states the Irish language will no longer be the main spoken language in Gaeltacht areas in 15 to 20 years time. The Government needs to act immediately on the recommendations in the language study. The Minister has previously stated he would not examine the recommendations for another year but the language cannot wait. It must be protected and promoted nationwide. Gaeltachts are essential to the future of the Irish language and they must be protected. A radically different approach to the language is needed in both our education system and in society. Above all, we need a Government that will produce a national strategy for the Irish language to ensure its future existence, which will make a clear and honest assessment of where we stand and what the Government wants to achieve for the language. Sadly, no strategy exists.

The Minister has established a language advisory committee but it has no role nor has it the power to issue a report or recommendations. Instead, it will report to him on whether he should develop a strategy. How can the language survive or thrive if it has no long-term direction? A national strategy would ensure all bodies and initiatives promoting the language have a clearly defined role and a clear sense of purpose. Fine Gael proposes a strategy that will set out the recommendations to be implemented by the Government for the development of the language over the next 20 years. Deputy Kenny was the first person in recent years to highlight the crisis in the Irish language. He outlined Fine Gael's vision to bring it into the 21st century. His radical approach to reforming and reviving Irish is built around a simple goal, which is to equip our people, particularly our young people, with a real, useful and communicative knowledge of the language. The issue is to bring that vision to the next level and specify the policies of how Fine Gael in government would reform and revive Irish.

A modern Irish syllabus is needed and I am disappointed the Minister of Education and Science is not present for the debate. The language needs to be made attractive to schoolgoers. While I welcome her proposal to increase the percentage of marks allocated for spoken work, I challenge her to visit a school anywhere in Dublin and teach the current leaving certificate syllabus to an ordinary level class. I guarantee she would meet obstacles, as most modern day students do not want to know anything about 16th century literature. The syllabus is wrong and completely out of date and this has not helped the promotion of the Irish language. Currently, the secondary school syllabus is driving students to hate the language. Discussion is needed on why Irish is failing in the education system and how it can be improved. Antagonism towards the language also needs to eliminated.

A majority of the population does not use Irish on a daily basis, as Deputy Ring outlined and, despite receiving more than 1,500 hours of education in the language, many young people leave school without a reasonable command of it. The State needs to get the teaching of Irish correct at primary level because if a love of the language is not instilled in pupils at that level, it will not be followed through as they pass through the education system.

I commend the work of Foras na Gaeilge, which has done a great deal to promote the language among the general population. Given the number of immigrants entering the State, the language should also be promoted in their communities. What plans has the Minister to ensure immigrants are aware we have a native tongue and that they can learn the language easily? In government, Fine Gael would increase investment in gaelscoileanna and address the critical shortage of educational publications in Irish. The Minister should address this. My constituency, Dublin North East, has three gaelscoileanna — Gaelcholáiste Reachrann, Gaelscoil Colmcille and Pobalscoil Neasáin. I commend the work of the principals and teachers in these schools in the promotion of the language.

There could be a bright future for the language but only if the Government and the Minister have the courage and vision to implement necessary reforms and pursue far-reaching policies. My party has the courage and vision. We would like the population to love the Irish language so that it will thrive. Fianna Fáil has had an opportunity throughout the years to revive the language and the Minister's legacy leaves a lot to be desired. Hopefully, he will pay heed to the contributions to this debate and will do everything he can to revive the language. Fine Gael in government would do all it could for the language. Gabhaim buíochas don Chathaoirleach agus don Aire as bheith ag éisteacht le mo chuid tuairimí inniu.

I welcome the opportunity to contribute to the debate, as I feel quite strongly about this issue. I am not alone in that my experience of learning Irish at school was appalling. It was viewed at the time that the way to teach Irish was to physically beat the language into children. I do not wish to cast aspersions on the teachers of the day because that was the way things were done. The way Irish has been taught in schools since the foundation of the State has turned more people off than it has encouraged to speak the language. Unfortunately, that still pertains. I worked as a career guidance counsellor for 20 years until I was elected to the House and part of my job was to interview students. I taught in a large school, which catered from almost 1,000 students at one stage. I interviewed every pupil on a number of occasions during their time in the school and their loathing for the Irish language always stood out. I do not say that with pride and it was not the fault of teachers. If the students had a choice, they would have given up Irish.

I know a young man who attended Irish college last summer and he had a great time, as everybody does. The students had fun and bhí siad ag labhairt Gaeilge. However, I met him recently when he had just finished school for the day. His attitude to Irish had totally changed. He said the way Irish is taught in school is awful. He hates it and wants to give it up and he is not alone. There is something terribly wrong when that is happening. I accept the Minister's bona fides because he is genuine about his desire to promote Irish but the Government must turn this around. Teenagers must experience fun and excitement when learning Irish and they must not be burdened with literature, grammar and so on before they can speak the language but that is not happening. They are given textbooks in primary and secondary school, which are dire. The language is being killed by the Government, which is trying to promote it. It is in the Government's gift to change this but it is not doing so. The Government is driving the language down children's throats.

I have been saying that for years. I could not agree more.

Why does the Minister not do something about this? Why does he not stop the nonsense of promoting appalling elitism in second levels where youngsters are force fed turgid literature before they can speak the language and have fun using it? Until the Minister does that he is wasting his time and his money. When he replies to the House shortly will he not undertake to speak to the other Ministers in Government about changing the system before it is too late? The language is dying. I see from the Government statement that almost 1.6 million people in the Republic can speak Irish. That is rubbish. If one walks down a street in any city in this country, except perhaps Galway, one finds nobody speaking Irish. They are speaking Chinese, Polish and English, but they are not speaking Irish, apart from the odd one here and there. The emperor has no clothes in this. If the Minister believes that 1.6 million people can speak Irish we are all in serious trouble because this is not the case. It is not my experience. The first thing that must happen is that next year all those turgid textbooks at secondary and primary levels should be dumped and young people encouraged to speak as Gaeilge and have fun in the classroom. There should be Irish dancing, céilithe, and this methodology could be introduced bilingually. There can be cúpla focail as Gaeilge and cúpla focail as Béarla, but they must have fun, and that is not happening. Students are suffering, they hate the system and that is why it is not working.

Everyone points to the success of the gaelscoileanna, and the Minister is right there, because at that level the children are speaking and having fun in Irish and soaking up the language. As the Minister and any linguist knows, at that level children learn languages naturally, so they grow up with the language and it is second nature to them. However, if that has not happened and a child is presented at the junior certificate stage with some of today's Irish textbooks and told he or she must know everything they contain, and be able to write essays before they can even speak it, that is a disaster. I do not know whether the Government intends to keep on fooling itself with this type of press release. It states that 1.6 million in the Republic speak Irish and 92% of those surveyed maintain that promoting the language is important.

This is an important issue. I have brought youngsters to other countries on school tours. The first thing they did when they landed, very often, was to speak Irish among themselves, however little they had. I have another anecdote for the Minister, as well, which I believe he will enjoy. In a school I am familiar with there is a high percentage of children from Poland. They are lovely people. They talk to each other in Polish in the playground. I met one little boy recently who told me that if they continued to talk in Polish, he and his friends would speak to each other in Irish. There is an element of that as well, so we have got to change the way Irish is being taught.

I shall probably get lambasted by what I call the Irish Taliban for saying this today. However, I want to focus on the elitism surrounding Irish, the idea, perhaps, that somebody who speaks the language fluently is somehow more Irish than someone who does not. That is something I want nailed because it is wrong. It is not my fault that I cannot speak Irish fluently, because I did not get the opportunity to do so in school. As I said at the start, when I was at school the way to teach Irish was to physically beat it in. I recall being held back in primary school one evening until six o'clock to learn the "Hail Holy Queen" as Gaeilge, such was the thinking in the 1960s. That type of attitude turned a great many people against Irish at that time. It was linked to the national question, with which, again, I believe there is an issue. However, that is now changing, and rightly so.

We need a modern syllabus in Irish, but it must first focus on the verbal. That is the main point. Most people in this country would love to be able to speak Irish. TG4 has gone a long way in this regard, but it has a great many programmes in English, so I wonder how much it is promoting the Irish language.

I come from an area in east Cork, which the Minister might have heard of, Knockadoon and Ballymacoda. My grandfather was a fluent Irish speaker and that area was a Gaeltacht. There is one person, extant, from that area of east Cork who is a native Irish speaker. There were poets and other literati from that area. However, in one generation the language was lost in that part of the country. My father told me that when my grandfather was at school Irish language usage was greatly discouraged. People who left Ireland at that time could not speak English and were at a disadvantage in the United States and elsewhere. Also, there was a certain shame if somebody could not speak English, but only Irish. That is to go way back.

However, we really need to get our thinking straight in this regard. Other contributors have raised the placenames issue. I am sorry to say this, but again, there is something in the psyche as regards the language being driven down one's throat. The Minister must have a care in that regard because people resist and resent that. Irish needs to be encouraged, positively, and to get back to the schools, it needs to be fun, linking in with the wider culture of the country in terms of music and dance. We are so rich in that area.

Unless an enormous change is made quickly in the way Irish is approached in schools — and it is not the teachers' fault, they just do what is laid down — the language will die. No amount of legislation, name changes for towns etc. will alter that. If that happens, it will be regrettable. I shall be interested in the Minister's contribution when he sums up. It is urgent that this change is made, that he forgets about the textbook approach and gets young people to speak the language before they are forced to deal with turgid grammar, which even the Minister believes is appalling.

Ba mhaith liom i dtosach fáilte a chur leis an Aire agus tá áthas orm cúpla focail a rá ins an díospóireacht seo. Is é mo thuairim go bhfuil an-buíochas le ghlacadh ag na gaelscoileanna ar fud na tíre mar gheall ar labhairt na Gaeilge. ‘Sé mo thuarim, freisin, go bhfuil an ré sin an bealach amach is tábhachtach chun an Gaeilge a chur le fáil go flúirseach. Ba mhaith liom mo bhuíochas a ghabháil, freisin, le baill na foirne a chuireann an Gaeilge os comhair Títhe an Oireachtais le haghaidh na Teachtaí agus na Seanadóirí, go bhféadfar úsáid níos mó a dhéanamh leis an dteanga ins an Dáil agus an Seanad.

I am delighted to have the opportunity to say a few words on this particular issue. All of us, particularly Members of the Oireachtas, have a duty if we feel it is necessary for our language to continue and develop to be seen to make an effort. If we do not, the blame must fairly and squarely lie on us as legislators for failing to promote usage of the language ourselves and not providing improvement mechanisms for Irish within the educational system. The Minister will be well aware that in the past three or four years thousands of Brazilians have come to County Galway, including to my constituency and that of the Minister. In the town of Gort they have, through their own initiative, improved their English and, in some cases, developed a command of Irish in the local primary and secondary schools.

They are playing hurling also.

They are playing hurling. I do not know whether there is an association between the two. Why do we spend eight years at national school and another five or six at second level and leave practically illiterate in Irish? There is a reason.

Fine Gael made a proposal on the Irish language before the election and it was castigated by the Minister and many others, particularly the Minister for Education and Science. The latter stated we wanted to abandon our commitment to Irish and that we were intent on killing it, but nothing could be further from the truth because our leader, Deputy Enda Kenny, is an absolutely fluent Irish speaker. Many others are fluent also but are not sufficiently confident or cleachtaithe chun é a labhairt sa Teach seo nó sa Seanad.

If resources were channelled into an education system that emphasised the spoken word initially at national school, we would have a completely different attitude to the language. The intricacies of Irish grammar and the presentation of the written word are difficult, as the Minister will agree. There is nothing to indicate clearly that all the fora and studies on the Irish language down through the years increased the number of speakers or the quality of the language spoken.

Purists in organisations such as Conradh na Gaeilge, because of their absolute scorn for those who are not 100% correct in all their statements in Irish, have done tremendous damage to the effort to expand its use. Such people are not as prominent as they once were, which I welcome, and their place has been taken by gaelscoileanna. Members should do whatever they can, not necessarily at Gaeltacht level but at national level, to expand the gaelscoil concept.

The Minister is probably well aware of the tragic circumstances whereby the gaelscoil in Ballinasloe was housed in a small shopping arcade and the classes were housed in particular units thereof. The school survived owing to the absolute determination of the parents, staff and pupils. Were it not for this determination, it would have ceased to exist.

The Minister for Education and Science was in no way concerned to create the ideal conditions in which the pupils could be educated trí Ghaeilge. The numbers game that operated with regard to pupil-teacher ratios should have been responded to imaginatively to offer an added incentive to those promoting the language. This did not happen, perhaps because Department staff in the background said the existing allocation could not be increased. This led to serious difficulties for the school and many other schools. The school in Loughrea, Gaelscoil Riabhach, survived in a demountable unit. The authorities believed they were in heaven when they got the unit on a county council site. It is far removed from the activity in the town, yet it has survived. In Athenry, there are proposals for a gaelscoil.

The Minister should talk to the Minister for Education and Science with a view to supporting these gaelscoileanna. Gaelscoileanna are budding in so many areas of the country but are being ignored. They are being established in undesirable conditions but the Department of Education and Science is not concerned.

It is totally wrong that lines are drawn on maps to differentiate between Gaeltachtaí and Galltachtaí. As one enters Galway city on the Tuam road, one sees the sign for the Gaeltacht. Does the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs accept this is a real Gaeltacht area? Under what conditions would he say it is right to identify a region as a Gaeltacht? Residents in Gaeltachtaí can obtain superior grants for housing projects than those outside them, and that is wrong. The grants are given only because the residents speak Irish and this leads to resentment on the part of those outside the boundary. It is important the Minister regularises the system.

The Minister for Education and Science, in conjunction with the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, should be asked to ensure that Irish is taught entirely through the spoken word in the first few years of primary education, be they pupils in a gaelscoil or otherwise. Deputy Stanton referred to Irish being beaten into pupils but the many good Irish teachers who made a supreme effort to teach Irish down through the years should not be identified as responsible for having turned children off the language. The reality is that teaching the language is very difficult.

How many second level textbooks are available in Irish for subjects other than tíreolas or stair? There is none available for mathematics, physics, chemistry or other languages. If we were serious about Irish, we would make such textbooks available. In the Minister's constituency there used to be a publishing firm that did marvellous work providing books trí Ghaeilge, including textbooks, but we know what happened to it. If there is a will and a determination to do the practical things that are important for the promotion of the Irish language, it can be done.

I was a member of the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission, which was faced with the translation of every Act. Initially, we said that it would be very costly and that nobody would read the translations. We must look again at this attitude and say that it is important for us to have those particular items. I think it is——

Tell Deputy Deasy.

Fair enough, that is the problem. When Deputy Kenny, as leader of Fine Gael, made a very solid proposal for Irish in the future, it was ridiculed in the very same fashion noted by the Minister in respect of what Deputy Deasy said in the House. Initially, I thought it was a bad idea but I am firmly convinced that it is an important move.

One balances that against the fact that our Irish language has been recognised as a European language but that the translators have not been available in Europe in the very recent past. We can throw our hands up to high heaven and say various things. We are dealing today with statements on the Irish language. Does it mean that after today, the focus will shift and we will all go on our merry way? If that is the case, we should look at all the groups that have been established and all the finances and resources that have been made available, supposedly in the promotion of Irish. How much of this money has been spent efficiently and effectively to the point that it has helped the Irish language to expand and be a vibrant language in this State?

When one contacts some Departments and local authority sections, particularly our own county council in County Galway, it is nice that if one so wishes, one can converse and make one's requests and representations trí Gaeilge. We do not have them in the Breac-Ghaeltacht in east Galway but, at least, we are conscious of the fact. While we were members of the local authority, the late Pól Ó Foighil, a former Member of the Seanad, insisted that we would have an officer of Irish and a translation facility installed in the council. It was probably one of the first in the country. Such initiatives were important even though they may have seemed insignificant or wasteful in some people's eyes.

Raidió na Gaeltachta and TG4 have done more to promote the Irish language than anything else. It is a pleasure to listen to Raidió na Gaeltachta and watch features on TG4. If there could have been a connection between Raidió na Gaeltachta and TG4 in the classroom, it would have been positive. This is why it is so essential to put aside all this written homework that is being done. If Raidió na Gaeltachta and TG4 had a direct input into Irish in the classroom, much of the ongoing effort and endeavour at higher levels would not be necessary and the Irish language would take off through a natural process rather than the forced endeavour that has been the case in the past. Slowly but surely, I hope that will be teased out and that we will have an Irish language that will be vibrant as a spoken language rather than emphasis being placed on written work.

The Minister knows that we went through an educational system where we were taught poetry and prose that has so little significance and is of so little interest to so many people today. They are turned off by it. Certainly, it is all important but if we are serious about having a living Irish language that is used by the people, we must change our ways, be imaginative and brave and turn our backs on the people who will literally castigate us, turn it round and misrepresent the interests of so many people out there who could do so much for us.

I regret that Deputy Deasy is not here because I was hoping that we might be able to inform him about some facts about the Official Languages Act. Deputy Deasy seems to think that I alone managed to convince the entire Oireachtas to pass an Act. He obviously does not know the constitutional background to it but I will put that aside for the moment. Perhaps Deputy Deasy will come back into the House.

I thought the contribution of Deputy Stanton was to the point. I have argued for 20 years that there should be two Irish language courses in schools. For those who do not have a strong background in the Irish language, there would be a course that would basically teach them the language. Those who spoke Irish at home or who had developed a good grasp of the language would have the choice of a second course involving the study of Irish literature.

I could never understand why this is not accepted. If one checks the records of the House, one can see that I have pointed out again and again that when I was attending secondary school in Dublin, I studied mathematics, applied mathematics and physics — I believe it is called maths physics now. Quite honestly, if one studied the physics and mathematics courses and was any good at them, it was a snitch to study the maths physics course and get an honour in it. That was the way it was.

Of course, some children have an advantage going to school. I admit that my children were Irish and English-speaking when they went to school because we spoke Irish all the time at home and they could not miss the English. It was a great advantage but is one supposed to penalise them in the leaving certificate?

I have always felt that the rational way of approaching this in respect of most students is to teach the language as a vernacular. Those who then want to go on to study the literature, which is fantastic, should be allowed to do so. I still have a great grá for poems I learned such as An Bonnán Buí, which is a great satire. Lines such as “’S gur chosúil liom féin é i nós ‘s i ndath” are very clever and subtle, referring to the poet’s name Cathal Buí Mac Giolla Ghunna. However, one must understand the language. If one has a great knowledge and understanding of the language, it is great fun but if one is struggling, it is painful.

Time and again, I have stood up in this House and wondered, for example, at the reality that I see year after year because I am one of many people who open their houses in the summer to students who come to learn Irish. My wife and I still open our house and the students still come. We marvel at how they come with so little Irish and how, after two weeks and six days, they go home with so much. The reality is that they are there just speaking the language and having fun. As long as the ethos is right in respect of the language, they grasp it very well and very quickly and have great fun. They have their little dramas, plays and games. I have argued with the Department of Education and Science that even the Irish colleges still place too much emphasis on a fixed curriculum. When I ran an Irish college, which I have not done for many years, I found that they often learned more Irish out on the basketball court, football pitch or ceilís than they learned in the formal classes.

Is the other Department not listening to the Minister?

We have these independent curriculum committees and so on and one of the tyrannies of the system is that we put so much out there to other people to decide. It can sometimes even be difficult for Ministers to bring about change. It is a very useful debate. I said many times that there is another problem about which we must be honest. Many Irish teachers and teachers in primary school do not have enough knowledge of the language to teach it. I do not blame them. Every time one makes a statement such as that one is accused of blaming them. I state it as a fact. If I went into a school and had a conversation in Irish with many teachers they would not be competent to speak the language.

What is the problem? Would it not be better to show cartoons and "Cúla Búla" in the classroom, with the teacher sitting at the top of the class to ensure the kids do not go wild? There is no better way for a child to learn a language than by watching television. Children learn advertisements because they see them again and again in Irish and English. We should be radical and practices that date to the 1920s should be discarded. I have tried to reform.

I am delighted that Deputy Ring has returned to the Chamber. He will stand with me on the following point. When I was appointed as Minister of State at the Department of Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands, I was very irate about two things. One was that Gaeltacht islands were dealt with through English, the other that the non-Gaeltacht islands were disgracefully treated with regard to provision of physical services. I determined that no matter where one lived on an island in this country, Gaeltacht or Galltacht, one would be entitled to the same services. We would provide the same services to those who live on an Irish-speaking island in Irish and to those who live on an English speaking island in English. The non-Gaeltacht islands would not be discriminated against in terms of services as they had been in the past. If they were in the Dáil, the people of the English speaking islands would state that I have honoured my bond. They were sceptical at the beginning. Those in Clare Island and Inishturk would admit that I have gone out of my way to ensure the discrepancies and neglect of the past has been made up. Those in Inishbofin, in my constituency, have seen major investment because I could see no justification, fair or foul, for not granting equal status in terms of basic services we desire.

When we refer to figures spent on the Irish language, I will be told we spend €100 million because that is the figure for the budget for the Gaeltacht, islands and the Irish language. However, we do not spend that figure on the Irish language in the Gaeltacht because most of the services provided through my Department to people in the Gaeltacht are services to which they are entitled. They are entitled to roads, houses, water and piers, irrespective of the language they speak. The fact that we channel the money through agencies that deal with the people in the language of the community does not mean it is money spent on the Irish language. It is money spent on the community.

I recently analysed the amount spent on the promotion of Irish in the Gaeltacht. The figure is €17 million per year. One can compare that to the amount spent by the Arts Council, some €80 million. I am in favour of the arts and a country that does not spend money on the arts is not a civilised state. The amount we spend on the arts is four times what is spent on the promotion of Irish in the Gaeltacht. That leads us to a point made in an interesting book from 1950. The point was made that Latin and old Greek had not died but had transmogrified into modern Italian, Spanish and other Romance languages. It lives on in new form because all languages change over time. This island and Scotland are the sole repositories in the world of the Gaelic language. If it dies as a spoken vernacular in these islands, and it is under a greater threat in Scotland than here, we will not be able to say that it transmogrified into another language. It will be dead. The riches of a world culture, a world literature, a culture that goes back 2,000 years in written form will be lost to mankind, not just to Irish people. Some 50 universities around the world are teaching Irish as a vernacular language. Is €17 million out of a budget of €52 billion too much to spend on the preservation of the language in the Gaeltacht?

As someone who comes from outside the Gaeltacht, its preservation outside the Gaeltacht is also very important. The Gaeltacht has been a major resource to those outside the Gaeltacht who are interested in the language. A great number of those who love Irish and can speak it gained their knowledge and love of the language on visits to the Gaeltacht. The two issues are inextricably entwined. I hope the day comes that the Gaeltacht is not important because the Irish language is so robust. We must make a fundamental decision on whether we want the language and whether we are willing to pay a modest price. When other elements that are labelled with the Irish language, such as industry and roads, are stripped away the price is quite modest.

The issue of compulsion is a myth. It existed in the past but we must differentiate between the obligation of the State to provide all sorts of services, as highlighted by Mr. Justice Hardiman, which may pose difficulty for the State at times, and compulsion on the citizen. Those of us who work in the State service are often obliged to do things in order to provide services to the citizen. That is compulsion of the State, not the citizen. The State compels the citizen, for example to fill in tax or social welfare forms, to go to great difficulty in the interaction between them.

I do not believe there should be compulsion on the citizen. I do not believe that someone who can speak Irish, play hurling, do Irish dancing or play Irish music is more Irish than someone who cannot. However, Ireland as a totality, with its dance, its music, its games and its language——

And the comely maidens. The Minister should throw them in as well.

Níl aon dochar iontu sin ach oiread. Phós mé duine acu sin. Bean bhreá i nGaeltacht agus níl aon aiféal orm ach oiread.

We are more different as a nation and as a people because we have those riches. The totality of our culture marks us out as different. Collectively, we are more Irish because we have games, music, dance, language, comely maidens and everything that goes with it. However, that does not translate to the individual level. It is a collective judgment of difference.

Hurling is unique to us and identifies us. These are the images we use abroad. Fáilte Ireland uses Irish music and dancing in promoting St. Patrick's Day. We use an image of our difference to sell ourselves. There is no one better than those involved in the tourism industry and, if the Ceann Comhairle will excuse me for saying so, the people of Kerry at highlighting our great culture as something positive and good.

The people of Kerry were always good.

I am glad the Ceann Comhairle is in the Chair because I wish to clarify the position in respect of the famous issue of placenames. When the placenames order came to me for signing, I identified a number of matters in respect of which controversy might arise. At the time, I was of the opinion that the most controversial issue related to some of the Irish forms proposed by the placenames branch and its experts. However, I did identify a number of other issues and challenges.

For the first time ever as regards the making of a placenames order, I decided that there would be a comprehensive consultation process. I stated that I would not be satisfied with pursuing the usual course, namely, placing a few advertisements in newspapers and taking the approach that if people saw these, then well and good. I indicated that I wanted it to be a real process. I directed my officials to place advertisements in the newspapers and on Raidió na Gaeltachta. I also directed them to write to every community council on Údarás na Gaeltachta's list of community organisations and to send each a copy of the placenames relevant to their areas. Údarás na Gaeltachta, the elected authority for the Gaeltacht and of which one of the Deputies opposite's good friend, Séamus Mac Gearailt, is a member, was also informed about what was happening and discussed the matter. After a long delay and having considered all the representations received — not one of which related to Dingle — I signed the order.

A point that is often overlooked in this debate is that up until I signed the order, there was no official Irish language version of any Gaeltacht placename. Officially, An Ceathrú Rua did not exist and the only name for the town was Carraroe. The Act also provided for the continued use of the English language versions of placenames by any citizen.

Despite the fact that Dingle is quite a sizeable Gaeltacht town and has received huge amounts of Údarás na Gaeltachta moneys, which has built factories, etc, there, I did not realise at the time that not one community organisation in the town was registered with Údarás as such. That is extraordinary and perhaps it explains how the great debate about this matter arose, particularly on the many programmes aired on Raidió na Gaeltachta.

I must stress that the ministerial order to which I refer contained thousands of placenames and despite all the debate that has taken place in recent years, only one town or locality has indicated that it did not agree with my decision. I asked Údarás na Gaeltachta to debate the issue again and its members overwhelmingly supported the placenames order. Any implication that this was imposed from the top onto Gaeltacht communities throughout the country does not, therefore, reflect the facts. I pay tribute to Deputy McGinley, a Gaeltacht person, who recognised from the outset that a huge number of people find the use of the term "Gortahork" for "Gorta a'Choirce" as somewhat anomalous, particularly as the town is situated in one of the strongest Gaeltacht areas in the country.

I always stated that if the people of Dingle asked me to do something that was legal, I would do it. I met the county manager, the mayor and a number of local councillors two to three years ago and made the latter quite clear to them. The simple answer would have been to ask me to rescind the order. If they had asked me to rescind it, I could have done so at the stroke of a pen. It is worth noting that they never put such a request to me.

This matter has now passed beyond my remit. It has been referred to the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government because those involved chose to proceed under the provisions of the 1946 Act. However, it is well known, even in Chorca Dhuibhne, that one's view on this issue depends on whether one is in the town of Dingle or outside it. Even then, there is not unanimity regarding how we should proceed. I hope that this issue can be put to bed, once and for all. However, it was important that I took this opportunity to put the record straight.

There has been a great deal of State policy. Much of this is justified because a raft of such policy dates from the past. However, we should not underestimate our achievements in respect of the Irish language. Oireachtas na Gaeilge shows the modern face of Irish. It shows young people speaking the language because they want to do so. These individuals are from Gaeltacht and non-Gaeltacht backgrounds and they all mix happily. There is no compulsion on those who attend. We must, however, give credit to the Irish language organisations, which are often lambasted, for the work they have done quietly and behind the scenes. If Cathair na Mart were offered the Oireachtas tomorrow, it would more than welcome it back not only because of the language considerations, but also because of the type of people it attracted. I congratulate Piaras Ó Raghallaigh on what he has done and on the fantastic Oireachtas that took place.

An anonymous writer stated 150 years ago that the Irish language would be dead in two generations and that it was beyond saving. In 1950, a report based on the scéim labhairt na Gaeilge and the census from the period 1946-7 estimated that there were only 35,000 native speakers left in the Gaeltacht. When one considers the level of emigration in the 1950s and the age profile of those involved, the fact that there are still 22,000 people in the Gaeltacht and outside the education system who still speak Irish on a daily basis shows the extraordinary resilience of the language. In the analysis carried out at the time to which I refer, the Gaeltachtaí were thinly spread throughout the country, located in small areas and under a great deal of pressure. In my view, the fact that 22,000 people still speak Irish shows that there is continued interest in it.

I will double check the position in respect of the number of people who speak Irish. I checked the number in recent days and to my knowledge the absolute number increased in the recent census. What has decreased is the percentage involved. The reason for this is that 10% of the people living in Ireland were not born here. If that percentage is removed, the figure readjusts to its previous level. It is a simple and easy explanation and it makes mathematical sense. The absolute number has increased because the population has also increased.

On the 1.6 million people whom it was stated can speak Irish, I accept that this figure represents those with very little Irish, those with a better level and so on. Unfortunately, the figure does not include people such as Deputies Ring and Stanton, who have a great grá for the language but who are not perhaps very fluent. I do not know what Deputy Ring wrote on his census form in this regard. Let us compare the position of people with varying levels of knowledge of Irish to that of their counterparts in Scotland. In 1950, the number of Scots Gaelic speakers was 100,000 and now it is down to 69,000. They do not have what we do, namely, a large number of people with some knowledge of the language. These people are incredibly important. A large part of the audience of TG4 is made up of people who do not speak Irish every day but who feel comfortable watching Irish language programmes and listening to commentaries of matches in Irish. If that audience was lost, major questions would be asked about the viability of TG4.

If TG4 was totally dependent on the 83,000 people who speak Irish daily outside the education system, it would be far worse off. A large pool of people watch Ros na Rún and all types of programmes on TG4. In Croke Park everybody claps before it is translated into English when somebody announces: "Níl aon athrú ar ceachtar den dá fhoireann. Imreoidh siad mar a roghnaíodh iad." With modern technology, they are becoming more and more part of the Irish-using section of society and we should never denigrate them. How many people do we see interviewed on TG4 who do not use Irish every day? They are quite capable of conducting a face to face interview on TG4. It seems TG4 and Raidió na Gaeltachta can get somebody to speak on every subject under the sun from every corner of the country.

I must nail the myth about the Official Languages Act.

Tá an t-am beagnach istigh.

I would like five more minutes because this is important.

Cúig nóiméad eile.

The Official Languages Act derives from the Constitution. The Supreme Court articulated clearly that following various judgments in the absence of a language Act, we could have been ordered to provide any service and document in Irish if requested by a member of the public. The Constitution clearly states that the Irish language is the first official language of the State and to date nobody has proposed to change this position. However, the Constitution wisely made the provision that one could delimit in law the amount of services provided in Irish but this had never been done.

To those who argue the Official Languages Act created new obligations for the State, I state a more tenable legal argument is that it delimited the obligations of the State to provide written and oral services through Irish to its citizens. This express train was coming down the tracks and if I had not introduced the Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla, sooner or later this House would have faced a crisis.

The Constitution states all Acts of the Oireachtas must be translated. The statement I made in Spiddal when I introduced the Act has been taken out of context time and again. I was under continuous and increasing pressure from the Irish language movement to include more in the Act. The meeting was not to include more but to tell the movement that I had gone to the limit of reason on what could be included. At the meeting, I stated that despite our best efforts, advertisements and engagement with the public on the other side of the argument was not heard and that the Irish language movement was pushing me too far and I would refuse them. I had to act for the other side of the debate and state, like Deputy Deasy, that the Irish language movement was going too far. One can see the same today as the Deputy who spoke about the Official Languages Act is not here for the debate.

I know, as does Deputy McGinley, what happened in this House and the Seanad. Most of the amendments were from Comhdháil Náisiúnta na Gaeilge and of course the Opposition tabled them. However, we did not have an English language movement organising amendments to go the other way. Despite all the misquotes and misstatements, I ended up arguing that erecting every sign in the Gaeltacht in Irish as proposed by Senator O'Toole was off the wall. I remember asking him how I could put a sign — it is tráthúil and mí-thráthúil — for BreastCheck in the clinic in Tír Oileán in Galway and say it had to be in Irish only.

It is wrong of Deputy Deasy to infer that I single-handedly imposed this while ignoring the Constitution and the fact that it passed after thorough debate in the Houses. My habit is to provide as much time as I can on all Stages of legislation. If Deputy Deasy honestly thinks the duties imposed by the Official Languages Act are too onerous, let him table a Bill to amend it. I am not afraid of debate and I would fully debate and consider his proposals.

Caithfidh mé críoch a chur leis an díospóireacht anois.

Deputy Deasy referred to the fact that nobody bought the Cork county plan. I stated the information I have is that 3,367 people accessed the plan in Irish on the web. I am open to correction on that figure as I gave my notes away. Why would one buy it when it is available on the web?

We will get the local authorities on the web only to try to cut out the cost.

We ask them to use machine translation. These documents are published only every five years. Many documents are published in English which nobody reads but they are still entitled to them. I want this done as cheaply as possible. For years I have begged for web publication in Irish and English because it saves the State money. I implore people to stop sending me unnecessary annual reports which I can access on the web in Irish and English. The truth is that most of them end up in wastepaper baskets. The amount of money spent on documents for which we never receive an Irish translation and which go straight in the wastepaper basket is scandalous. Let us stop and let us not blame the Irish language for it.

This has been a useful debate and I could state a great deal more. I thank Deputies for contributing and I look forward to Deputy Deasy tabling his amendments in the House. We can have a full, proper and detailed debate and establish what is the will of the House as opposed to the alleged fact that I was able to use a biorán suan of some type to put Members to sleep and pass the Official Languages Act all on my owny-own.

Sitting suspended at 3 p.m. and resumed at 3.30 p.m.