Legal Practitioners (Irish Language) Bill 2007: Second Stage.

I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

Thar ceann an Aire Dlí agus Cirt, Comhionannais agus Athchóirithe Dlí, an Teachta Brian Ó Luineacháin, nach bhfuil ar fáil de dheasca báis gaol leis, molaim go léifear an Bille an dara huair.

Is é is cuspóir don Bhille seo na nithe seo a leanas a chur chun cinn, go mbainfeadh lucht cleachta dlí úsaid níos fearr as an nGaeilge agus go gcuirfí seirbhísí dlíthiúla ar fáil trí Ghaeilge. Foráiltear leis an mBille go mbunóidh Cumann Onórach Ostaí an Rí agus Dlí-Chumann na hÉireann ardchúrsaí staidéir sa Ghaeilge i gcomhair lucht dlí agus go gcuirfidh siad scrúduithe ar siúl ar na cúrsaí sin uair sa bhliain ar a laghad. Tá sé ceaptha go gcuirfidh na cúrsaí ar chumas abhcóidí agus aturnaetha a ngnó a sheoladh trí Ghaeilge. Foráiltear leis an mBille go ndéanfar cláir a chur ar fáil don phobal, ar cláir iad atá le bunú agus le cothabháil ag Ostaí an Rí agus ag an Dlí-Chumann, ina dtabharfar mionsonraí teagmhála na gcleachtóirí sin atá in ann seirbhísí dlí a chur ar fáil trí Ghaeilge. Beidh cúrsa teagaisc ann, chomh maith, ó Ostaí an Rí agus ón Dlí-Chumann, ar théarmaíocht dhlíthiúil na Gaeilge agus ar thuiscint téacsanna dlíthiúla sa Ghaeilge do gach duine a bheidh ag déanamh an chúrsa céime aturnae dlí agus scrúduithe an Dlí-Chumainn.

Foráiltear leis an Acht Lucht Cleachtuithe Dlí (Cáilíocht) 1929, nach bhféadfaidh an Príomh-Bhreitheamh a cheadú d'aon duine cleachtadh mar abhcóide dlí i gcúirteanna na hÉireann mura mbeidh an Príomh-Bhreitheamh sásta, ó cibé fianaise a ordóidh an Príomh-Bhreitheamh, go bhfuil leoreolas ag an duine sin ar an nGaeilge. Mínitear "leoreolas" mar an méid sin oilteachta i labhairt agus i scríobh na Gaeilge agus is leor chun a chur ar chumas cleachtóra dlí treoracha a ghlacadh, comhairle a thabhairt do chliaint, finnéithe a cheistiú agus imeachtaí sa Ghaeilge a thuiscint go héifeachtúil.

Cé gur ar an bPríomh-Bhreitheamh atá an oibleagáid inniúlacht agus ábaltacht sa Ghaeilge a chinntiú i gcás aon abhcóide ar mian leis nó leí go ndéanfaí é no í a ghlaoch chun an Bharra, níl aon cheanglas ann an Ghaeilge a áireamh mar ábhar roghnach no éigeantach i gcúrsa céime abhcóide dlí Óstaí an Rí. Déantar aon teagasc nó taifead ar inniúlacht atá ag teastáil a thabhairt lasmuigh den chúrsa céime agus déantar é a shocrú ionas gur féidir leis an bPríomh-Bhreitheamh a fheidhm nó a feidhm reachtúil a chomhlíonadh. Tá an t-Aire sásta go bhfuil sé aimhrialta go mbeadh feidhm den sórt sin ag an bPríomh-Bhreitheamh sa saol atá inniu ann agus go dtarraingíonn oibriú an Achta féin an iomarca aimhrialtachtaí. Déantar socrú leis an mBille chun Acht 1929 a aisghairm agus cuirtear roinnt mhaith de moltaí Óstaí an Rí i bhfeidhm.

Tá an Rialtas ar aon intinn leis an Aire gur féidir na socruithe atá ann faoi láthair a fheabhsú leis an cuspóir seo a leanas a bhaint amach: a chinntiú go mbeidh daoine ar mian leo a gceart bunreachtúil a fheidhmiú chun Gaeilge a úsáid in imeachtaí os comhair na gcúirteanna in ann sin a dhéanamh. Creideann an tAire go gcuirfidh na rudaí atá leagtha amach sa Bhille feabhas ar an scéal trí chur leis an oiliúint sa Ghaeilge d'abhcóidí agus d'aturnaetha araon agus gur cheart go gcinnteoidís ábaltacht sa Ghaeilge do níos mó gairmithe dlí ná mar a dhéantar leis na socruithe atá ann i láthair na huaire.

Is eol don Teach go ndearnadh teanga oibre agus oifigiúil de chuid an Aontais Eorpaigh den Ghaeilge ar 1 Eanáir 2007. Ceanglaítear le nósanna imeachta an Aontais Eorpaigh go bhfíoródh dlí-theangeolaithe reachtaíocht sna teangacha oifigiúla go léir, an Ghaeilge san áireamh, sula féidir leis an gComhairle agus le Parlaimint na hEorpa téacsanna a ghlacadh. Tá áthas ar an Aire a thuairisciú go bhfuil a chomhghleacaí sa Rialtas, an tAire, an Teachta Ó Cuív, tar éis cúrsa oiliúna ar leith a fhorbairt, i gcomhar le hÓstaí an Rí, atá ceaptha chun a chur ar chumas rannpháirtithe bheith ina ndlí-theangeolaithe sa Ghaeilge. Tá an cúrsa faoi lánseol cheana féin agus táthar ag súil leis go mbeidh rannpháirtithe a n-éiríonn leo ar fáil chun dul faoi scrúduithe roghnúcháin an Aontais Eorpaigh ó dheireadh na bliana seo amach. Tuigtear don Aire, chomh maith, go bhfuil an Roinn Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta ag obair le hÓstaí an Rí ar chúrsa abhcóide dlí a fhorbairt, ar cúrsa é a mhúinfear go hiomlán trí Ghaeilge.

Bhí feidhm ag Acht 1929, chomh maith, maidir le haturnaetha dlí go dtí gur tugadh socruithe nua isteach san Acht Aturnaethe 1954. Le cáiliú chun a nglactha mar aturnaetha, ceanglaítear le hAcht 1954 ar mhic léinn dhá scrúdú sa Ghaeilge a dhéanamh. Baineann an chéad scrúdú le daoine atá ag iarraidh dul faoi cheangal dintiúirí printíseachta, agus baineann an dara ceann le daoine ar mian leo go ndeanfaí iad a ghlacadh mar aturnaetha. Is é is cuspóir don dara scrúdú a chinntiú "go bhfuil eolas inniúil ar an nGaeilge ag daoine a ghnóthós é, is é sin le rá, an inniúlacht sin ar labhairt agus ar scríobh na teangan is leor chun a chur ar chumas aturnae, le héifeacht, teagasc a ghlacadh, cliaint a chomhairliú, finnéithe a cheistiú agus imeachta a thuiscint i nGaeilge". Is ionann an tástáil ábaltacht seo agus an ceann a úsáidtear in Acht 1929 i gcomhair abhcóidí.

Faoi láthair, ní chuireann an Dlí-Chumann féin teagasc sa Ghaeilge ar fáil do phrintísigh aturnae. Cuimsítear trialacha scríofa ar théacsanna forordaithe nach bhfuil aon bhaint acu leis an dlí, aistí ar ábhair laethúla agus trialacha béil ar inniúlacht sa Ghaeilge sa dá scrúdú. Tá sé ar intinn ag an Aire roinnt comhréireachta a chur i bhfeidhm maidir leis na ceanglais ábaltachta i gcomhair abhcóidí agus aturnaetha araon. Dá bhrí sin, leasófar leis an mBille, chomh maith, na ceanglais reachtúla i gcomhair ábaltacht sa Ghaeilge d'aturnaetha.

D'iarr an tAire orm an Bille Comhaltaí Príobháideacha atá os comhair an Tí in ainm an Teachta Brian Ó Sé a lua ag an phointe seo. Cé go n-aithníonn an Bille sin, dáiríre, uireasa sa dlí atá ann faoi láthair, ní dhéanann sé socrú ar bhealach ar bith maidir le rogha cheart, agus tá sé gann ar mhionsonraí. Is cinnte, dar leis an Aire, go dtagann forálacha an Bhille salach ar bheartas an Rialtais i dtaca le cur chun cinn na Gaeilge agus, go háirithe, aidhm an Rialtais — a chinntiú go mbeidh daoine ar mian leo leas a bhaint as seirbhís dlí trí Ghaeilge in ann sin a dhéanamh.

Tá príomh-mhionsonraí an Bhille in ailt 1 agus 2. Baineann alt 1 le forálacha i gcomhair abhcóidí dlí. Foráiltear leis an alt go dtabharfaidh comhairle Óstaí an Rí aird ar bheartas an Rialtais maidir leis an dátheangachas agus go ndéanfaidh sí gach beart réasúnach chun a chinntiú go mbeidh líon sásúil abhcóidí dlí in ann an dlí a chleachtadh trí Ghaeilge — fo-alt 2.

Creideann an tAire go bhfuil sé tábhachtach go mbeadh sainchúrsaí sa Ghaeilge ar fáil do gach gairmí dlí, cuma an mian leis nó leí an dlí a chleachtadh tríd an teanga nó nach mian. Ar an ábhar sin, tá socrú déanta aige i bhfo-alt 3 go gcuirfidh Óstaí an Rí cúrsa ar théarmaíocht dhlíthiúil na Gaeilge ar siúl do mhic léinn a bheidh ag dul i mbun cúrsa céime abhcóide dlí. Beidh an cúrsa ceaptha chun a chur ar chumas cleachtóirí cineál na seirbhíse a bheidh á lorg a shainaithint agus, más cuí, tarchur chuig cleachtóir a bheidh inniúil ar sheirbhís a chur ar fáil trí Ghaeilge a éascú — fo-alt 3(a). Is eol don Aire go mbeidh roinnt daoine ann a bheidh i mbun staidéir i gcomhair céime abhcóide dlí agus a mbeidh, ar dháta aisghairthe an Achta Lucht Cleachtuithe Dlí (Cáilíocht) 1929, téarmaí alt 3 den Acht sin comhlíonta acu agus, sna cásanna sin, measfar go mbeidh na daoine sin tar éis freastal ar an gcúrsa ar an téarmaíocht dhlíthiúil — fo-alt 3(b).

I gcomhair na ndaoine ar mian leo an dlí a chleachtadh trí mheán na Gaeilge, foráiltear ina dhiaidh sin san alt go gcinnteoidh Comhairle Óstaí an Rí go n-áireofar ardchúrsa ar chleachtadh an dlí trí Ghaeilge mar ábhar roghnach sa chúrsa abhcóide dlí — fo-alt 4. Beidh an t-ardchúrsa sin ar oscailt do dhaoine eile nach mic léinn iad ach ar mian leo inniúlacht a bhaint amach a chuirfidh ar a gcumas an dlí a chleachtadh trí Ghaeilge — fo-alt 5. Creideann an tAire go bhfuil ciall lena chinntiú go mbeadh leibhéal réasúnach inniúlachta sa Ghaeilge ag daoine a bheidh ag déanamh iarratais chun fáil isteach ar an ardchúrsa sa Ghaeilge. Ar an ábhar sin, foráiltear le fo-alt 6 go bhféadfaidh sé go gceanglófar ar na daoine sin a léiriú d'Óstaí an Rí go bhfuil leibhéal inniúlachta acu sa Ghaeilge cheana féin. Ar ndóigh, caithfidh meicníocht éigin a bheith ann trínar féidir cumas daoine a bheidh ag freastal ar an ardchúrsa sa Ghaeilge a thomhas. Chuige sin, foráiltear le fo-alt 7 go gcuirfidh Óstaí an Rí scrúdú ar siúl i gcleachtadh an dlí trí Ghaeilge uair sa bhliain ar a laghad. Ní cheadófar ach do na daoine sin a mbeidh an t-ardchúrsa déanta acu an scrúdú a dhéanamh — fo-alt 8. Creideann an tAire go bhfuil sé den riachtanas go gcuirfear in iúl don phobal go bhfuil ar chumas cleachtóirí dlí áirithe seirbhísí dlí a chur ar fáil trí Ghaeilge. Mar sin, tá sé foráilte aige i bhfo-alt 9 go ndeánfaidh Óstaí an Rí clár, ar a dtabharfar clár na Gaeilge (Óstaí an Rí), a bhunú agus a chothabháil.

Foráiltear thairis sin san alt go ndeánfaidh comhairle Óstaí an Rí ainm agus mionsonraí teagmhála abhcóidí dlí a mbeidh éirithe leo sa scrúdú a thaifeadadh sa chlár — fo-alt 10. Foráiltear leis an alt go gcaithfear an clár a choimeád cothrom le dáta agus go gcaithfear cóip den chlár a chur ar fáil don Dlí-Chumann — fo-alt 11. Ní mór an clár a bheith ar oscailt don phobal, chomh maith, agus a bheith foilsithe ar láithreán gréasáin Óstaí an Rí — fo-alt 12. Cinnteoidh na forálacha seo go gcraobhscaoilfear ábhar an chláir, agus go dtuigfear é a bheith ann chomh forleathan agus is féidir. Ar deireadh, foráiltear leis an alt go ndéanfar tuarascáil a chur faoi bhráid an Aire Dlí agus Cirt, Comhionannais agus Athchóirithe Dlí ar bhonn bliantúil i dtaca le hoibriú an ailt sa bhliain roimhe sin — fo-alt 13.

Baineann alt 2 den Bhille le ábaltacht Ghaeilge d'aturnaetha. Déantar fo-alt nua — 2A — a chur isteach in alt 40 den Acht Aturnaethe 1954. Teastaíonn ón Aire go mbeadh na forálacha a bhaineann le haturnaetha ar aon dul, tríd is tríd, leis na forálacha a bhaineann le habhcóidí. Go búnusach, déanann alt 2 na forálacha atá in alt 1 den Bhille a scáthánú. Foráiltear leis an alt go dtabharfaidh an Dlí-Chumann aird ar bheartas an Rialtais maidir leis an dátheangachas agus go ndeánfaidh sé gach beart réasúnach chun a chinntiú go mbeidh líon sásúil aturnaetha in ann an dlí a chleachtadh trí Ghaeilge. Ina theannta sin, cuirfidh an Dlí-Chumann cúrsa ar fáil ar théarmaíocht dhlíthiúil trí Ghaeilge ionas go mbeidh cleachtóirí in ann cineál na seirbhíse a bheidh á lorg a aithint agus, mas gá, daoine a sheoladh ar aghaidh chun déanamh cinnte go bhfuil an Ghaeilge go líofa ag cleachtóirí.

Maidir le daoine a bheidh ag gabháil don chúrsa cleachtais ghairmiúil agus a mbeidh, ar dháta thosach feidhme an ailt, éirithe leo sa dá scrúdú sa Ghaeilge dá bhforáiltear le rialacháin arna ndéanamh faoi alt 40(3) den Acht Aturnaethe 1954, measfar go mbeidh siad tar éis freastal ar an gcúrsa ar an téarmaíocht dhlíthiúil. I gcomhair na ndaoine sin ar mian leo seirbhís dlí a chur ar fáil trí Ghaeilge, foráiltear leis an alt go gcinnteoidh an Dlí-Chumann go n-áireofar ardchúrsa ar chleachtadh an dlí trí Ghaeilge mar ábhar roghnach i gcomhair daoine a bheidh ag gabháil don chúrsa cleachtais ghairmiúil. Beidh an t-ardchúrsa seo ar oscailt do dhaoine eile nach mic léinn iad ach ar mian leo inniúlacht a bhaint amach a chuirfidh ar a gcumas an dlí a chleachtadh trí Ghaeilge. Féadfaidh sé go n-iarrfar ar dhaoine a bheidh ag déanamh iarratais chun fáil isteach ar an ardchúrsa sa Ghaeilge a léiriú don chumann go bhfuil leibhéal inniúlachta acu sa Ghaeilge cheana féin.

Tá sé i gceist go gcuirfidh an Dlí-Chumann scrúdú ar siúl i gcleachtadh an dlí trí Ghaeilge uair sa bhliain ar a laghad. Ní ceadófar ach do daoine a mbeidh an t-ardchúrsa déanta acu an scrúdú a dhéanamh. Foráiltear ina dhiaidh sin san alt go ndeánfaidh an Dlí-Chumann clár, ar a dtabharfar clár na Gaeilge (An Dlí-Chumann), a bhunú agus a chothabháil. Déanfaidh an cumann ainm agus mionsonraí teagmhála aturnaetha a mbeidh éirithe leo sa scrúdú a thaifeadadh sa chlár agus cinnteoidh sé go gcaithfear an clár a choimeád cothrom le dáta agus cóip den chlár a chur ar fáil d'Óstaí an Rí. Ní mór don chlár a bheith ar oscailt don phobal, chomh maith, agus a bheith foilsithe ar láithreán gréasáin an Dlí-Chumainn. Déanfar tuarascáil a chur faoi bhráid an Aire Dlí agus Cirt, Comhionannais agus Athchóiríthe Dlí ar bhonn bliantúil i dtaca le hoibriú an ailt sa bhliain roimhe sin. Déantar fo-alt 40(3) den Acht Aturnaethe 1954 a scriosadh. Foráiltear le halt 3 den Bhille go n-aisghairtear an tAcht Lucht Cleachtuithe Dlí (Cáilíocht) 1929. Is rud caighdeánach atá in alt 4 atá ag déileáil le gearrtheideal an Bhille, le forálacha maidir le tosach feidhme agus leis an gcomhlua.

Tá an Rialtas dáiríre sa Bhille seo ar an nGaeilge a éascú agus a chur chun cinn inár gcóras dlí. Tá an tAire cinnte de go dtiocfaidh feabhas suntasach ar mhúineadh na Gaeilge ag Ostaí an Rí agus ag an Dlí-Chumann de na forálacha atá sa Bhille seo. Tá sé cinnte gur fearr a chinnteoidh an Bille go mbeidh go leor aturnaetha agus abhcóidí ar fáil chun seirbhísí dlí i nGaeilge a chur ar fáil d'aon chliaint a mbeidh na seirbhísí sin ag teastáil uathu. Thar ceann an Aire Dlí agus Cirt, Comhionannais agus Athchóiríthe Dlí, molaim an Bille don Teach.

Ba mhaith liom mo chuid ama a roinnt leis an Teachta Ring.

Tá sé sin aontaithe.

Ar son Fine Gael cuirim fáilte roimh an mBille seo. Tá súil agam go rachaidh sé tríd an Dáil gan mórán moille. Tá sé tábhachtach go bhfuil cearta ionadaíochta ag an saoránach trí Ghaeilge sna cúirteanna. Le blianta fada, bhí sé de dhualgas ar abhchóidí caighdeán áirithe a bhaint amach sa Ghaeilge chun cead a fháil an dlí a chleachtadh sa Stát seo. Mar sin féin, tá dá cúis go bhfuil an Bille seo tráthúil agus oiriúnach. Ar dtús, níl líofacht Gaeilge acu siúd go léir a bhfuil sé ar a gcumas acu an dlí a chleachtadh. Chomh maith le sin, is annamh a éistear cásanna trí Ghaeilge i gcúirteanna na tíre. Mar sin, níl sé praiticiúil go mbeadh sé de dhualgas ar gach duine a chleachtann an dlí a bheith líofa sa Ghaeilge.

Ní féidir a rá nach bhfuil meas agus urraim don teanga ag éinne a thacaíonn leis an mBille seo. Mar sin féin, ní ionann a bheith báúil leis an teanga agus brú a chur ar gach éinne i bproifisiúin áirithe teanga a bheith acu nach n-úsáidtear ach go hannamh. Tugann an Bille seo deis dóibh siúd ar mian leo an dlí a chleachtadh trí Ghaeilge ár dteanga náisiúnta a úsáid, a chothú agus a mhisniú. Beidh mé ag iarraidh ar oifigigh Óstaí an Rí agus Dlí-Chumann na hÉireann gach spreagadh a thabhairt dóibh siúd a bhfuil an Ghaeilge acu í a úsáid ina ghnáth-oibre dleathach go laethúil sna cúirteanna. Ba cheart dóibh bheith in ann an teanga a labhairt leis na cláraitheoirí contae, na oifigigh chlárlann talamh agus na dlíodóirí Stáit, mar shampla. Ba mhaith an rud é an Ghaeilge a chloisteáil sna cúirteanna dúiche agus cuarda, agus i rannóga dlí na n-údaráis áitiúla. Tá sé tábhachtach go ndéanfaí an teanga a chothú go deonach in ionad brú agus éiginnteacht.

The 1929 Act that the Bill proposes to amend is a fine example of the many targeted initiatives in the early years of the State to foster and promote the every day use of the Irish language. The electoral success of Sinn Féin in 1918 produced a generation of politicians who had been active in Conradh na Gaeilge and were passionate about the national language. This commitment to the language was evident in the titles chosen when a separate Parliament was established by Sinn Féin MPs. The new Parliament was to be called Dáil Éireann, the head of Government was to be the Príomh Aire and the Cabinet, the Aireacht. When Sinn Féin broke up in the aftermath of the Treaty, the new parties which emerged in succeeding decades almost all adopted Irish names — Cumann na nGaedhael, Fianna Fáil, Clann na Poblachta and Clann na Tamhain. The exception was the Leas-Cheann Comhairle's party which was formed before any of these.

The policy of successive Governments was to make Irish the official spoken language. This was a high and noble idea but somewhat impractical. Politicians such as Eamon de Valera and Ernest Blythe were strong Irish language enthusiasts. Many such persons believed an Irish-speaking country could be achieved within a generation. To facilitate this and illustrate its commitment, the State imposed Irish language requirements on service providers, most notably the Civil Service, teachers and the legal profession. The aim was to make the Civil Service, education and the law bilingual initially and all-Irish speaking eventually. Irish was to become the national language and thus demonstrate its superiority over the English language.

The policy of achieving an Irish-speaking Ireland was unworkable and never more than a pious aspiration. The consequence of a rather fundamentalist approach, as evidenced during the years by the Department of Education and Science, was counterproductive and damaging to the language. So much emphasis was placed on making Irish the spoken language of the country that a certain resentment was created. This resentment against the language was manifest among the majority who had no interest in speaking the language full-time but who might have been interested in accepting Irish as a secondary language in their own lives.

When forced into an all or nothing approach to Irish, many chose nothing, never speaking a word of Irish once they had left school. While Áras an Uachtaráin under Presidents Hyde, O'Kelly, de Valera and Ó Dalaigh became a mini-Gaeltacht, as did some Departments, all around them English was spoken, with the number of native speakers and gaeltachtaí collapsing on a progressive basis. Presidents felt it necessary to recite their declaration of office in Irish, even if they had not a word of the language. When Ms Mary Robinson became President, a civil servant was aghast when she said she would sign her name as she always did, in English.

Recent Governments have realised that the idea of creating an Irish-speaking Ireland is a mirage that will never happen. Instead, they have focused on achievable goals and more practicable initiatives with the objective of keeping the language alive and ensuring Irish language speakers are supported rather than discriminated against. They abandoned plans to force Ireland to become an Irish-speaking country in favour of a policy of bilingualism. Irish would be encouraged, not forced, on people, and services would be provided in a way that treated Irish speakers and English speakers equally.

The Taoiseach summed up the change of policy in 2006 when he stated: "The aim of 20th century Government policies was to reinstate Irish as the main language spoken by the people, but the Government now plans to focus firmly on the practical development of a bilingual society where as many people as possible use both Irish and English with equal ease." The Official Languages Bill, enacted in 2003, replaced the concept of the superiority of Irish over English with the equality of Irish and English. Services were to be equally available in both languages and Acts of the Oireachtas were to be published simultaneously in both languages. Correspondence from Government agencies and Departments was to be in the language in which the original correspondence was written. State documents were to be available in Irish and English.

The provisions of the Act mean that State agencies must have a core number of Irish language speakers available to provide services through the medium of Irish. The Legal Practitioners (Irish Language) Bill flows from this. Irish is a mandatory requirement for all lawyers. Having passed their examinations, however, many lawyers never used the language again and were unable to deal with court cases where the Irish language was used. This was all too typical of the somewhat naive policy of trying to make the country Irish-speaking. For many, the requirement to be proficient in Irish did not open the door to the greater use of the language but simply represented a hurdle to be crossed once and then forgotten. That was the attitude of many of those taking the examinations for the King’s Inns and the Law Society. My own experience some years ago of sitting the Irish examinations to qualify as a practising member of the Law Society confirmed this. The standard was low and the examinations had a low failure rate. For many, the Irish language requirement was regarded simply as a nuisance and burden. It did not facilitate proficiency in the language because once the exam was passed, there was nothing further in terms of courses or stimulants to ensure the language was used.

The proposal in the Bill makes sense and meets modern requirements. Instead of producing lawyers who, in theory, can speak Irish but, in practice, have long since forgotten how, it aims to ensure there will be a group of genuine Irish speakers available for court work. Irish language proficiency thus becomes a choice that lawyers can opt into rather than a requirement that is forced upon them. The Bill does not represent a threat to the Irish language but rather an opportunity to develop and enhance the language within the legal system.

By setting realistic goals, there is a realistic chance of ensuring the language will survive and that Irish language services will be available to Irish language speakers. Forcing everyone to learn a language that few would need and use diluted the quality of Irish available in the legal profession and worked against the language. This proposed new approach allows those who wish to do so to pursue an advanced course and thus give Irish language users in court the service they deserve. It will mean a higher standard of Irish in the legal profession. Is it better that we have a profession where everyone knows a little but few remember enough to do the job through the language or a group of highly trained experts in the language, available by way of a panel in both arms of the profession, to provide the best service for Irish language speakers? It is important that both the King's Inns and the Law Society offer more than just courses. They must also devise standards of proficiency and offer examinations. Those who reach a certain level by passing those examinations should be placed on a panel of persons proficient to offer legal expertise through the medium of Irish.

Special provision must be made in Gaeltacht areas. The Bill should include a requirement that persons applying for State jobs in Gaeltacht areas, including the Minister of State's constituency, parts of Deputy O'Shea's constituency in west Waterford and parts of Deputy Ring's constituency, must be proficient in Irish. District Court judges, State solicitors and other employees of full-time law centres must demonstrate a working knowledge of the language before being appointed. Legal services should be provided in Irish in Gaeltacht areas and those engaged in the administration of justice should not have to rely on interpreters. I will return to this issue on Committee Stage.

A report by the Competition Authority some years ago stated the Irish language represented a barrier to entry to the professions. It recommended a change such as that proposed in the Bill. An eminent academic and historian, Dr. Art Cosgrove, was successful in recent years in completing the examinations for the Bar but refused to take the Irish examination. It was not that he did not have proficiency in Irish but he felt it was a barrier to entry and that he should not be required to engage in such an exam in order to practise at the Bar. He did not take it and never practised because he was not allowed to do so. He has now issued High Court proceedings, although I have no doubt this Bill will be passed before proceedings are reached. Perhaps the High Court case had a bearing on the speed with which this legislation was brought before the House and there may be no need for the High Court to deliver a judgment on the matter when the Bill is passed.

As the Minister of State indicated, it is important we consider the practical manifestation of the mandatory requirement for the Irish language. In effect, it is little more than lip-service towards the language and does not have a great bearing on the daily work of the legal profession. A survey was published by the free legal advice centres some years ago when a number of the centres offered legal services through the native tongue. The survey, from 2005, showed that in a total of 1,250 cases, only five representations required Irish. That indicates there is no significant need outside Gaeltacht areas for a level of Irish proficiency among those within the legal profession and that compulsory Irish is not the way forward.

Fine Gael has long championed choice in Irish. We believe the language would be stronger if it was advocated through choice rather than compulsion. When people choose to learn the language, they are, in effect, making a positive commitment to it rather than if they were mandated to do it. Forcing everyone to learn Irish only creates resentment and damages the language. Supporting the right of those who wish to avail of services in the language, those who wish to learn the language and communities to speak Irish if they so wish will make the language stronger.

Eighty years of decline in the number of Gaeltacht areas shows the old policies did not work and that a method involving choice would be better and would work. The Bill will ensure a high quality service in Irish for those requiring and wanting it. It will turn Irish from being something of a burden or a nuisance for lawyers into a positive additional skill. It will be an extra diploma or certificate on a CV for young lawyers entering the labour force and allow some to specialise in providing a legal service for Irish speakers who are entitled to and deserve such a service.

Fine Gael supports the Bill and will revert to a detailed analysis on Committee Stage.

I will make a very short contribution. While I am pleased to see the Bill before the Dáil, I am amazed we do not have more important Bills to regulate the legal profession when we see what is happening. I would have preferred to see legislation to regulate barristers and solicitors, in particular. The days of self-regulation should be over. Regulation is badly wanted when we see what is happening with a small percentage of solicitors. It is time for action on the matter, as there is a need to protect people. As that is not the way it is, we must deal with the legislation before us.

I compliment my colleague, Deputy Flanagan, on outlining the Fine Gael position, with which I am pleased. We had a number of meetings with various groups about the matter. They were not completely happy with the proposals and would like to see a few amendments to the Bill to ensure protection in a number of matters, on one of which my colleague spoke, the provision of court services in Gaeltacht areas. There is a problem in some Gaeltacht areas in that judges cannot speak the Irish language. Such judges should not be appointed. If we are to promote Gaeltacht areas and expect people to speak Irish in them, the State must provide services for them. One such service would be providing a judge who is able to speak Irish. It is wrong if that is not the case, as in the Gaeltacht areas with which I am familiar a certain percentage cannot speak English. Such persons can conduct business through Irish but believe they are being let down and that their rights are being violated, as they are not allowed use the native language in doing business through the courts. Some believe certain judges would take it that the people speaking Irish were seeking to delay the courts. Therefore, the language affects the manner in which they are treated in court. I hope this matter can be resolved.

There are some excellent courses in Irish for the legal profession such as the one in UCC to enable solicitors and barristers to be trained and receive a qualification in Irish. Some graduates go on to become interpreters in the State and elsewhere in Europe. If people make the effort, they should be rewarded. A provision should be inserted on Committee Stage, whereby if people want to join the legal profession through Irish, they should be rewarded. There should be an appropriate exam. This would be particularly appropriate if there was going to be an appointment as a State solicitor or judge in a Gaeltacht area. There should be a list of persons who have undertaken an appropriate exam through Irish who could be seen as candidates to become a judge or State solicitor in Gaeltacht areas. As Deputy Flanagan stated, if people want to use Irish in the courts, there should be a strong panel of individuals able to speak Irish. The same number of judges should be in place who can deal with court procedures through the medium of Irish. That would be good for the language but must be included in legislation.

We should compliment those running the excellent course in UCC, but when graduates come to the King's Inns or the Law Society, there is no further course or examination in Irish to deal with. A provision should be included in legislation to make it possible for people to practise through Irish, should they choose to do so.

Deputy O'Shea mooted a Bill at an earlier stage and the Government has now brought forward its own proposals. I am sure many elements of the Bill will have to be dealt with on Committee Stage. A number of people believe what is happening is wrong, as Irish is meant to be our native language. Deputy Flanagan, a solicitor, has admitted that the standard expected in the examination was not the highest. Nevertheless, it debarred certain persons who were not able to manage the Irish language but wanted to be solicitors. They were probably badly affected by this. Deputy Flanagan has spoken about the man who has qualified as a barrister who has not completed the Irish exam. He is going to the High Court, which has helped to push on the Bill. Those promoting the Irish language believe that if the proposed amendments can be dealt with on Committee Stage and the individuals who want to practise through the medium of Irish can be protected and rewarded, they will not have a problem in with the Bill. I have a problem with the hypocrisy regarding the Irish language. There is an Irish exam, although it really only makes a mockery of the Irish language. We can insert a provision in order that those who want to join the legal profession through the medium of Irish can pass an exam in Irish and be rewarded at a later stage. At least that they could be considered for State Solicitor or as judges in the Gaeltacht area and that will be a good day for the Irish language.

I hope the Government will introduce the necessary legislation. Approximately one year ago I spoke here about an ombudsman for the legal profession. However, suddenly the Bill was withdrawn. If that Bill had been processed at least we would have had an ombudsman in place by now who could have addressed some of the current issues. While the Law Society is dealing with those issues, it is not able to cope and it is not dealing with the people who should be dealt with. I hope we will see the necessary legislation as quickly as this legislation came in. I hope that by early in the new year we will see a legal ombudsman Bill to regulate the legal profession so that it will not need to regulate itself. No professional organisation should regulate itself. There should independent regulation of all such bodies.

People are not happy that the Irish examination is being moved. However, as Deputy Charles Flanagan has mentioned, if the amendments these people have proposed can be adopted on Committee Stage, they will accept it.

Cuirim fáilte roimh an Aire Stáit, an Teachta Ó Gallachóir, go dtí an Teach. Tá sé tar éis an Bhille seo a mholadh go dtí an Teach thar ceann an Rialtais. Déanaim chomh-bhrón leis an Aire, an Teachta Brian Ó Luineacháin, ar bhás a mháthair chéile — go ndéana Dia trócaire uirthi.

Tá áthas orm labhairt sa díospóireacht seo ar Bille na nDlí-Chleachtaóirí (An Ghaeilge) 2007. Foilsíodh Bille de chuid an Lucht Oibre — an Bille Lucht Cleachta Dlí (Cáilíocht) (Leasú) 2007 — i mí Meán Fhómhair seo caite. Tá an dá Bille dírithe ar an bhfadhb céanna — seirbhísí dlí a sholáthar trí Ghaeilge. Tá Bille an Lucht Oibre i bhfad níos fearr ó thaobh an dlí agus na Ghaeilge de. Tá Bille an rialtas lochtach. Beidh níos mó le rá agam faoi sin amach anseo.

I was amazed at what the Minister of State, Deputy Gallagher, said on behalf of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy Brian Lenihan, about the Labour Party Bill. He said that it does not provide a proper alternative and is short on detail. I reject that assertion. The Government's Bill is vague and sloppily drafted. I find it extraordinary that the Minister considers the provisions of the Labour Party Bill are in conflict with the Government's policy on the promotion of Irish. What policy? Last December, we had the publication of the long-promised statement on the Irish language, which promised, as had been promised before, a 20-year strategy for the Irish language. Last week, I managed to extract an undertaking from the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Deputy Ó Cuív, that the 20-year strategy would definitely be available by the end of 2008. What exactly was this statement? It was a collection of clichés, a list of legislation and a list of Irish language organisations and contacts. Somebody should let us all in on the secret of what is the Government's policy for the promotion of the Irish language. I am certainly not aware of any such policy.

In the Competition Authority report, Competition in Professional Services, Solicitors and Barristers, published in December 2006, the issue of the Irish competency requirement of solicitors and barristers was addressed. The recommendation of the Competition Authority was that the existing basic Irish competency requirement should be abolished and replaced by a voluntary system of high level Irish language training. In the details of the recommendation the report stated: "The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform should introduce legislation to repeal sections 3 and 4 of the Legal Practitioners Qualifications Act 1929 by June 2008." The report further stated:

The Law Society and the Honourable Society of King's Inns should publish criteria for a voluntary system whereby solicitors and barristers who wish to represent clients in Irish or who have a particular interest in Irish could be trained and examined to a high and consistent standard. Institutions other than the Law Society and King's Inns should be permitted to provide such courses and examinations.

It was recommended that this be actioned by December 2007. I note that the Bill does not refer to other institutions providing the courses mentioned in the legislation.

On 25 October, the Dáil ordered the Legal Practitioners (Qualifications) (Amendment) Bill 2007 be printed. I had introduced this Bill on behalf of the Labour Party. The purpose of the Bill as laid out in the explanatory memorandum is "to remove the compulsory Irish examination for Legal Practitioners and replace it with a voluntary system of recognising competency in the Irish language as recommended by the Competition Authority Report, Competition in Professional Services, Solicitors and Barristers (December 2006)".

On 28 November 2007, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform presented the Bill now before the House, the purpose of which as laid out in the explanatory memorandum is to promote the better use of the Irish language by legal practitioners and the provision of legal services through Irish. For that purpose, the Bill provides that the Honourable Society of the King's Inns and the Law Society shall establish courses of study in the Irish language and provide registers, which will be made available to the public, showing details of those practitioners who are able to provide legal services through the Irish language.

The Government Bill is significantly inferior to the Labour Party Bill for a number of reasons. It is an attempt to be all things to all men. The Competition Authority report is not mentioned and the competition issue is not alluded to. The existing legislation is the Legal Practitioners (Qualifications) Act 1929. Section 3 of this Act provides that a person cannot be admitted by the Chief Justice to practise as a barrister-at-law in Irish courts unless he or she has previously satisfied the Chief Justice that he or she possesses a competent knowledge of the Irish language, while section 4 of the Act provides that no person can become a solicitor unless he or she has passed an examination designed to show that he or she has a competent knowledge of the Irish language.

The Competition Authority described the effect of these restraints as follows:

The Irish Examinations constitute a barrier for non-Irish speaking persons who have obtained their law degree in Ireland and wish to become a solicitor or barrister. Such persons have increased education costs, as they must take pre-examination Irish courses. This may even reduce the number of qualifying lawyers in Ireland [I believe that is the case]. Lawyers who have qualified in other jurisdictions do not have to take this examination.

The Competition Authority describes the rationale offered by the restraint as follows:

Irish citizens have a constitutional right to be represented in Irish in legal proceedings. Irish is also a recognised language of the European Union. The objective of the Irish examination is to ensure that Irish solicitors and barristers can represent clients in Irish.

In their submissions to the Competition Authority, both the Law Society and King's Inns addressed the issue of the restraint. This extract from the Competition Authority report summarises their positions:

The Law Society agrees with the proposal that legislation be amended to abolish the Irish language competency requirement and favoured the establishment of a voluntary system.

"This is a better means of ensuring that Irish-speaking clients can be effectively represented through the Irish language and the Society would be pleased to be involved in the introduction of such a voluntary system and would urge the State to assist in its establishment."

King's Inns notes that it currently offers an optional course in Advanced advocacy and Legal Drafting through the medium of the Irish language and is open to the idea of a course to replace the existing Irish competency requirement.

"King's Inns considers the development of such a course is important in order to have available legal practitioners who are qualified to conduct cases in Irish. It is willing to consider the further development of such courses and the granting of a qualification to those who reach an agreed standard."

King's Inns has informed the Competition Authority that it has made proposals to the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform proposing a basic Irish course for all trainees and an advanced course for those who wish to undertake it, leading to a recognised qualification.

The analysis of the Competition Authority was as follows:

While the objective of ensuring that those who wish can be represented through the medium of Irish is valid, it cannot be achieved unless the Irish examination is of a sufficiently high standard to ensure that those who pass it are competent to conduct litigation in Irish.

It is not necessary to require all lawyers to be proficient in Irish in order to ensure that those who wish to avail of their constitutional right to be represented in Irish can do so. The objective would be better achieved by a system that encouraged, but did not compel, students to attain a level of competency in Irish sufficient for full legal practice. This competency could be tested by examination, and those holding the ensuing qualification could hold themselves out as practitioners willing and able to practise in Irish and English.

The Competition Authority has outlined a solution.

In its Preliminary Report, the Competition Authority proposed that the Irish language competency requirement be abolished and replaced by a voluntary system for lawyers who wish to represent their clients in Irish. Following consideration of the submissions received in response to the Preliminary Report, the Authority reiterates its earlier recommendation.

Such a voluntary system would encourage those who wish to do so to achieve a significant level of competency in Irish. Those who have achieved this level of competency, which would be verified by an examination, could advertise themselves as being qualified and willing to provide legal services through the medium of the Irish language.

This would ensure that, instead of the current situation where nominally all legal practitioners are competent in Irish but few are actually able, or willing, to provide legal services through Irish, there would be a pool of legal practitioners who have the ability to provide full legal services through Irish to those clients who wish to receive them.

The Labour Party decided to address this issue. There is no doubt that the existing system is faulty. No one could argue that a large percentage of the lawyers in Ireland are capable of properly representing their clients in Irish. When one considers that only 68% of lawyers who responded to the question in the 2006 Census of Population answered "Yes" to the question, "Can you speak Irish?"', it gives some measure of how successful the implementation of the 1929 Act has been. It should be borne in mind that lawyers answering the census question were subjective in their replies and that no level of competency is stated relative to any subjective measure.

The Labour Party, instead of negatively attacking the Government for what it was not doing, came up with its own Bill as a responsible Opposition party. The Bill was designed to promote excellence in the Irish language rather than seeking to set basic minimum standards. Our Bill would serve to enhance the status of the Irish language in the legal system. The Bill would also enable those who had been refused recognition previously, as a result of failing or not taking the Irish language test, to re-apply and be readmitted without taking the test.

There are many capable barristers and solicitors with fluent Irish, many of them Irish language enthusiasts, and litigants have never experienced any problem in securing legal representation if they wish to pursue legal action through the medium of Irish. I presented our Bill as meeting the needs of an inclusive, pluralist Ireland and also meeting the needs of a modern and competitive legal system. The Legal Practitioners (Irish Language) Bill 2007 is a fudge. It is very vague. It does not, for example, have any provision stopping an examination in relation to the proposed course on Irish language terminology and the understanding of legal texts in the Irish language for all students undertaking the barrister-at-law course other than a statutory examination. A similar type course is proposed to be held by the Law Society. Both courses are also to enable practitioners to identify the nature of the service being sought and, where appropriate, to facilitate a referral to a practitioner competent to provide a service through Irish.

This rationale for these courses beggars belief. Surely the Minister is not seriously suggesting that without the courses lawyers would be unable to identify the nature of the service being sought and make a referral to a practitioner competent to provide a service through Irish. Bringing this ludicrous explanation to an extreme, surely the Irish language registers to be established and maintained by the King's Inns and the Law Society of those who have passed the proposed advanced courses in the practise of law through Irish and to be available to the public will be of assistance to clients wishing to bring their cases before the courts through Irish. How the results of such possible examinations by the King's Inns and by the Law Society might be used must give cause for concern.

The legislation talks of all students undertaking the course in legal terminology. This is vague. What does "undertaking" mean in regard to fulfilling the statutory requirement in regard to being deemed to have attended the course? How many lectures must be attended? Must students attend the whole lecture in each instance to qualify as attending? Who will police the statutory requirement? Must the lectures be conducted solely through Irish? These are issues which need to be clarified in the legislation so that this is not open to subjective interpretation of legislation which would allow the Irish language's legal terminology courses to be used in an oppressive way.

There is a further piece of sloppy drafting in section 1(2) where it is provided: "The Council [of King's Inns] shall have regard to Government policy on bilingualism." Government policy is only that until it becomes law. I referred already to Government policy and I do not intend to return to that issue. Surely this section should refer to public policy. Government policy may change with the coming into power of a new Governments, but public policy remains public policy until it is changed by the Oireachtas. Clarity here will be absolutely necessary. Only last night I heard of someone who qualified as a lawyer 40 years ago here but who does not have the Irish language competency. The Labour Party Bill would have allowed him to practise. Under the Fianna Fáil Bill, such people do not appear to be covered at all, as the Bill provides for all students undertaking the barrister-at-law degree but in regard to the Law Society it refers to enabling practitioners. I ask the Minister in his reply to clarify the apparent different approach in regard to the proposed Irish legal terminology courses to be provided by the King's Inns and the Law Society.

It is clear that Fianna Fáil cannot bring itself to desist from the fundamentalist addiction to compulsion as regards the Irish language whatever the context or however inappropriate is compulsion in that context. This is the mind set which maintains that compulsion always comes before the Irish language in the order of things. This flawed perception has led the Minister to this legislative fudge but like all such fudges, trying to please everybody often pleases nobody. The right action is to remove the compulsion and by all means have both courses, but only for those who want to do them. This is best both for the law and for the Irish language. The 1929 Act established a system which has been in place for nearly 80 years but however well-intentioned were its parliamentary advocates, essentially the Act has failed.

In preparation for this debate I looked up the meaning of the word "attend" in theOxford English Dictionary as its meaning needs to be well clarified in the legislation. It is described as, “to present oneself for the purpose of taking some part in the proceedings at a meeting for business, worship, instruction, entertainment”.

Why move from a pointless compulsory test to an even more pointless compulsory course? If only the physical presence of students is required, pity the instructor who has to face the sullen ranks of the bored, the uninterested, the uncaring and the jokers, who have no reason to learn. Such a scheme only serves to confirm the view that some advocates of compulsory Irish are more in favour of compulsion than of Irish. If people profess to love the Irish language why do they wish to alienate the majority of students by forcing them to present at a course which they and their instructors know to be pointless?

It is long since time to move on, not least in these rapidly changing times in Ireland.

I wish to share time with Deputy Power.

I was interested in the points made by Deputy O'Shea and I will return to them presently.

This Bill is to allow for the provision of services in a bilingual State in which there are two constitutional languages which are the two official languages. We should not lose sight of the fact that if we have a State with two official languages and if the various arms of the State, including the courts, are to operate in those two languages, it is reasonable to make provision that there will be people competent to provide services in either of the official languages. It is taken as given that anybody practising within the State would have to be competent in one of those official languages at least to be effective. For instance, a monoglot French or German speaker, no matter what knowledge they had of Irish law, would not be perceived as being competent to operate within the Irish courts system. However, it is also taken as given that the majority of people who seek to practise at the Irish Bar, or who operate as solicitors within this jurisdiction, would have knowledge of the English language. What is not equally obvious is that there is also a need to ensure that there are people competent to conduct court cases in the first official language and who will be readily available to the public. The nub of the issue is to provide for that service.

I have held an opinion for many years — people in the Irish language movement disagree with me on this point — that shadow rather than substance should be done away with. I have no major difficulty in saying that the current examination in ordinary Irish, which to my knowledge, served no purpose and was of such a low standard that it did not mean anything in terms of competency should be done away with. This is what is being proposed in this Bill.

On the other hand, if I as an Irish speaker wish to do my business with a solicitor or if my case requires a barrister, I should be able to access a list of accredited practitioners who are genuinely competent to conduct business through the Irish language and this is what the Bill sets out to provide. The first challenge is to ensure that those who pass the examination at the end of that voluntary course are competent to do business through the Irish language.

It must be ensured that anybody on that register is of sufficient standard as in the similar system applied in the accreditation of translators by Foras na Gaeilge. The register is meaningless, just as the current register which shows every qualified barrister and solicitor as being qualified in Irish is completely meaningless, unless the standard is high enough to deliver on the reality.

As Deputy O'Shea said, a large number of solicitors are competent to do business through the Irish language. Some of them acquired the language through the education system while others had Irish as their home language. I know solicitors and barristers with whom I never speak English. It is reasonable that those people and others qualified like them, would be on a register and easily accessible to the public. Many other things could then flow from this arrangement. For example, the courts service could in the future decide as part of its language plan to ensure that people with this level of competency would be appointed as District Court justices in areas which include Gaeltacht areas.

For the first time there would be an objective measure at a reasonable standard by which one could make that judgment and be fair, independent and objective. As the situation currently stands if one wishes to appoint a District Court justice with a competency in Irish there is no ready and objective measure as to whether the person has Irish to satisfy the requirement.

The accreditation issue is very important as is the idea of having a high standard of Irish and having a real measure of that standard. It is important to do away with an examination that from all the reports both from the King's Inns and the Law Society does not test the competency to do anything in Irish.

Deputy O'Shea raised the issue as to why one would have to sit a course in legal terminology and he also referred to students being bored. When I was studying science years ago in UCD, a requirement for doing an honours degree in science was to study some French or German and learn enough of those languages to be able to read scientific texts. That may not be very important in the modern world but that is the way it was. Nobody ever said it was compulsory to know German or French to become a scientist in UCD. The standard was not very high but it was a mandatory requirement and one could not get the degree without it.

Terminology is a valid issue. Solicitors in particular are people of first instance. In other words, a solicitor in one practice can send a document in Irish to another solicitor with a heading "Urghaire Cúirte", or better still, "Urghaire Ard-Chúirte". It would be fairly basic legal and customer service that one would immediately know that an urghaire is an injunction and the Ard-Chúirt is the High Court, and that one had better get somebody fast to read the document and find out what the hell was going on and who was coming at one on behalf of one's client.

It is a reasonable premise for a legal practitioner to have a knowledge of basic legal terminology in Irish, especially in the case of solicitors because that is where notification goes in the first instance. Barristers are slightly different because I understand solicitors usually choose barristers. It is appropriate that part of the course of becoming a solicitor in the State would involve learning basic terminology in Irish so that documentation would trigger certain warnings, or a solicitor would be aware that a certain document was simply a notice of information. It is important that solicitors would be able to get the gist of what the correspondence concerned before looking for somebody to translate it. It will not be necessary for a solicitor to deal with a case in Irish. One will not have to solve the problem but be capable of knowing the gravity of the issue confronting one. A solicitor has no choice over the official language in which a document will arrive at his or her office.

I do not buy the argument about compulsion in the manner outlined by Deputy O'Shea. I have been clear about this. I see no point in a compulsory exam that is meaningless and provides no practical end. However, I see merit in saying that an intrinsic part of a course within this State provides for many different things. As far as I know, if one does a course in law, it includes mandatory areas of study such as financial law, corporate law, tort etc. My colleague opposite, Deputy Charlie Flanagan, would know more about what one has to study. There are parts of the course one might never use in a day-to-day family practice. Likewise, if one specialises in an area of corporate law, one might never use the information about family courts. People learn many different things on university courses and in other third level institutions that are mandatory parts of courses even though they may never have recourse to this information in their working lives.

It is reasonable that a course in basic terminology in the Irish language would be mandatory because it would serve a useful purpose. A knowledge of basic legal terminology would be more pertinent than Jimín Mháire Thaidhg or Peig Sayers bhocht. What has been examined by my colleague, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy Brian Lenihan, and what has been discussed with my Department is what would serve our purpose within the construction of this State as a bilingual one in which people have two official languages, the first official language being Irish and the second official language being English, and what would provide the maximum service to the public. It is as simple as that.

Deputy O'Shea has raised many technical issues. No doubt there will be a comprehensive and detailed Committee Stage on this Bill and my colleague Minister, Deputy Brian Lenihan, will listen to all the suggestions made. If there are drafting flaws in the Bill they will be addressed. All Ministers are open to improving legislation by clarifying issues that are brought to their attention. Let us trash out any problems on Committee Stage and examine the fine print. It is easy to make mistakes in drafting legislation, which is complex at the best of times. I cannot give a judgment as I am not a barrister or solicitor but if issues arise in terms of the transition period or any other matter, they can be addressed on Committee Stage.

Is dóigh liom go mbeadh sé chomh maith dom cúpla rud a rá i nGaeilge. Tá mé cinnte go mbeidh an-spéis ag na meáin Ghaeilge sa cheist seo. Sílim go bhfuil sé fíor-thábhachtach, agus muid ag dul ar aghaidh anseo, go bhfaighmis réidh le rud nach bhfuil ciall leis. Tá mé ag caint mar gheall ar rud a chuireann olc ar dhaoine, rud nach bhfuil feidhm mór leis ó thaobh seirbhísí de. Ba cheart dúinn rud eile a chur ina áit as a mbeadh feidhm agus tairbhe, agus a chiallódh go mbeadh deis ag níos mó daoine úsáid a bhaint as an Ghaeilge i seirbhís na cúirte.

Ar ndóigh, aon uair a ndéanaim athrú bíonn daoine i mo dhiaidh. Níl aon amhras sa gcás seo go mbeidh daoine a rá go bhfuilimid ag fáil réidh le sean-dualgas a bhí ar dhaoine le fada — bhí ar gach abhcóid agus gach aturnae sa tír Gaeilge a bheith acu. B'fhéidir go bhfuil fírinne éigin sa scéal sin ar pháipéar, ach níl fírinne dá laghad ann go praiticiúil. Is é mo thuiscint ná nach gcaithfidh na daoine a dhéanann na scrúdaithe seo mórán Ghaeilge a bheith acu go minic chun pas a fháil. Chuala mé é sin ó dhaoine a rinne na scrúdaithe. Bhí an ceart ag an Teachta Ó Sé nuair a dúirt sé go bhfuil sé thar a bheith spéisiúil nach dúirt ach 68% de na abhcóidí agus aturnaetha go bhfuil Gaeilge acu sa daonáireamh a bhí ann le gairid. Taispeánann sé sin nach bhfuil mórán céille leis an leagan amach atá ann i láthair na huaire.

Ar an dtaobh eile den scéal, dá mbeadh mise maidin amárach ag iarraidh abhcóide nó aturnae le Gaeilge a fháil le ionadaíocht a dhéanamh ar mo shon, ní bheadh aon áit oifigiúil ann ina bhféadfainn dul ar tóraíocht lena leithéid sin a fháil. Is laige uafásach é sin. Mar is eol do na Teachtaí, dá mbéinn ag iarraidh aistritheoir Gaeilge a fháil, de réir an socrú a rinneamar le Fhoras na Gaeilge, bhéinn in ann fhéachaint ar liosta na n-aistritheoirí cáilithe. D'fhéadfainn a bheith cinnte go bhfuil chuile dhuine acu siúd in ann an obair a dhéanamh ar ard-chaighdeán. Níl a leithéid de liosta ann sa chás seo. Níl aon chóras ann i láthair na huaire chun liosta de abhcóidí agus aturnaetha le Gaeilge a chruthú. Ar ndóigh, soláthróidh an Bille seo a leithéid de liosta agus cinnteoidh sé go mbeidh aturnaetha agus abhcóidí ar an liosta a bhfuil in ann, i ndáiríre, obair a dhéanamh trí Ghaeilge.

Tá a fhios agam go bhfuil cúpla aturnae i mo dháilcheantar fhéin a bhfuil cáilíochtaí Ghaeilge acu. Bíonn a lán daoine, go mórmhór pobal na Gaeltachta, ar tóir na dlíodóirí úd. Ní hé nach bhfuil Béarla ag pobal na Gaeltachta, ach go bhfuileadar níos compórdaí ag plé le daoine ina dteanga dúchais. Tá sé sin faighte amach agam fhéin, mar Theachta Dála don dúiche. Creideann daoine gur chóir go mbeidís in ann idirghabháil a dhéanamh leis an aturnae agus leis an Stáit trína rogha de theanga oifigiúil. Mar sin, dá mhéad de na daoine seo a bheidh cáilithe — dá mhéad caighdeán a bhainfidh leo — is fearr a mbeimid. Tá an saol ag éirí níos casta, ar ndóigh, ach tá saol na Gaeilge ag éirí níos foirfe freisin, buíochas le Dia.

Bíonn comhairle dlí á lorg go minic ag Raidió na Gaeltachta, TG4, Údarás na Gaeltachta agus dreamanna eile nach iad. Tá go leor eagraíochtaí, ar nós corparáidí, na chomharchumainn agus Meitheal Forbartha na Gaeltachta Teoranta, ag feidhmiú trí Ghaeilge faoi láthair. Tá cuid acu taobh amuigh den Ghaeltacht. Bíonn siad ag lorg comhairle maidir le cúrsaí corparáideach nó dlí airgid, mar shampla. Tá siad ar bior chun go mbeidh daoine ar nós saineolaithe ar fáil trí Ghaeilge. Táimid ag trácht faoi na réimsí sin dlí, fiú. Nuair a bheidh na liostaí seo againn, beidh na eagraíochtaí ar fad in ann tarraingt ar na liostaí seo chun a dhéanamh cinnte go bhfuil siad in ann teacht ar na saineolaithe is fearr le Ghaeilge.

Tá mé thar a bheith muiníneach go mbeidh dóthain abhcóidí agus aturnaetha, le togha na gcáilíochtaí agus togha na Gaeilge, ar fáil chun seirbhís oiriúnach a chuir ar fáil. Mar a dúirt mé i mBéarla, creidim gur cheart go mbeadh ar chuile aturnae, go mórmhór, ach abhcóidí freisin, buntuiscint a bheith acu ar bunthéarmaí dlí i nGaeilge. Ligfidh mé le mo chomhghleacaí, an Teachta Peadar de Paor, cúpla focal a rá.

I thank the Minister for sharing time.

The context of this debate, as we all know, is the constitutional right to have one's case dealt with and to obtain legal advice through Irish. At all times the debate should be about how we enable citizens, clients and solicitors, to vindicate that right. While I commend Deputy O'Shea for his interest and the manner in which he has promoted this matter, I suggest to him that compulsion is not the way to do it. Competency is the issue. The ability of solicitors to discharge their obligations to their clients and allow citizens to vindicate their right in a competent way should be the issue.

That was provided for in the Labour Party's Bill.

I accept that we share a common objective, but how do we go about achieving it? As we all know, the existing legislative framework fails citizens dismally in that respect in that it places the obligation on the Chief Justice to make the judgment call as to who is competent to discharge their functions in court. That is wholly unsatisfactory. Effectively, what we had for many years was a fiction where thousands of solicitors were admitted to the roll seemingly competent to discharge their functions as Gaeilge in such a way as to allow people to vindicate their rights. Obviously, that did not work. We must recognise the failings of the current framework and see how best we can solve the problem. The framework set out in the Bill which provides for a smaller number but with enhanced capability is the way to proceed in this respect. That is why I say the issue is competency, not compulsion. It is about vindicating one's constitutional rights rather than whether it should be compulsory to have Irish. It is inconsistent to have a constitutional right and not to provide for an element of compulsion. The logical conclusion is that, ultimately, possibly many years down the line, there will be few, if any, who will be competent to discharge their functions. Therefore, there must be a provision to safeguards the rights of citizens.

While there are many points I would like to make on the Bill, I highlight one matter on which I agree with Deputy O'Shea and the Minister, Deputy Ó Cuív. It is vital that information on access to persons who are competent in this area is openly accessible. There should be a provision in the Bill, whereby the societies involved, whether it be the King's Inns or the Law Society, would have an obligation to promote the list and make it readily accessible to members of the public.

I will make one final point. I have not gone through the Bill in detail, but I wonder what oversight or audit there would be of the relevant institutions to ensure they are discharging their obligations under the Bill. I do not know whether this would amount to a statutory duty or merely a requirement on societies to provide such courses, but who would state they are run to a satisfactory standard?

Those are the issues we should be discussing. No doubt we will have plenty of opportunities to discuss them on Committee Stage. I commend the Bill to the House.

Tá spéis agam sa cheist deiridh a d'ardaigh an Teachta de Paor. An mbeidh ar na dlíodóirí atá ann faoi láthair, agus atá ag cleachtadh go líofa trí Ghaeilge, scrúdú a dhéanamh chun áit a bhaint amach ar liosta Óstaí an Rí nó a leithéid? B'fhéidir go mbeimid in ann freagra a fháil ar ceisteanna den chineál sin ar Chéim an Choiste. Is trua liom go bhfuil an Bille os comhair an Tí sa bealach seo. Cé nach raibh mé sásta leis an mBille a chuir an Teachta Ó Sé chun cinn — dúirt mé é sin ag an am — measaim nach bhfuil sa reachtaíocht seo ach an Bille sin ar ais arís agus beagáinín scamall caite timpeall air. Is é atá i gceist ná deireadh a chur leis an riachtanas Gaeilge go huile is go hiomlán, ach amháin go mbeidh cúrsa áit éigin ann, ar a mbeidh ar gach éinne freastal gan aon scrúdú ag an deireadh. Cad is fiú cúrsa riachtanach a bhunú, muna mbeidh ar na daoine a freastalóidh ar an gcúrsa aon rud a dhéanamh? Beidh siad in ann dul a chodladh ar chúl an ranga. Ní bheidh siad ar a thástáil sa chúrsa úd. Ní gá dóibh siúd a mbeidh i mbun staidéir ó thaobh céime abhcóide no dlí de freastal ar an gcúrsa teagaisc i dtéarmaíocht dlíthiúil. Ní fiú an córas atá luaite sa Bhille seo muna bhfuil riachtanas den shórt sin ann.

Measaim gur chóir dúinn déanamh cinnte de go rachfaimid ar a mhalairt de threo. Tá an ceart ag mórán de na Teachtaí a labhair romhaim. Ní raibh mé anseo mar go raibh mé i gcruinnithe don chuid is mó den am. Aontaím nach bhfuil ag éirí leis an gcóras atá ann faoi láthair. Ní éiróidh leis an gcóras nua, áfach, muna bhfuil riachtanas ann. B'fhéidir go gcuirfí duine nó dhó atá báúil don teanga ar an liosta gach bliain. Tá seans ann go ndéanfaidh daoine áirithe cinneadh gur féidir leo slí beatha a dhéanamh trí díriú isteach ar píosa beag éigin den dlí agus a ghnó a dhéanamh sa chaoi sin. Ba cuma sa tsioc leis an gcuid is mó de na dlíodóirí eile. In ionad fáil réidh leis an riachtanas, ba chóir dúinn an córas atá ann faoi láthair a feabhsú ionas gur féidir leis na mic léinn dlí, in Óstaí an Rí agus sa Dlí-Chumann, tairbhe níos fearr a bhaint amach. Ba cheart go mbeadh orthu cúrsa a dhéanamh, bunaithe ar an méid atá sa Bhille seo, chun a léiriú go bhfuil líofacht éigin acu maidir le téarmaí dlíthiúil Ghaeilge, go dtuigeann siad an córas agus go n-athníonn siad an seasamh ceart atá ag an teanga oifigiúil sa Stáit. Ba chóir go mbeadh sé soiléir go dtuigeann siad cúrsaí dlí i nGaeilge.

Os rud é go bhfuil sé sin i gceist agam, cuirfidh mé leasuithe chun cinn ar Chéim an Choiste chun a dhéanamh cinnte de go mbeidh níos mó tairbhe agus cumhacht ag baint leis an chóras atá ann faoi láthair. Ba cheart dúinn mion-athruithe a dhéanamh ar an scrúdú atá ann. Mar shampla, bheadh sé níos fearr an scrúdú a eagrú ag deireadh an cúrsa dlí ná ag an dtosach. Ba chóir go mbeadh mac léinn in ann an scrúdú a ath-shuí arís agus arís eile — ní bheidh sé ina dlíodóir idir an dá linn. B'fhéidir go gcuireadh an riachtanas seo leis an méid ama a chaitheann daoine ar an gcúrsa dlí. Tá sé tábhachtach go mbeidh stádas éigin, maidir le líofacht na Gaeilge agus tuiscint úsáid na teanga sa chóras dlí, sroichte acu. Chomh maith le sin, smaoineamh maith é go mbeadh caighdeán agus líofacht ar leith bainte amach ag dream den chóras dlí agus go mbeadh an caighdeán sin ar an leibhéal atá leagtha amach sa Bhille seo. Ba chóir go mbeadh an ceart acusan an Bille a chur chun cinn agus go mbeadh siad gafa le cúrsaí agus cásanna dlí trí Ghaeilge timpeall na tíre. Bheadh aitheantas sa mhéid sin don fhás ar an mhéid cásanna a thógtar trí Ghaeilge le blianta beaga anuas. Sa slí sin, bheadh muid in ann aitheantas cuí a thabhairt don Ghaeilge. Ní do thairbhe an Ghaeilge an Bille seo, mar níl aon rud ann a léiríonn dúinn conas a cuirfear chun cinn an Ghaeilge nó conas a bheidh níos mó Gaeilge sna cúirteanna agus sna tribunals amach anseo. Ní léir dom go mbeidh níos mó Gaeilge iontu. Dá mb'fhéidir le duine sin a thuiscint ón mBille, bheadh muid in ann a rá gur do thairbhe na Gaeilge an Bille.

Is trua go bhfuil an creimeadh seo ag tarlú arís. Diaidh ar ndiaidh, tá an Stát ag ligint don riachtanas i leith na Gaeilge imeacht ó ghach áit ina raibh sé. Tá an ceart ag daoine a deireann nach fiú riachtanas a bheith ann. Ní fiú tráithnín é an riachtanas sin. An fáth a raibh an riachtanas ann sa gcéad dul síos ná go raibh fís acu siúd a bhunaigh an Stát agus acusan a bhí ann roimhe sin. Chomh maith le sin, shíl siad go mbeadh an Ghaeilge curtha chun cinn chomh mór sin nach mbeadh gá ann a thuilleadh riachtanas a bheith againn. Is de bharr sin atá an riachtanas ann. Is dóigh liomsa go bhfuil gá fós leis, mar níl leibhéal labhartha na teanga againn ná leibhéal flúirse teanga sroichte againn. Is a mhalairt de threo atá muid imithe. Tá muid ag dul sa treo mícheart, agus sin an teachtaireacht a scaipfear leis na moltaí sa Bhille seo. An teachtaireacht a gheobhaidh daoine ná gur cuma sa tsioc leis an Stát faoi stadás na teanga.

Caithfimid cuimhne a bheith againn gur Stát dhátheangach muid. Tá, ar ndoigh, níos mó teangacha sa Stát ná mar a bhí riamh. Ó thaobh an Bhunreachta de, is ag an Ghaeilge agus an leagan Gaeilge de reachtaíocht atá tús áite, in ainneoin gur i mBéarla a scríobhadh an reachtaíocht sa chéad dul síos cuid mhór den am. Tiocfaidh mé ar ais chuige sin ar ball, mar is trua go mbíonn muid de gnáth ag déileáil le reachtaíocht i mBéarla. Inniu, áfach, tá reachtaíocht dhátheangach ós ár gcomhair. Is maith an rud é sin.

An cuspóir atá ag an Stát — tá seo luaite sa Bhille — ná go mbeidh aitheantas sa reachtaíocht do pholasaí dhátheangach an Stáit. Cad is brí leis an bhfocal "aitheantas"? Is féidir linn ar fad "aitheantas" a bheith againn do polasaí an Stáit, ach ní chiallaíonn sin gur gá don Stát aon rud a dhéanamh. Níl aon airgead breise curtha ar fáil le haghaidh breis oibre ar son na Gaeilge. Dá bhrí sin, ní fiú tráithnín í an abairt sin a bheith sa reachtaíocht. Conas is féidir linn an stadás bunreachtúil a chosaint muna bhfuil breithimh, abhcóidí agus dlíodoirí againn a bhfuil ar a gcumas déileáil leis an mBunreacht trí Ghaeilge agus muna bhfuil tuiscint ceart acu do chéard atá ann agus sa reachtaíocht agus cibé áit eile dá shórt?

Níl mé míréasúnta sa mhéid atá á lorg agam. Tá mé sásta bogadh agus bím i gcónaí sásta sin a dhéanamh. Is gá infheistíocht níos mó a dhéanamh i gcúrsaí teanga, ionas gur féidir linn áiseanna cuí a chur ar fáil dóibh siúd atá ag gabháil leis an dlí sa chaoi go mbeidh líofacht nach beag acu. Ba chóir go mbeadh an meon céanna againn maidir leis an chóras Stáit ina iomlán. Bheadh sin ag luí leis an méid lena raibh muid ag tnúth de bharr Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla.

De réir an Bhunreachta, tá dualgas ar an Stát Achtanna an Oireachtais a fhoilsiú sa dhá theangacha oifigiúla. Freisin, i ndiaidh achtú Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla 2003 foilsítear reachtaíocht go comhuaineach sa teanga oifigiúl. Mar sin féin, is ag deireadh an phróisis a tharlaíonn sin seachas tús an phróisis, mar a dúirt mé cheana. Dá bhrí sin, d'fhéadfá leas a bhaint as leagan Gaeilge d'Acht, mar a tharlaíonn anois is arís sna cúirteanna. Is féidir sin a dhéanamh fiú i gcás ina bhfuil gach páirtí ag feidhmiú go huile agus go hiomlán trí mheán an Bhéarla, mar go bhfuil seasamh níos airde ag an leagan Gaeilge. Is gnáth cleachtas é sin in aon áit ina bhfuil reachtaíocht nó cáipéisí dlíthiúil dhátheangach ar fáil. Ní gá ach féachaint ar Ceanada nó an Aontas Eorpach le tuiscint conas mar a tharlaíonn a leithéid iontusan.

De thoradh gur ainmníodh Rialachán CE 920 2005 an Ghaeilge mar theanga oifigiúl oibre de chuid an Aontas Eorpach ar 1 Eanáir 2007, tá níos mó reachtaíocht Eorpach á fhoilsiú i nGaeilge faoi láthair. Dá bhrí sin, beidh gá níos géire go mbeidh níos mó daoine i measc siúd atá ag gabháil leis an chóras dlí in ann iad sin a thuiscint agus an Ghaeilge a úsáid.

Le blianta beaga anuas tá fás suntasach i líon na gcásanna dlí a dhéantar trí Ghaeilge sna cúirteanna. Is maith an rud é sin. Tharla sin agus an riachtanas againn. Tá athrú ag tarlú. B'fhéidir gur cóir dúinn fanacht go ceann cúpla blian eile, féachaint an bhfuil an athrú sin ag dul i méid agus go bhfuil níos mó spéise á léiriu ag abhcóidí, dlíodóirí agus an pobal i gcoitinne cásanna a thógaint trí Ghaeilge agus a cearta teanga a bheith acu sula n-athraíonn muid an riachtanas tríd an Bille seo.

De bharr an athrú agus an éileamh seo, bhunaigh Conradh na Gaeilge agus FLAC ionaid saora a thugann comhairle dlí i mBaile Átha Cliath agus i nGaillimh chun déileáil leis na cásanna seo. Ba chóir go mbeadh dlíodóirí anseo in ann téarmaí dlí ar nós ráiteas éilimh, fógra iarratais, mionscríbhinn, gearánaí, achomharc agus araile a thuiscint. Tá seo luaite sa Bille os ár gcomhair. Is cóir go mbeadh muid cinnte de go dtuigeann gach dlíodóir agus abhcóide na téarmaí seo agus nach gceapódh muid breitheamh amach anseo nach mbeadh tuiscint ar bith aige nó aici ar na téarmaí sin ná ar conas a reachtaítear cásanna dlí trí Ghaeilge.

Tarlaíonn sé cheana féin go gceaptar breithimh don Chúirt Dúiche sna ceantracha Gaeltachta nach bhfuil Gaeilge acu. Is scannal mór é sin. In áit a bheith ag déileáil leis an Bhille seo, ba chóir go mbeadh muid ag déíléail leis an fhadhb sin, is é sin, nach bhfuil cearta Gaeilge acu siúd a bhfuil cónaí orthu i gceantracha Gaeltachta, mar shampla, i dTír Chonaill. Bíonn an breitheamh ansin ag braith ar aistritheoir. Ní leor sin, mar i gcásanna mar seo ní oibríonn seirbhís aistriúcháin chomh maith agus is féidir. B'fhearr i bfhad dá mbeadh duine líofa ann le déileáil le cásanna mar seo. Maidir le héisteacht a bhaineann le rún idirbhreitheach, mar shampla rún le haghaidh breithiúnas i réamhshocrú cosanta, ar cheart go mbeadh ar an Stát íoc as aistritheoir chun a bheith ag cosaint ré i gceann seachtaine os comhair bhreithimh ar a chás dlí? Anuraidh, mar shampla, rinne dlíodóir Stáit gearán le breitheamh Cúirt Dúiche toisc gur labhair abhcóide le lucht na cúirte as Gaeilge. An gcreidfeá sin, go mbeadh dlíodóir Stáit ag gearán faoi dlíodóir eile ag úsáid Gaeilge? Ach thug an chúirt le fios go tapaidh go raibh ceart ag an dlíodóir an Ghaeilge a úsáid. Is trua gur tharla sin. Léiríonn an cás sin aineolas an dlíodóra Stáit, duine a chuaigh tríd an chóras. Is léir mar sin go bhfuil ag teip ar an chóras fé láthair. Tá gá le athrú, ach ní sa tslí atá á moladh ag an mBille seo.

Uair eile, bhagair breitheamh an príosún ar dlíodóir de bharr gur labhair sé leis an bhreitheamh i nGaeilge agus gur dhiúltaigh sé Béarla a labhairt sa chúirt. Níor réitíodh an fhadhb sin go dtí gur tháinig an dlíodóir ar ais le abhcóide sinsearach agus gur cuireadh an cás ar athló le ligint don breitheamh tarraingt siar mar nach raibh sé in ann déileáil trí Ghaeilge. Tá cás spéisiúl eile ar siúl faoi láthair agus súil againn le breithiúnas air ón Chúirt Uachtarach i mí Eanáir. Baineann an cás sin le duine a dúirt nach raibh an córas aistriúcháin sásúil agus go raibh sé ag lorg aistriúchán comhuaineach. Táim ag tnúth le toradh spéisiúl ar an chinneadh sin. Bhí tuairisc iFoinse na seachtaine seo caite ar an chás sin agus beidh impleachtaí amach anseo uaidh.

Sa chúrsa agus scrúdú Gaeilge atá faoi láthair in Ostaí an Rí, foghlaimíonn mic léinn téarmaí dlí nach raibh ar eolas acu cheana agus féachann siad ar cháipéisí áirithe don chéad uair, mar shampla, Billí sibhialta nó mionscríbhinní. Cuireann an scrúdu in iúl nach córas aonteangach é dlí-chóras na hÉireann. Tá sé i gceist go mbeidh scrúdú le caighdeán níos airde ann anois, ach rachaidh na mic léinn faoi scrúdú ar bhonn deonach. Ní aontaím le sin. Ní cóir go mbeadh rogha ann, seachas rogha scrúdú ard-chaighdeánach dóibh siúd atá sé i gceist acu amach anseo gabháil le dlí go huile agus go hiomlán trí Ghaeilge.

Má thógann muid san áireamh daoine atá cáilithe le tamall anuas, feiceann muid nach as Éirinn amháin dóibh. D'éirigh le duine ó Malaysia, duine ón Mheán-Oirthear, duine ó Shasana agus le roinnt daoine ó na Stáit Aontaithe sa scrúdú agus tá cuid acu ag obair trí Ghaeilge sa chóras dlí. Is léir uathu san gur féidir le daoine tabhairt faoi an choinníol atá ann fé láthair, ach an deis a thabhairt dóibh. Más gá, ba chóir infheistíocht breise a dhéanamh ann. Táim i gcoinne an Bhille seo agus iarraim ar Theachtaí eile tacú liom. A mhalairt de threo ba chóir go mbeadh muid ag dul.

Ba chóir go dtapódh muid an deis cúirteanna sa Ghaeltacht a reachtú go huile agus go hiomlán trí Ghaeilge. Táthar ag tarraingt siar fé láthair ar theorainneacha na Cúirte Dúiche, ach ba chóir go mbeadh na cúirteanna sin eagraithe trí Ghaeilge. Daoine atá ag lorg cúirte le Béarla, ba cheart dóibh dul go dtí an Gaillimh, Trá Lí nó áit éigin eile. Is ceart go mbeadh an Chúirt Dúiche i gceantracha Gaeltachta in ann feidhmniú go hiomlán trí Ghaeilge. Tá an deis ag an Aire é sin a chur i bhfeidhm agus é a phlé leis an reachtaíocht seo.

I welcome the opportunity to speak on the Legal Practitioners (Irish Language) Bill 2007. This is an important Bill as it allows us to discuss the broader issues of our native language, the legal profession, competencies, and the new changing Ireland with its many new languages and cultures. Respect for difference and diversity should be at the core of our discussions, but we also need to ensure that the Irish language and culture are protected and respected at all costs. There is no time for fudging on this issue. In the debate today I intend to focus on the legislation and the current Irish language requirements for barristers and solicitors.

Before we go into a detailed breakdown of the Bill, it is important to deal with the background. The Legal Practitioners (Irish Language) Bill 2007 repeals and replaces the existing statutory provisions of Irish language competence for barristers and solicitors. The Bill promotes better use of the Irish language by legal practitioners and the provision of legal services through Irish. I welcome this as it is a positive and constructive development. The Bill requires that King's Inns and the Law Society have regard to Government policy on bilingualism and take reasonable steps to ensure that an adequate number of barristers and solicitors are able to practice the law through the Irish language. The Bill also provides that these institutions should hold courses on Irish legal terminology and the understanding of legal texts in the Irish language to enable practitioners to identify the nature of the service being sought and, where appropriate, to facilitate a referral to a practitioner competent to provide the service through Irish. This is an important measure.

We spoke earlier about the development of the Irish language. It is important that we ensure that the opportunity is provided for people to learn the language in the community. There are some excellent examples of good practice around the country, in places such as Galway, Donegal and Kerry, which are making a massive contribution both to the Irish language and to the development of the tourism industry. I have visited Donegal a number of times and I found it interesting to see people from different countries learning the Irish language. I was amazed at what I saw at Oideas Gael in Glencolmcille. I commend the people directly involved in this, including Liam Ó Cuinneagáin, who are doing much valuable work for the development of the language.

Both King's Inns and the Law Society will also establish an advanced course on the practice of law through the Irish language as an optional subject in their professional training courses. These advanced courses will open doors to those who are not students but wish to obtain a competence enabling them to practise law through Irish. We must support people who want to ensure that Irish citizens and Irish language speakers are respected and their rights are protected. Examinations in the practice of law through Irish will be held at least once a year and only those persons who have undertaken the advanced course will be permitted to sit these exams. The names and contact details of the barristers and solicitors who pass the examinations will be entered on to a register published by King's Inns and the Law Society. Both bodies will be required to submit a report to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform on an annual basis on the operation of the new arrangements. This is important in terms of ensuring accountability and transparency.

The current Irish language requirements for barristers under the Legal Practitioners (Qualification) Act 1929 are as follows: "No person shall be admitted by the Chief Justice to practise as a barrister-at-law in [Irish courts] unless he satisfies the Chief Justice, by such evidence as the Chief Justice shall prescribe, that he possesses a competent knowledge of the Irish language". "Competent knowledge" is defined as "such a degree of oral and written proficiency in the use of the language as is sufficient to enable a legal practitioner efficiently to receive instructions, to advise clients, to examine witnesses and to follow proceedings in the Irish language". This is the basis of a complaint I receive regularly from constituents who are Irish language speakers. They need to be confident that they can meet legal people who can advise them in their native language. The obligation to ensure proficiency in Irish in the case of any barrister who wishes to be called to the Bar lies with the Chief Justice, but there is no requirement to include Irish as an optional or obligatory subject in the King's Inns barrister-at-law degree course. Any tuition or record of proficiency required is given outside the degree course and arranged so that the Chief Justice can fulfil his or her statutory function.

The 1929 Act applied to solicitors until 1954 when new arrangements were introduced in the Solicitors Act. To qualify for admission as a solicitor, the Law Society requires students under the 1954 Act to undertake two examinations in Irish. The first examination applies to persons seeking apprenticeships and the second applies to persons wishing to be admitted as solicitors. The important purpose of the second examination is to ensure that the persons who pass it have competent knowledge of the Irish language, that is, such a degree of oral and written proficiency in the use of the language as to enable a solicitor efficiently to receive instructions, advise clients, examine witnesses and follow proceedings in the Irish language. It is the same competency test used in the 1929 Act for barristers. It is important that we understand these issues in respect of this debate.

People have concerns and a number of organisations have raised issues. Many Deputies have received the two amendments submitted by Conradh na Gaeilge. The first amendment is to clarify whether the proposed terminology course will be accompanied by an examination. It states:

If no examination accompanies the subject, it shall command neither respect nor attention in the context of other subjects which shall require study and which it shall be necessary to pass. Furthermore, there is no provision in the Bill as it stands for persons who have passed the other examinations in King's Inns or the Law Society, but who have not as yet complied with the statutory Irish language requirement.

The second amendment relates to the provisions in respect of courts in the Gaeltacht. As should be the case, I have listened closely to friends and colleagues living in Gaeltacht areas. The amendment states:

At present, for the most part, English is the language of the courts in the Gaeltacht, which impacts negatively on the use of Irish in general there. Judges sitting in districts and on circuits containing Gaeltacht areas are usually not competent in Irish. At the same time, judges competent in Irish are in other districts and circuits. Gaeltacht cases are conducted at locations in the Gaeltacht or through English in the Gaeltacht itself, except in south Connemara. This situation does not accord with Government policy in relation to the fostering of Irish as the community language in the Gaeltacht. Much better that the Gaeltacht be an administrative unit administered through Irish by people interested in doing so. The District Courts are being restructured at present, in any event.

I support Conradh na Gaeilge in its concerns because we must accept that people who need a service delivered through Irish deserve such as a right. If we are discussing the protection of rights, this is an essential element. Everyone should consider the second amendment carefully because it is a sensible option. We must ensure that people who want to deal with court cases through Irish have their rights protected. This matter is an important part of the debate.

A number of constituents have contacted me with their concerns regarding the legislation's interpretation of, for example, sections 1(3)(a) and 1(3)(b) for students on the current degree course and in general. They are required to pay for and sit a statutory Irish language course run by King’s Inns before they sit Irish exams. If they sit the course and not the exam, do they fall within section 1(3)(a)? What would occur if they did not do the exam or course after the Bill has been passed? The Bill does not make that clear. Does it mean that, despite paying €12,500, sitting approximately 20 exams, attending in excess of 200 lectures and completing the countless hours of work already required, they will not be entitled to the degree of barrister-at-law? Does it mean that, despite being otherwise fully qualified and competent in the practice of law having completed the degree, they will not be entitled to be called to the Bar? My constituents deserve to be listened to in the broader debate. Sections 1(3)(a) and 1(3)(b) as drafted are unclear to some and add further complication for those trying to qualify into the profession. I would ask that this unnecessary barrier be examined by the insertion of section 2 of the Labour Party’s legal qualifications Bill, an interesting submission.

I am not 100% certain regarding the details of the issues, but I encourage people to listen to all of the concerns I have raised in today's debate. It is important to have them dealt with in a positive and constructive manner. I want to protect the integrity of the legal profession and to ensure the maximum support for Irish speakers. Due to certain cases, the legal profession has taken a hammering in recent weeks, but it is important that its members understand the questions of respect and trust involved in this issue. The majority provide an excellent service and get on with their lives, but we need strict regulations and supervisory authorities to ensure that trust between clients and solicitors or barristers is not damaged. Constituents, particularly brokers and those involved in the mortgage industry, have approached me with significant concerns about what is occurring in this sector of society. After the problems, it is important that the legal profession gets its act together to win back the public's trust. One cannot demand trust and expect people to give it. It must be earned.

As we are discussing the protection of people's rights, it is important to respect the rights of people with disabilities. In the past 24 hours, the Galway abuse report was published. Initiated seven years ago, it examined the standards in residential centres where young people with intellectual disabilities were abused, which was unacceptable because their rights must be protected. I raise this matter because there has been silence from many quarters. Considerable abuse took place in institutions, but the rights of the young children and adults with intellectual disabilities in question were not protected. It is important to speak out on this issue because the silence in recent days is sad.

I encourage people to consider raising national standards and the introduction of inspections of residential centres and community homes for children and adults with intellectual disabilities. I want to ensure the protection of the almost 400 children with disabilities in residential units and that what occurred in Galway will never recur. It was a horrific nightmare. It is difficult enough for the families of children and adults with intellectual disabilities to deal with the major issue itself, but we must speak out and action must be taken when cases of abuse show how vulnerable those young people are. I raise this matter in the context of the legal profession because it is important in today's debate on barristers and solicitors. I referred to civic responsibility and trust of the legal profession.

The Bill is to facilitate and promote the Irish language in our legal system. I am convinced that the Bill's provisions will lead to significant improvements in the teaching of Irish by King's Inns and the Law Society. I am hopeful that the Bill will better ensure that an adequate number of solicitors and barristers are available to provide legal services in Irish to any clients who require them. Supply and demand is the key issue we must address. If a different section of society demands barristers and solicitors who can use the language, we must be able to deal with it. This is the responsibility of all Members of the Oireachtas because we must ensure that the rights of people who want to speak Irish as their first language everyday are protected. They have a right to have their cases held in Irish, particularly in Gaeltacht areas where it is unacceptable that judges are not proficient in Irish and cannot deal with the cases locally. We must deal with that to ensure an adequate number of solicitors and barristers is available.

This is important legislation. The purpose of the Legal Practitioners (Irish Language) Bill is about promoting better use of the Irish language by legal practitioners and the provision of legal services through Irish. It is important that we deal with this issue and follow it up in a positive and constructive manner.

I welcome the idea of having an advanced course on the practise of law through the Irish language as an optional subject in professional training courses. That advanced course will be open to those who are not students but who wish to obtain a competence to enable them practise law through Irish. I am delighted there are people who want to get directly involved in these courses because they are important, particularly for those who have an interest in the issue and who want to serve their country in that way. That is important in respect of the legislation before the House.

We talk about people's rights in respect of the legal profession. There is a shift in society, and in this regard I commend the human rights lawyers, against those who raise human rights issues. It is important we are vigilant in terms of our legal standards, protecting human rights and justice issues generally because we must ensure all our citizens are protected and treated with respect. I link that to this debate because the Bill deals with legal practitioners. As I said earlier, we cannot allow particular people involved in the legal field to either rip off people or not respect other cultures and languages.

That leads me to the broader debate, which is important also. We have many foreign nationals living here and all the languages that involves is another area we should explore. If we are talking about respecting diversity and celebrating difference, we must respect that difference and if a person's first language is Irish or another language, we should explore that also.

I am aware there are people in minority communities in the State who have an interest in developing these services, including people from Poland, Nigeria, Latin America, Spain and Italy. They would be effective in advising those people and they should be supported. We should think outside the box in developing these services. We are debating the Irish language in the legal profession but we must be more creative when it comes to respecting minority religions in our own country. That is the way forward for a country such as ours. We must accept that we are a rapidly changing country. There has been a massive change even in the past nine or ten years but we must also manage that and be positive about it. If people break the law we should treat them the same way as we would treat others and let them suffer the full rigours of the law. Equally, we must ensure that people's rights are respected, particularly the rights of those from minority communities.

I raise these issues because there are many people doing valuable work in this area. Those of us not directly involved with the Irish language or Conradh na Gaeilge but who have many friends and colleagues in this area are aware of the magnificent work they do in developing the language. I commend them and take this opportunity to welcome the valuable work they do.

Our language and our culture is a key resource, both for us as a nation and also internationally. People come to Ireland because they want to see what Ireland is like. They do not come here and expect to see somewhere like Lanzarote. They come here for our language, our culture, our new way of life, the rain, our love of beautiful scenery in Kerry, Cork and particularly the very scenic spots in Dublin North Central, Clontarf and around the bay. I hope that bay will be protected for the next 20 years in the interests of tourism.

On the legislation, it is important that those in the legal profession listen to the people who are demanding their rights as citizens of this State. As legislators, we must ensure that we listen and respect the people who want to avail of the services of the courts and justice system through Irish. Solicitors and barristers should be able to advise people through Irish if that is their choice. It is about respecting choice. There is massive potential also with all the gaelscoilleanna being developed in Dublin and urban areas throughout the country. There is a future in that area for the professions involved.

I welcome some of the positive contributions to the debate. I hope some of the ideas I put forward will be accepted and I look forward to future debate.

Tá lúcháir orm deis a bheith agam cúpla focal a rá faoin mBille seo. Nílim chun a rá go bhfuil mé chun fáilte a chur roimhe, mar measaim go bhfuil sé easnamhach muna gcuirtear roinnt leasaithe leis ar Chéim an Choiste.

Is é an rud atá á dhéanamh i mBille na nDlí-Chleachtóirí (An Ghaeilge) 2007, ná go bhfuiltear ag tarraingt siar ar an riail a bhí ann i leith na Gaeilge ón bhliain 1929, Acht Lucht Chleachtuithe Dlí (Cáilíocht) 1929. Am an-thábachtach i stair na tíre a bhí ann sna fichidí, mar is san am sin a leagadh síos an rud ar a dtugaimid polasaí athbheochana na Gaeilge nó polasaí caomhnú na Gaeilge. Leagadh síos an polasaí ansin agus sna fichidí agus na tríochaidí bhí an Ghaeilge i gcónaí i gceartlár aon pholasaí, mar shampla an polasaí dlí ar a bhfuilimid ag caint inniu, polasaí oideachais agus polasaí slándála. Bhí an Ghaeilge i gceartlár gach polasaí a leagadh síos ar mhaithe leis an Ghaeilge a chur chun cinn.

Táim mar Bhall den Teach seo le tamall fada, le ceathrú céid, agus le linn an ama sin tá an chuid is mó de na hAchtanna a tugadh isteach ag leagan nó ag cur deireadh leis na polasaithe a leagadh síos. Mar shampla, roinnt blianta ó shoin tugadh isteach polasaí nach mbeadh sé riachtanach go mbeadh Gaeilge ag duine le dul isteach sa Státseirbhís. Go dtí sin, bhí sé riachtanach go mbeadh cumas agus eolas ar an Ghaeilge ag duine. Cuireadh deireadh leis an riail agus dúradh linn go mbeadh an Ghaeilge le fáil go forleathan ag éinne a raibh fonn air nó uirthi a ngnó a dhéanamh trí Ghaeilge leis an Státseirbhís, ach ní mar sin a tharla.

Nuair a chuaigh mise i mbun múinteoireachta cúpla scór blian ó shoin, bhí na ciorcláin go léir a tháinig ón Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta, is cuma cén pháirt den tír a raibh siad ag dul, i nGaeilge. Anois, tá mórchuid na gciorclán a thagann amach i mBéarla. Is cinnte mar sin go bhfuil cúlú siar mór i leith na Gaeilge chomh fada agus a bhaineann sé le oideachas. Arú anuraidh bhí mé sa Teach agus plé á dhéanamh ar cheann de na polasaithe a bhí i bhéim os na fichidí, is é sin, go mbeadh ar ghach duine a raibh post lán-aimseartha buan aige nó aici i gColáiste na hOllscoile, Gaillimh, an Ghaeilge agus scrúdú Gaeilge a bheith acu. Tá deireadh curtha le sin fosta.

Sampla eile, ó bhunaíodh An Garda Síochána sna fichidí, bhí sé de dhualgas ar ghach duine a rachadh isteach ann cumas agus eolas a bheith acu ar an Ghaeilge. Tá deireadh le sin freisin. D'fhéadfainn dul ar aghaidh, bliain i ndiaidh bliana agus Bille i ndiaidh Bhille le feiceáil go bhfuil na polasaithe seo a leagadh síos sna fichidí agus sna tríochaidí ar mhaithe le tacaíocht, cuidiú agus misneach a thabhairt do lucht na Gaeilge ag imeacht ceann i ndiaidh an chinn eile.

Ní féidir linn an locht a chur ar an Eoraip. Is muid féin atá á dhéanamh. Teastaíonn seo uainn féin. Chomh fada agus a bhaineann sé leis an Eoraip tá cinneadh againn le haghaidh bean, múinteoir a tháinig ó thír éigin san Eoraip a bhí i mbun múinteoireachta anseo — sílim gur múinteoir ealaíne a bhí inti. De bharr riachtanas na Gaeilge, ní raibh sí ábalta post buan a fháil mar nach raibh cumas Gaeilge aici. Chuaigh an cás sin go dtí an Ard Chúirt agus an Chúirt Uachtarach agus Cúirt na hEorpa, the Groener case. Dúirt Cúirt na hEorpa go raibh sé de lán-cheart ag an Stát anseo éileamh go mbeadh Gaeilge ag daoine a bhfuil postanna acu sa Státseirbhís. Ní shílim gur tháinig aon athrú ar sin ó shin. Níl an Bille seo á thabhairt isteach de bharr brú on Eoraip nó aon áit eile. Táimid á dhéanamh muid fhéin. Tá an Ghaeilge tábhachtach chomh fada agus a bhaineann sé le cúrsaí dlí. Tá nasc an-láidir agus an-docht idir cúrsaí dlí agus Bunreacht na tíre. Tá a fhios againn go n-úsáidtear dhá theanga go hoifigiúil sa Bhunreacht — an Ghaeilge agus an Béarla — agus go bhfuil tosaíocht ag an Ghaeilge ar an Bhéarla. Táimid ag súil go mbeadh eolas agus tuiscint ar an Ghaeilge ag daoine atá ag plé le cúrsaí dlí, ar nós abhcóidí, dlíodóirí agus breithimh. Baineann cúrsaí bunreachtúla leis an Ghaeilge go minic.

Ba mhaith liom breathnú siar beagáinín. I 1954, nuair a athraíodh an scrúdú a cuireadh in áit i 1929, bhí ar gach éinne é a dhéanamh agus tugadh aitheantas don Ghaeilge sa chaoi sin. Tá na Achtanna éagsúla á n-aisghairm anois sa reachtaíocht atá á phlé againn inniu. Ní aontaím go hoimlán leis an bplean seo. Caithfimid rud éigin a dhéanamh chun a bheith cinnte de go mbeidh daoine i ngach leibhéal den chóras dlí — dlíodóirí, abhcóidí, abhcóidí sinsearach agus breithimh — in ann a chuid gnó a dhéanamh trí Ghaeilge. Is iad na Gaeltachtaí na ceantair sa tír seo ina bhfuil an Ghaeilge mar phríomh-teanga. Tá suim san ábhar seo ag daoine taobh amuigh de na Gaeltachtaí freisin. Tá cumas Ghaeilge ag daoine a fhreastal ar na gaelscoileanna ar fud na tíre, mar shampla. Cé go bhfuil muintir na Gaeltachta speisialta, caithfimid smaoineamh ar na daoine taobh amuigh de na Gaeltachtaí fosta. Ba chóir dúinn deis a thabhairt do dhaoine a gcearta a chosaint, a gcás a dhéanamh trí Ghaeilge agus plé le dlíodóirí, abhcóidí agus breithimh a bhfuil an Ghaeilge acu.

Níl éinne sa tír, fiú amháin sa Ghaeltacht, nach dtuigeann Béarla. Tá an Ghaeltacht dhátheangach anois. Is féidir le muintir na Gaeltachta ar a bhfuil eolas agam an Béarla a labhairt go maith. É sin ráite, tá go leor daoine sna Gaeltachtaí, agus sa tír go ghinearálta, atá ábalta a gcás a dhéanamh níos líofa agus níos foirfe sa Ghaeilge ná sa Bhéarla. Bíonn muinín níos mó acu iontu fhéin nuair a bhíonn siad ag caint Ghaeilge. Má cuirtear brú ar dhaoine mar sin a gcás a dhéanamh trí Bhéarla, ní bheidh siad ag fáil cothrom na féinne. Ba chóir go mbeadh deis ag gach éinne a chás a dhéanamh sa teanga gur mian leo agus ina bhfuil siad compordach. Ní leor aistritheoirí a úsáid — caithfidh daoine a bheith abálta an Ghaeilge a úsáid.

Ba cheart dúinn breathnú go géar ar Chéim an Choiste ar cuid de na leasuithe atá molta le tamall anuas ag cuid de na heagraíochtaí Ghaeilge ar nós Conradh na Ghaeilge, a luaigh an Teachta MacCraith. Dúirt mo chomhleacaithe, na Teachtaí Ó Flannagáin agus Ó Rinn, gur chóir go mbeadh an cáilíocht Ghaeilge, ar a laghad, ag daoine ar nós dlíodóirí Stáit, breithimh agus cláraitheoirí contae, a bhfuil postanna údarásach agus dlíthiúil acu sa Ghaeltacht. Bheadh sé tábhachtach nuair atá oifigigh ag plé le daoine atá níos compordaí ag labhairt sa teanga atá acu — an Ghaeilge. Tuigim go n-eagróidh Cumann Onórach Ostaí an Rí an scrúdú nua — is mar sin a bheidh sé. Tá sé iontach tábhachtach go mbeidh caighdeán agus scrúdú ceart i gceist. Ba chóir go mbeidh sé ar a chumas ag éinne a gheobhaidh an scrúdú obair a dhéanamh ar son saoránaigh na tíre seo tríd an chéad teanga oifigiúil.

Mar a dúirt mé níos luaithe, tá mé imníoch faoin mBille mar a sheasann sé i láthair na huaire. Sílim go bhfuil sé easnamhach. Tá súil agam go mbeidh pé Aire a bheidh anseo ar Chéim an Choiste in ann dearcadh go fábharach ar na leasuithe a cuirfear chun tosaigh ón taobh seo den Teach. Tuigim go dtarlaíonn imeachtaí an chuid is mó de na cúirteanna i mo cheantar Ghaeltachta fhéin i mBéarla. Dar le formhór muintir na háite, ní bhfaighidh siad éisteacht ceart i nGaeilge — ní chóir go mbeadh sé mar sin. Ba chóir go mbeidís dóchasach gur féidir leo éisteacht ceart agus cothrom na féinne a fháil ina dteanga fhéin, cé mar a bhfaighdís in aon teanga eile. Ní tharlóidh sé sin muna bhfuil muinín acu go bhfuil daoine sásta agus ábalta éisteacht leo nuair a gcuireann siad a gcás go líofa ina dteanga fhéin.

Tá mé idir dhá chomhairle faoin mBille seo. Is dócha go bhfuilimid ag déileáil le prionsabail úr anois, chomh fada is a bhaineann sé leis an Ghaeilge — táimid ag iarraidh an Ghaeilge a dhéanamh deonach, in ionad éigeantach. Ní dhéanfaimid aon dul chun cinn muna bhfuilimid dáiríre. Más mian linn bheith dáiríre, caithfimid caighdeáin áirithe a chuir i bhfeidhm. Caithfidh an scrúdú a bheith neamhspleách. Tá súil agam, sna cúpla bliain amach romhainn, go mbeidh toradh níos fearr le feiceáil ar cuid de na rudaí eile atá tarlaithe. Tá an Ghaeilge mar theanga oifigiúil ar leibhéal na hEorpa i láthair na huaire. Tá Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla i bhfeidhm le roinnt bliana anuas. Níl aon maitheas ann na cearta sin a bheith againn muna bhfuil daoine ann chun freastal orainn agus na cearta a chuir ar fáil dúinn. Cé go bhfuil mé amhrasach faoin reachtaíocht seo, tá súil agam go nglacfaidh an Rialtas le cuid de na leasuithe a bheidh á moladh ar Chéim an Choiste, nuair a déanfaimid breathnú ar an mBille arís.

I wish to share time with Deputy Fitzpatrick.

I am glad to debate this important Bill and I will speak in English, if that is okay.

I went through the Law Society's two Irish examinations, one of which was preliminary and the other advanced. In both, I wrote a half-page essay on my summer's holidays and translated a half-page fromFiche Bliain ag Fás, one of ten passages repeatedly used in the examinations. The Law Society’s Irish examination has been a mockery of the language and its use within the legal system. It bears no relationship to the provision of legal services or defending or prosecuting cases in court.

We may argue that Irish is now a language of the EU but it has been the first and official language of the State in the Constitution. It is time action was taken in several spheres, particularly for legal practitioners. This Bill will have a practical effect in improving the lot of the Irish language and help those who wish to get legal advice through the medium of Irish.

There has been some debate about the merits of the similar Bill from the Labour Party. There have been many representations on both Bills. I have raised some of my concerns about the drafting of the Bill with the Minister. As Deputy McGinley said, there will be much to be discussed on Committee Stage. I will be glad to examine the amendments offered by Conradh na Gaeilge.

There is much pressure on us to rush this Bill through but it would be wrong to rush it, and I do not believe it will happen before the King's Inns examinations in January. Drafting issues arise, and I cannot see how there can be statutory requirements on people to have regard to Government policy when people really should have regard to the provisions of the Constitution, which makes Irish the first and official language of the State. The difference between the Government Bill and the Labour Party Bill is that the Government Bill promotes the Irish language and seeks to ensure it is available in courts, solicitors' offices and barristers' chambers. The Labour Party gives people the option of studying Irish but does not impose any obligations on the Law Society or the King's Inns to ensure that legal services can be provided in Irish.

Deputy McGinley's point about standards is important, especially when we consider what has passed as an Irish exam. The King's Inns and the Law Society should expect a high standard of practitioners who offer their services through Gaeilge. I am not aware of any facilities for the translation of terminology. These should be available. That so many documents are now translated into Irish is a great help and store of knowledge for anyone wishing to practise in Irish.

Many barristers and solicitors are competent in Irish whereas other barristers may be more competent in the Queen's English. People say that this is an arcane requirement but the Government and other parties are keen to promote the language. It is a matter of pride for the State to have its own language to invest in it and provide a legislative framework within which it can progress.

I wish to digress somewhat because I have been appointed to the board of management of Gaelscoil an Bhradán Feasa. Several solicitors are involved with it and we seek to promote the Irish language in our communities in East Meath which the school will serve as well as some south of Drogheda. Unfortunately, however, there is no planning permission for the Gaelscoil to place temporary accommodation on the site provided. An Bord Pleanála has postponed the decision but I will write asking it to speed that up.

Is this in the interests of educating the barristers and solicitors of the future?

This is very relevant.

Yes. It is important to promote the language at all levels of society. Several Members have mentioned the Gaelscoileanna because in non-Gaeltacht areas they are the future of the language. In my constituency there is also Baile Ghib, a small Gaeltacht community where several people are committed to the language. They do not have much choice among the solicitors in the county if they want their business transacted in Irish. As long as proper standards are maintained and the Law Society and the King's Inns take the language seriously the Bill will help people like those in Baile Ghib.

It is about time the King's Inns changed its name because this is an independent republic with a president and a parliamentary democracy. This may be a matter for Government if the King's Inns has a charter for its name. The name is old-fashioned and not suitable to a modern republic.

I support the thrust of the Bill but think that we need to discuss its individual provisions on Committee Stage. Meanwhile, I will make some suggestions on this to the Minister.

It is nice to follow Deputy Byrne who is well-qualified to speak on this issue because of his background in the legal profession.

The Bill requires that the King's Inns and the Law Society shall have regard to Government policy on bilingualism. These new arrangements will involve a significant improvement in the teaching of Irish by King's Inns and the Law Society and a much more effective way of achieving the Government's Irish language objectives. This Bill will provide for a significantly higher standard of proficiency in Irish in the legal profession than is delivered under existing statutory provisions, thereby ensuring that all persons wishing to exercise their constitutional right to use Irish in proceedings before the courts can do so.

The Bill requires the King's Inns and the Law Society to take reasonable steps to ensure that an adequate number of barristers and solicitors are able to practise the law through the Irish language and that they hold courses on Irish legal terminology and the understanding of legal texts in the Irish language to enable practitioners to identify the nature of the service being sought and, where appropriate, to facilitate a referral to a practitioner competent to provide a service through Irish. The King's Inns and the Law Society will also establish advanced courses on the practice of law through the Irish language as optional subjects in their professional training courses. This advanced course would be open to others who are not students but who wish to obtain competence enabling them to practice law through Irish.

Examinations in the practice of law through Irish will be held at least once a year and only those persons who have undertaken the advanced course will be permitted to sit the examinations. There will be an Irish language register of those solicitors who have chosen to undertake the additional new advanced course, passed a new examination in the practice of law through Irish and have been recognised as a solicitor competent to advise clients, prepare documents and conduct court proceedings in Irish. There will also be a register of competent barristers who have taken the new advanced course, in the practice of law through Irish, and are able to provide their services in Irish. Both bodies will be required to submit annual reports to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform on the operation of the new arrangements.

Commenting on the publication of the Bill, the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív said that "for many years, the passing of the tests specified in either the 1929 or 1954 Solicitors Acts did not signify an ability to carry out business through Irish". A member of the public will be able to consult any solicitor and barrister who has undertaken the new courses in legal terminology and the understanding of legal texts in the Irish language.

The two exams in place were in the Irish language generally and courses to prepare for exams were a private matter for the trainee solicitor. In future the solicitor with the basic level of competence in legal terminology in Irish will be able to recognise the type of services required and to refer his or her client to a solicitor registered as competent to provide legal services in Irish. The reality was that for many years, the passing of the tests specified in either the 1929 or 1954 Solicitors Acts did not signify an ability to carry out business through Irish. With the proposed changes in education and qualification, a number of practitioners will now be available who will be competent to conduct business in the courts through Irish. The keeping of a register of such qualified practitioners will facilitate ease of access by the practitioners and public alike to services through Irish, thus assisting implementation in practice of the provisions of the Official Languages Act 2003.

The Government published its statement on the Irish language in December 2006. The statement provides for the development of a 20 year strategy for the Irish language based on the objectives set out in it. It is intended that the Government's policy statement will be the foundation for practical action for supporting and promoting the Irish language, based on a modern approach and an integrated strategy.

The Government's policy is to increase awareness and use of the Irish language as a community language on a phased basis. Its specific aim is to ensure that as many of our citizens as possible are bilingual in Irish and English. The intention is not to displace the English language but to strengthen the Irish language. In many European countries, it is normal that people are bilingual and the vision for Ireland is similar, with both English and Irish being widely used on a daily basis throughout the country.

During the course of 2007, the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs has engaged in a public procurement process regarding the appointment of consultants to advise in respect of the strategy. This process is nearing completion and it is expected that consultants will be appointed by the end of the year. It is envisaged that the strategy will be completed by December 2008.

It is important to remember that much has been achieved with regard to the Irish language and in Gaeltacht areas in recent years. The Official Languages Act 2003 was passed by this Government to ensure Irish speakers are not compelled to abandon use of the language when availing of public services. Irish is now one of the official working languages of the EU and the number of Údarás na Gaeltachta supported jobs increased again in 2006.

A fund of €1 million was set up to support specialised third level courses through Irish and according to the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht affairs the number of students involved in such courses in 2006 was the largest ever.

Mná tí provide accommodation for Irish language students in the Gaeltacht and the grant for them was increased greatly. Tax relief was given on the income they receive for providing this accommodation and for the first time a larger grant was provided for students with disabilities.

Is cúis áthais dom an deis a bheith agam labhairt sa díospóireacht seo. Is onóir mór dúinn é a bheith anseo mar ionadaithe agus is pribhléid í a bheith tofa agus a bheith ina Bhall den Oireachtas, mar atá mé anois le cúig bliana fichead.

Tá spéis agam inár teanga náisiúnta oifigiúil, an Ghaeilge, mar is í an tseoid is luachmhaire atá againn. Teanga speisialta, phearsanta í an Ghaeilge don tír. Is cuid de mhór-roinn na hEorpa muid agus tá spéis mhór againn san Eoraip, ach is í ár dteanga agus ár gcultúr a léiríonn an difríocht idir muidne agus na tíortha eile san Eoraip.

Táimid anseo le plé a dhéanamh ar Bhille na nDlí-Chleachtóirí (An Ghaeilge) 2007. Ní maith an rud é gur gá dúinn Bille mar seo a phlé ná gur gá dúinn leasú a thabhairt isteach le haghaidh daoine proifisiúnta a bhíonn ag plé le dlí go lán-aimseartha ar fud na tíre. Cén fáth an bhfuil muid anseo nuair is féidir cáilíocht a bhaint amach sa Ghaeilge tríd an cúrsa oideachais nó tríd an scéim traenála don dlí? Cén fáth gur gá leasú a dhéanamh? Níl a fhios agamsa. B'fhéidir nach bhfuil spéis sa teanga ag na daoine seo. Más ea, ní maith sin don tír.

Tá dualgas orainn níos mó spéise a bheith againn sa teanga náisiúnta. Tá ár dlíodóirí ag plé le gnáth muintir na tíre lá i ndiaidh lae, seachtain i ndiaidh seachtaine inár gcúirteanna, ach tá sé soiléir anois nach bhfuil cáilíocht nó taithí sa Ghaeilge acu go léir. Tá fadhbanna ag baint leis na cúrsaí atá ar fáil faoi láthair agus níl mic léinn dlí in ann an caighdeán cuí a bhaint amach. Dá bhrí sin, tá orainn teacht isteach anseo agus athrú a dhéanamh sa reachtaíocht. Tá súil agam go dtiocfaidh leas agus maitheas as na hathruithe atá á dhéanamh againn. Iarraim ar an Rialtas liosta oifigiúil a fhoilsiú de dhlíodóirí agus abhcóidí ag a bhfuil taithí acu sa Ghaeilge agus a bhfuil in ann gnó a dhéanamh tríthi. Ba chóir go mbeadh an liosta sin ar fáil an bhliain seo chugainn do dhaoine a bhfuil fonn orthu gnó dlí a dhéanamh trí Ghaeilge.

Ba chóir dúinn béim níos láidre a chur ar an teanga sna Gaeltachtaí, inár gcoláistí agus inár scoileanna. Ba cheart dúinn freisin staidéar cruinn, beacht a dhéanamh ar ár chóras oideachais agus ar an scéim pointí. Ba mhaith an rud é dá mbeadh níos mó pointí le fáil chun daltaí a mhealladh a mbeadh suim láidir acu sa Ghaeilge agus fonn orthu staidéar a dhéanamh san oideachas, sa dlí nó in ábhar eile. Tá go leor airgead caite le blianta fada anuas ag an Rialtas ar chothú na Gaeilge. Níl sé ró-mhaith go bhfuil dualgas orainn teacht isteach anseo chun an athrú seo a dhéanamh ar an chaoi ina oibríonn dlíodóirí agus abhcóidí laistigh de scéim dleathach na tíre. Tá locht sa reachtaíocht nach bhfuil baint amach á dhéanamh go hiomlán. Is trua nach bhfuil daoine óga atá in ann an Ghaeilge a labhairt ag teacht isteach sa chóras dlí. Tá daoine óga le pearsanacht láidir, a úsáideann an Ghaeilge gach lá ina gcuid staidéir, a gcuid cainte agus a gcuid oibre, de dhíth orainn. Tá súil agam go ndéanfaidh an athrú seo an-mhaitheas don teanga. Cabhróidh sé linn an Ghaeilge a leathnú ar fud na tíre, go mórmhór sna háiteanna ina bhfuil seans ag daoine í a labhairt, mar shampla na hollscoileanna, na coláistí agus na cúirteanna. Tá dualgas ar pholaiteoirí agus daoine eile atá ag obair go lán-aimsirthe sna seirbhísí phoiblí, go háirithe sna cúirteanna, an Ghaeilge a úsáid. Mar shampla, nuair atá an chúirt as tosnú gach maidin, ba cheart don breitheamh atá i gceannas ar an gcúirt é a oscailt go hoifigiúil trí Ghaeilge. Ní mór dó ach cúpla abairt a úsáid. Is féidir leis an rud céanna a dhéanamh sa tráthnóna, nó pé uair a chríochníonn an chúirt don lá. Cuireadh abairt oifigiúil den sórt sin le leas na teanga. Taispeánfadh sé go bhfuil an Rialtas, an Oireachtas agus na seirbhísí phoiblí ag comhoibriú chun béim a chuir ar an gá atá ann tacaíocht níos mó a thabhairt don teanga.

Cé nach bhfuil formhór na ndaoine in ann an teanga a labhairt, tá spéis acu inti. Dá mbeadh seans acu í a labhairt, b'fhéidir go labhróidís í. Tá a lán gaelscoileanna ar fud na tíre. Sna laethanta maithe eacnamaíochta atá againn faoi láthair, tá an-spéis ag cuid mhaith tuismitheoirí i n-oideachais a gclann. Tugann siad seans dá páistí dul go dtí gaelscoileanna chun staidéar a dhéanamh ar an Ghaeilge. Tá a lán eagrais Ghaeilge sa tír, eagrais chultúrtha ina measc. Cé go bhfuil a lán daoine ag obair le chéile ar son an teanga, tá fadhbanna againn le labhairt na teanga. Níl sé sin go maith don tír, don teanga nó don chultúr. Iarraim ar gach éinne — an Aire, an Roinn Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta, na hAirí uilig, an Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta agus an Roinn Dlí agus Cirt, Comhionannais agus Athchóirithe Dlí — comhoibriú chun níos mó béim a chur ar an teanga ionas nach mbeidh ar Baill na Tithe seo teacht anseo arís sna blianta atá romhainn chun leasuithe eile den sórt seo a dhéanamh ar dlíthe na tíre.

Tá áthas orm cúpla focal a rá sa díospóireacht seo ar úsáid na Gaeilge sna cúirteanna. Caithfidh an Oireachtas iarracht níos mó a dhéanamh chun an Ghaeilge a úsáid. Ba chóir dúinn an teanga a labhairt i bhfad níos minicí sa Teach seo ná mar a dhéanaimid faoi láthair. Tugaim tacaíocht don Bhille seo, a chinnteoidh go n-úsáidfidh dlíodóirí agus breithimh ar fud na tíre an Ghaeilge i bhfad níos mó, go mórmhór sa Ghaeltacht. It is important that we support the Bill not only because of its implications for the use of the Irish language but also in view of a recent court case where a translation from English into Irish was queried and tested. In that instance, the interpretation of the translation by fíor gaelgóirí was successful and the case was withdrawn. There must be confidence in the courts process in terms of the use of Irish and associated translation services. It is important that judges, solicitors and others in the legal profession have no concerns in this regard.

We should not allow a situation such as that to develop again. When one reads the details, i nGaeilge agus i mBéarla, den toradh a bhí ar an gcás úd, it is a cause for concern that a case might be lost merely on the basis of one person's interpretation. There must be certainty about the proficiency of those working through the medium of Irish in the courts system. In counties Donegal, Kerry, Waterford and Meath, significant numbers may wish to deal with the courts through Irish. Most do so not because translation of transcripts might lead to confusion in terms of the interpretation or application of the law but because Irish is their spoken language. It is important that every facility is made available within the legal profession and through the education system to ensure court services can be delivered proficiently through the Irish language.

Many of us argue repeatedly that we should make greater use of Irish in the House. The services available to Members, if only we would avail of them, are first class in terms of assistance with terminology and so on. We would all have to put our hand on heart and say that unless we are cleachtaithe sa Ghaeilge, ní bheimid in ann í a labhairt go flúirseach sa Teach seo nó sa Seanad. It is important that every encouragement is given to modifying the rigidity of Irish language training at both primary and secondary level. Far greater emphasis should be placed on the spoken word. I am delighted the Minister for Education and Science has made some progress by allowing a greater proportion of marks in both junior and leaving certificate Irish for the oral component. There should be less emphasis on the strict presentation of the written word and the complicated grammar that most of us can recall learning.

In recent years there has been support at European level for the idea that ours should be a spoken, living language. Gaelscoileanna have played an enormous part in improving the accessibility of the language. Raidió na Gaeltachta and TG4 have done tremendous work. It is to be expected that both would facilitate the reportage of court proceedings through Irish. If there was a noted presence of Raidió na Gaeltachta and TG4, as well asFoinse, Lá Nua agus mar sin de, and they reported court cases more extensively, as they are done in local and national papers, it would be made more obvious to the courts that it is important we have greater emphasis on and certainty of Irish usage.

It is regrettable that despite our language being recognised as an official language of the EU, we do not have translators. It has been quite clearly stated there is a crisis in that regard in Brussels. That must be rectified if we are serious about the matter. If complaints can be made on that level and despite the fight taken on to get the language recognised as an official language in Europe, we must respond by making available personnel and support resources.

The legislation we are talking about today will not have a major cost, either within the Department of Education and Science or the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, but if we are serious about the language we must be seen to have a supportive and balanced response where needed. I welcome the provisions of the Bill and hope the courses made available will be successful.

We must overcome a problem regarding lawyers trained outside Ireland, such as those from Britain. It will be difficult for such people to gain proficiency in the Irish language but there should be a support mechanism for them to avoid positions where any part of the court procedures would take place trí Ghaeilge.

There should be standardised interpretation and translation of all phrases and terminology of the court system. On reading such a guide, one could wonder how there has been so much variation. I hope this Bill will eliminate such issues from any future court proceedings, and a court case will never again be thrown out because of variation in interpretation.

I am happy to make a brief contribution on this important Bill, the Legal Practitioners (Irish Language) Bill 2007. I am sensitive to a group of young people in the Gallery who are still attending school and very much involved in learning Irish. I absolutely enjoyed Irish at school but as I have aged, my Irish vocabulary has become rusty. I have tried to correct this recently, as other colleagues have, by going to the Irish language classes here. We are speaking about legal practitioners being encouraged so it would be good if the others were also encouraged. I would promote that idea as I am as rusty as anybody. It is important we make an effort in that regard.

I was impressed by Deputy Thomas Byrne speaking from a legal background. He pointed out that a good time to start with the Irish language is at a very young age, and he spoke about efforts in his constituency. I could talk about efforts in Dublin South-West and Tallaght, and in particular the Irish schools there. These include Scoil Santain, where my son Niall attended and Scoil Chaitlín Maude, which are doing a tremendous job. Not only are they teaching the language but they are helping the cultural revolution that is required in these modern times. Coláiste de hÍde, the second level Irish school in Tymon north, is also promoting that idea. I agree with the point, made by several speakers along with Deputy Byrne that we should not give up the fight to the Irish language message across. I admit I am not a practitioner, unfortunately, but I want to prove commitment to the language. In the context of this Bill it is a relevant point to make.

I listened to the debate earlier, including fine contributions by colleagues, including Deputy Brian O'Shea. He did not agree with everything said on the Government benches. It is also beneficial that the public sees us dealing with this type of business, which could be seen as somewhat routine. It is right for us to take it very seriously.

I hope when the media covers the topic it will not be buried. I will watch "Oireachtas Report" tonight, as I often do, and I hope this debate will get the level of attention I believe is necessary. I know the Minister of State, Deputy Pat The Cope Gallagher, would appreciate the point. I do not mean to speak on Tallaght much, but my local parish priest, Fr. Frank Herron, is from Donegal.

It should be noted that the Bill replaces existing statutory provisions for Irish language competence for barristers and solicitors and promotes, as has been noted by several speakers, the provision of legal services through Irish, as well as better use of the Irish language by legal practitioners. We know that under present arrangements there is no obligation for either the King's Inns or the Law Society to provide compulsory or optional courses in the Irish language for students undertaking either the barrister at law degree course or the professional practice course in the Law Society.

Deputy Thomas Byrne made the point that perhaps it is time, almost 100 years after we have gained independence, that the question of some of these phrases and names be considered. There may be traditionalists in the community who do not want this to happen but the Deputy made a fair point.

The Legal Practitioners (Qualification) Act 1929 provides that no person may be admitted by the Chief Justice to practise as a barrister at law in Irish courts unless he or she satisfies the Chief Justice by such evidence as the Chief Justice shall prescribe, that he or she possesses a competent knowledge of the Irish language. Competent knowledge is defined as such a degree of oral and written proficiency in the use of the language as is sufficient to enable a legal practitioner effectively receive instructions, advise clients or examine witnesses and follow proceedings in the Irish language.

The obligation to ensure proficiency in Irish in the case of any barrister who wishes to be called to the Bar lies with the Chief Justice but there is no requirement to include Irish as either an optional or obligatory subject to the King's Inns barrister at law degree course. Any tuition or record of proficiency required is given outside the degree course by King's Inns and arranged so that the Chief Justice can fulfil his or her statutory function.

The 1929 Act applied to solicitors until 1954, when new arrangements were introduced in the Solicitors Act of that year. To qualify for admission as a solicitor, the Act required that the Law Society compel students to undertake two examinations in the Irish language. The first examination applies to persons seeking an apprenticeship and the second applies to those who wish to be admitted as solicitors. The purpose of the second examination is to prove that persons who pass it have a competent knowledge of Irish. That is to say such a degree of oral and written proficiency in the use of the language as is sufficient to enable a solicitor to receive instructions efficiently and to advise clients, to examine witnesses and to follow proceedings in the Irish language. That is the same test as used in the 1929 Act for barristers.

I also share the view expressed by other colleagues about the new Ireland in which we find ourselves with the international community in our State. In my parish, the local school, St. Mark's, in my estate in Springfield has 1,000 pupils, 500 of whom come from 55 different states. Deputy Burke and others made the point that different challenges will come in the future. The Minister, Deputy Ó Cuív made that point strongly in his contribution. There will be challenges in the future where we are encouraging young people from Ireland but of international origin regarding these provisions. It will be interesting to see how that develops in time. The Minister, Deputy Ó Cuív, was right to make that point and I am glad that somebody of his stature did so. I expect it will give the Government and future governments food for thought. I wish them well in that regard because it will be a particularly difficult nettle to grasp if that is what it is.

The Bill requires King's Inns and the Law Society to have regard to Government policy on bilingualism and to take reasonable steps to ensure that an adequate number of barristers and solicitors are able to practise the law through the Irish language. The Bill requires King's Inns and the Law Society to provide for courses of study and the establishment of registers by them recording details of practitioners who are able to provide legal services in Irish. This week I had intended to contact various solicitors' practices in my constituency to gauge their response to the Bill. However, because of other business, I found myself, as others do as we approach Christmas, snowed under. However, I intend to seek out all the solicitors in my constituency, all of whom I know, to ascertain how they feel about this provision. I intend to research what level of use of the Irish language is present in all those practices. I suspect it is not just in my constituency that the levels are low. I know in the Minister of State's county of Donegal there would be no problem in finding a solicitor able to deal as Gaeilge. However, I suspect in many other areas, including Waterford and certainly around the Dublin region, there may be challenges and gaps in that regard.

The Bill provides that King's Inns and the Law Society hold courses on Irish language terminology and the understanding of legal texts in the Irish language to enable practitioners to identify the nature of the service being sought and, where appropriate, to facilitate a referral to a practitioner competent to provide the service through Irish. All King's Inns students and the Law Society trainees will be required to complete these courses, which I welcome. King's Inns and the Law Society will also establish an advanced course on the practice of law through the Irish language as an optional subject in their professional training courses. This advanced course would be open to others who are not students but who wish to obtain a competence enabling them to practise law through the Irish language.

Examinations in the practice of law through Irish will be held at least once a year and only those persons who have undertaken the advanced course will be permitted to sit all those examinations. The name and contact details of barristers and solicitors who pass the examinations will be entered on registers established and published by King's Inns and the Law Society. Both bodies will be required to submit an annual report to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform on the operation of the new arrangements. In mentioning the Minister, I am sorry he is not here. Like other colleagues, I was sorry to hear of his bereavement and I offer my condolences to his family.

The new arrangements will involve a significant improvement in the teaching of Irish by King's Inns and the Law Society, and will represent a much more effective way of achieving the Government's Irish language objectives. The Bill will provide for a level of proficiency in Irish in the legal profession of a significantly higher standard than is being delivered under existing statutory provisions. It is hoped that all persons wishing to avail of their constitutional right to use Irish in proceedings before the courts can of course do so, which will have considerable support across the House. For many years the passing of the test as specified in the 1929 Act or the 1954 Act did not signify an ability to carry out business through the Irish language. It is clear that the objectives of the existing statutory requirements are not being met. Not all solicitors and barristers are capable of conducting the full range of legal business through the Irish language.

Even those of us who admit to rustiness in the use of the Irish language understand the need for this legislation, which deserves good debate. I have listened to most of today's speeches and there is clearly considerable agreement across the House. It is good to hear that that agreement will be put into force. The Minister should note that many will feel that the Bill should pass as quickly as possible. In this case it will be referred to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women's Rights, under the chairmanship of Deputy Peter Power. I know colleagues will take the opportunity to go through the different sections of the Bill line by line, which will be good. I hope that process will be expedited and we will get the opportunity of passing it into law as quickly as possible.

The Minister of State will know that there will be a job to be done by many people, starting with the legal profession, to promote the provisions of this Bill. We need to get the message across that people can and will have the opportunity to conduct their business through Irish. It is important for that to be seen as a voluntary exercise. I recently heard young people saying that they are not happy to have it forced down their throats. It should be given as an option. It is right that we should have an understanding of our language as we approach 100 years after independence.

This would be true in urban areas. People who want to do their business through the Irish language should not be seen as unusual, which is sometimes the case. Even when we get correspondence on different cases as Teachtaí Dála, that may be the reaction. However, it should be the most natural thing in the world for people, if they are competent to do so, to conduct all business through Irish. The Bill not only deals with the Irish language needs of the legal profession, but also sends out a positive message generally, which I know the Minister of State, more than most of us, would strongly support. I am very happy to support the Bill, which I commend to the House.

Ba mhaith liom mo bhuíochas a chur in iúl do na Teachtaí go léir ó ghach taobh a ghlac páirt sa díospóireacht fíor-thábhachtach seo ar Bille na nDlí-Chleachtóirí (An Ghaeilge) 2007. Labhair go leor acu i Ghaeilge agus cuirim fáilte roimhe sin.

Ardaíodh go leor pointí agus déanfaidh mé iarracht déileáil leo. Ar dtús, ba mhaith liom an deis seo a ghlacadh chun cur síos a dhéanamh ar bheartas an Rialtais i leith an dhátheangachais. Tá sé leagtha amach san ráiteas go n-ullmhófar stráitéis 20 blian, stráitéis meán-tréimhseach, don Gaeilge, bunaithe ar na spriocanna atá leagtha amach san ráiteas sin. Tá sé i gceist go mbeidh an ráiteas-beartas mar bunchloch le haghaidh obair phraiticiúil chun tacú le agus forbairt a dhéanamh ar an Ghaeilge, bunaithe ar chur chuige nua-aimseartha agus ar an stráitéis.

Is é beartas an Rialtas chomh maith, ná flúirseacht agus úsáid na Gaeilge mar theanga phobail a mhéadú ar bhonn céimithe. Is í an phríomh sprioc atá aige ná a cinntiú go mbeidh an oiread dár saoránaigh agus is féidir dhátheangach, le Gaeilge agus Béarla. Ó thaobh na Gaeilge de, tá go leor daoine a bhfuil Gaeilge acu, ach bíonn faitíos orthu uaireanta í a úsáid mar ceapann siad nach bhfuil caighdeán na Gaeilge atá acu maith go leor. Ní ceart go mbeadh an tuairim sin ag éinne. Ba cheart do duine ar bith a bhfuil Gaeilge aige nó aici, fiú amháin Gaeilge briste, í aúsáid.

Tá Éire mar chuid lárnach d'Aontas na hEorpa. Conas is féidir linn ár neamhspleáchas a thaispeáint san Eoraip? An t-aon dóigh gur féidir linn sin a dhéanamh ná trí an Ghaeilge agus ár gcultúr. Is deas an rud é go bhfuil daoine ag dul thar lear agus ag labhairt Gaeilge. Fiú muna bhfuil a fhios ag daoine eile céard atá á rá acu, faigheann siad teachtaireacht gur daoine ó Éirinn iad, tír a bhfuil an Ghaeilge acu mar teanga labhartha. An difear idir muidne agus tíortha eile ná go bhfuil siadsan, na Francaigh, na Gearmánaigh agus daoine ó ghach tír eile san Eoraip iontach mórtasach ó thaobh na teanga de. Ba cheart go mbeadh muidne mar an gcéanna. Tá an Ghaeilge aitheanta anois san Eoraip agus is féidir úsáid a bhaint aisti sa Pharlaimint, i gComhairle na nAirí agus sa Choimisiún. Fiú roimhe seo, bhí go leor de na téacsanna le fáil i Ghaeilge. Dá bhrí sin, is ceart go mbeidh ráiteas againn i leith na Gaeilge do 20 blian ar aghaidh nó mar sin.

Le linn na bliana seo, tá an Roinn Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta tar éis a bheith i mbun próisis poiblí le sain-chomhairleoirí a fhostú chun cuidiú leis an stráiteas seo a ullmhú. Tá an próiseas seo ag dul ar aghaidh agus ag teacht chun críche. Táthar ag súil go gceapfar na comhairleoirí faoi dheireadh na bliana seo. Táimid ag súil go mbeidh an stráiteas ullmhaithe roimh deireadh na bliana seo chugainn.

Tá riachtanas bunreachtúil i leith na Gaeilge, Airteagal 8 de Bhunreacht na hÉireann. Cuireann sin dualgas ar an Stát a cinntiú gur féidir le saoránaigh a gcearta bunreachtúla a aidhmiú chun an Ghaeilge a úsáid in imeachtaí os comhair na cúirteanna. Táimid ag iarraidh a dhéanamh cinnte de go mbeidh Gaeilge ag go leor dár abhcóidí agus aturnaetha agus go mbeidh cumas acu a gnó a dhéanamh sna cúirteanna. Ní amháin sin, ach go mbeidh siad in ann í a labhairt agus iad ag cur comhairle ar a gcliaint. De ghnáth, baineann na cásanna a ardaítear sa réimse dlí le heaspa cáipéis i nGaeilge.

Ní raibh aon chás go dtí seo inar theip ar duine ar mhian leis nó léi a chás a sheoladh trí Ghaeilge, cé go raibh easpa ionadaíochta agus daoine ann chun gnó a dhéanamh i nGaeilge sna cúirteanna. Anois tabharfar fealsúna agus casaoidí le thuiscint go ndeireann an Stát, na forleatha reachtúla reatha, teangairí a chur ar fáil. Beidh deiseanna i bhfad níos fearr ann do dhaoine anois. Is é atá á dhéanamh againn anseo, agus tá gach taobh den Teach ag tacaíocht leis, ná a cinntiú go mbeidh deiseanna ag daoine dul faoi na scrúduithe, tar éis páirt a ghlacadh sna cúrsaí a bheidh á chur ar fáil ag Ostaí an Rí.

D'ardaigh Teachtaí ceist faoi na cúirteanna sa Ghaeltacht. Tá foláireamh faoi alt 71 de Acht Cúirteanna Breithiúnais 1924, san méid gur féidir é gach ní a bhaineann leis an saol a chur san áireamh agus go mbeidh ar an bhreitheamh den Chúirt Dúiche, a ceapfar do dhúiche ina bhfuil Gaeilge á n-úsáid go ginearálta, oiread eolas ar an Ghaeilge a bheith aige nó aici chun bheith ar a chumas cás a threorú ó thaobh na teanga agus fianaise a thabairt as Ghaeilge.

Tá an Rialtas ar an eolas faoin gceangal sin agus tugann sé aird cuí air agus daoine á sheoladh chuig na dúichí sin. Más rud é, áfach, nach bhfuil breitheamh sách líofa sa Ghaeilge, d'fhéadfadh uachtarán na Cúirte Dúiche breitheamh inaistrithe a ainmniú chun an chás a éisteacht i nGaeilge. Is nithe a bhaineann le uachtarán na cúirte iad socraithe dáta na breithiúna inaistrithe. Ní cheart dom aon tagairt a dhéanamh do sin. Más mian le duine go ndéanfaí a chás a éisteacht i nGaeilge áit ar bith sa Stát, ní amháin sa Ghaeltacht, is féidir é sin a dhéanamh.

Ba mhaith liom labhairt faoi cheist ábaltacht na Ghaeilge a bheith ag breithimh, srl., atá ag feidhmiú sa Ghaeltacht. Aontaím le mo chomhghleacaí, an tAire, an Teachta Ó Cuív, gur féidir leis an Seirbhís Chúirteanna an cheist sin a chur san áireamh ina phlean teangan. Tá mé sásta go gceanglófar an breitheamh, an cláraitheoir, an cléireach cúirte agus foireann an Seirbhís Chúirteanna le dúichí nó limistéir áirithe Gaeltachta, cosúil le mo cheantar fhéin nó An Rinn i gContae Phort Láirge, cheantar an Teachta Ó Sé. Beidh sé fíor-dheacair muna bhfuil an bhreitheamh a suíonn i ndúiche ceangailte leis an áit sin. Ní bheidh an bhreitheamh in ann é sin a dhéanamh, sa mhéid gur féidir leis, muna bhfuil "pass" faighte sa scrúdú. D'fhéadfaí go mbeidh laghdú ar seirbhíse cúirte do lucht úsáidte. B'fhéidir go mbeidh moill ar iarradh cirt, mar thoradh ar sin. Ó thaobh bainistíocht achmhainní daonra de, beidh sé deacair oibleagáid reachtúil den sórt sin a chuir i bhfeidhm ar chláraitheoirí, cléirigh agus baill foirne eile de chuid an Seirbhís Chúirteanna. Cuireadh sé isteach ar solúbthacht an gcóras dlí, nuair atá foirne cúirte á aimniú agus á aistriú. Tá contúirt ann go mbeidh droch-tionchar ag easpa foirne, mar aon le moill líonadh folúntas, ar lucht úsáidte na cúirte.

Tá súil agam go mbeidh an leasú seo mar dlí chomh luath agus an bhliain seo chugainn. Tá súil agam go mbeidh cumas na Gaeilge ag go leor de na daoine óga a rachfaidh isteach mar printíseacha. Gheobhaidh siad an-chuidiú ó thaobh na Ghaeilge de. Beidh cúrsaí ar fáil acu, daoine a thagann ón Ghaeltacht ina measc. Ní gá bheith ón Ghaeltacht chun a bheith cumasach ó thaobh na Gaeilge de. Tá níos mó daoine ag labhairt Gaeilge i mBaile Átha Cliath ná sna Gaeltachtaí. Bhí an Teachta O'Connor ag caint mar gheall ar áiteanna faoi leith ar fud na tíre. Tá aithne agam ar go leor acadaimh agus aturnaetha sa chathair seo, agus a bhfuil ag déanamh a chuid gnó trí Ghaeilge, a bhfuil scoth na Gaeilge acu.

Beidh deis eile ag na Teachtaí an reachtaíocht seo a phlé ar Chéim an Choiste. Mar a dúirt an Teachta Ó Flannagáin, beidh deis ag Teachtaí na mion-sonraí a scrúdú sa choiste. Cuirim fáilte roimh an dul chun cinn ata déanta anseo inniu. Ba mhaith liom a chur in iúl don Teach go bhfuil dhá cúrsa i gceist — an chúrsa téarmaíocht dhlíthiúil agus an ard-chúrsa. Ar ndóigh, beidh sé mar dhualgas ar gach éinne an chúrsa téarmaíocht dhlíthiúil a dhéanamh, muna bhfuil an ard-chúrsa á dhéanamh acu.

Gabhaim buíochas le gach Teachta a ghlac páirt sa díospóireacht seo. Gabhaim leithscéal arís thar ceann an Aire — sílim go glacann gach éinne leis nach raibh sé ar chumas an Aire bheith i láthair. Ba mhaith liom mo bhuíochas a chuir in iúl le oifigigh an Roinn Dlí agus Cirt, Comhionannais agus Athchóirithe Dlí, as ucht an méid a rinne siad ag ullmhú an Bhille, ag cur gach rud le chéile agus ag cuidiú liomsa.

Question put and agreed to.