Ba mhaith liom cúpla focal a rá ar an mBille agus déanfaidh mé mo dhícheall cuid de a rá as Gaeilge agus an chuid eile trí Bhéarla.
I am delighted speak on this important legislation. It is incumbent on all of us sa Teach níos mó a dhéanamh chun an Ghaeilge a chur chun cinn i gcónaí. I am coming at it, having been here for the Bill the Minister introduced earlier this year an bhrostúil ar fad. I walked out of the Chamber on that occasion because of the haste with which that legislation was being put through. I honestly believe gur rud uafásach é legislation mar sin a bhrostú tríd an Oireachtas. The Minister will be aware of what I am talking about. I met Conradh na Gaeilge this morning, as I am sure did the Minister on many occasions. I often have interactions with it. In fact it had 66 amendments to that Bill agus ní raibh oiread agus ceann amháin that was listened to, accepted or discussed. Measaim go raibh 193 amendments ar fad ar an mBille sin agus níor tháinig oiread agus ceann amháin ar an úrlár anseo. That is very disappointing. I pay tribute to the limited staff of the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission who are here today and listening and ag déanamh a ndíchill chun an Bille a chur trí Ghaeilge. It is being glibly dealt with by this legislation, and it has been in the past under successive Governments.
The previous Government, under Deputy Ó Cuív, set up a working group, or study group - I am not sure of the ainm - and there were discussions with different parties invited, and some people failed to turn up or show interest. Is mór an trua é sin. We have to be serious about this. While we are in straitened times financially, if you take na rudaí a raibh an Teachta Ferris ag caint faoi, the people with disabilities, the cuts and the horrible austerity, I understand we have to be seen to be moderate in expenditure in putting translation in place. However, it behoves us to do it. It is our national language, an teanga, and we should have the proper capabilities, staff and facilities in the House to translate into our national language.
I was startled to find some figures today from the Department of Oideachas agus Scileanna. Cúpla bliain ó shin bhí 3% of daoine ag obair anseo, mná agus fir, ábalta an obair sin a dhéanamh. Anois, níl ach 1% atá ábalta an obair sin a dhéanamh. I am talking about the translation into Irish. That is a worrying fact, whether it is the result of retirements, redundancy schemes or whatever. If we are serious we have to ensure our public servants are able to translate Bills into Irish.
Bhí mé ag caint le fear ar maidin a thóg páirt sa choimisiún atá ag Uachtarán na hÉireann, Michael D. Higgins. He has a pretty large consultation taking place with young people. Measann gach duine go mbeidh jabanna nó airgead nó rud mar sin as the main topic of that consultation, but no. Cad a tharla? Suim sa Ghaeilge agus slite eile chun an Ghaeilge a fhoghlaim agus a mhúineadh ins na scoileanna is the topic that came to the top in the consultation process. I was talking to buachaill amháin a bhí ins an consultation sin. He told me that was the topic that emerged as of greatest interest to the people in the group. How they were selected níl a fhios agam, but they were on it and fair dues to them and I commend the Uachtarán as rud mar sin a dhéanamh. It was the change in this modern day of the teaching practices of Irish and better and easier ways of learning it that emerged as the interest. I am sure it was bright and intelligent people who were on this commission and it is amazing in these times that was the issue which arose. We should sit up and heed that, seas suas and cluasa a oscailt. In spite of all the student grants, fees and SUSI - I think Siobhán is the Gaeilge ar SUSI - and issues like that, this is the issue that arose. It is a healthy sign of our heritage, dúchas and language. I am delighted with rud mar sin and that we have that opportunity and that despite all the austerity and different issues go bhfuil suim ins an Ghaeilge, ins an teanga fós.
It behoves us here and the Department of Education and Skills, an Roinn Oideachais agus Scileanna, chun ár ndícheall a dhéanamh chun an Ghaeilge a chur chun cinn i gcónaí. We see now reform of local government, and many other reforms. The VECs are being disbanded. Ba mhaith liom cúpla focal comhghairdeachais a rá leis an VEC i dTiobrad Árainn Theas as an obair a rinne sé agus an adult education board which put ranganna Gaeilge on in many places over the years. A lot of good work was done by the VEC in all areas of adult education. They were the only people doing it.
Much good work was done by the VEC in all areas of education and in many cases, it was the only organisation doing it. Before this ever became an issue, the VEC staff were the people who did it and I must salute them and recognise this. The VECs now are being amalgamated into education boards and ní usáidtear aon fhocal Gaeilge in aon áit. There was not a word of Irish in the move or the changeover. Obviously, a lot of money will be spent in having a proper translation service in the Oireachtas, and rightly so, but the Departments of the State are only paying lip-service to it. I do not blame this Minister or the current Administration for this. As I stated, déanann the VECs a ndícheall i gconaí chun a lán rudaí a dhéanamh. They did a lot of obair stairiúil leis an Gaeilge agus bhí ranganna Gaeilge ar siúl acu i ngach halla agus gach scoil i ndeisceart Chontae Thiobraid Árann. They brought it out to people and instilled and instigated suim nua and suim speisialta sa Ghaeilge. Many of those who attended those classes had had bad experiences of learning Irish when in school. However, they returned and, in many cases, voluntary tutors conducted these classes, whom I must salute and offer comhghairdeas freisin. This was also done with other languages, including English for newcomers to our shores. Where is the joined-up thinking when our Departments are not using this?
For instance, while this will stray from the Bill somewhat, every day one can úsáid an Ghaeilge. Bíonn suim sa Ghaeilge if one uses it ag obair nó ar scoil agus ag rince agus sa teach tábhairne nó i ngach áit, agus beidh súil difriúil ann. If one takes the Luas project, which is overcrowded whenever one uses it but which is fabulous, its name uses Irish. It is a nice name and everyone understands it. An issue has arisen whereby the taxi signage will be changed very soon. An tAire Stáit, Deputy Kelly, is in charge of this and there has been outright refusal to allow an Ghaeilge a úsáid ar na gluaisteáin leis an mBéarla. There is a choice of English or Irish and, as this is a modern European city, Members know what the choice will be. However, is mór an trua that they could not have bilingual signs or that it could not be like the Luas. Is é an t-ainm as Gaeilge ná "tacsaí", and one has a choice of using either "tacsaí" or "taxi". Why could there not be a mixture of both? It would be in front of everyone's eyes, everyone would use it and it would be a much better way when this change takes place. Again, this concerns bureaucratic Departments not listening, not engaging in consultation and not allowing this. Given the experience of the Luas, why could the Department not use it on the taxis? It will be a major change that obviously will cost money. Consequently, it will not be changed again and there really is neither space nor room on the cars. The word "tacsaí" could be used. At the least, everyone would recognise the sign for a taxi, even if they were unable to read it in Béarla nó Gaeilge nó aon other language. Consequently, it would be nice to have it as "tacsaí". People would be proud of it as well.
As I stated in respect of the Department of Education and Skills, is there some kind of hostility to ár dteanga sa Roinn Oideachais agus Scileanna? I think there is, because one must ask why all the people who were supposed to take part in that consultation process did not do so. When the committee was set up, why did they not help out and the translation people move in there to give their support as well? As I stated earlier, quoting figures from Conradh na Gaeilge, it used to be that 3% of daoine ag obair sa Roinn sin were ready, able and willing to do this kind of work in respect of the national tongue. However, that percentage has now fallen to less than 1.5%. These are not my figures but are cited by Conradh na Gaeilge. I told the Aire Stáit atá i láthair gur chur an Conradh síos 67 amendments to the Bill but not a single one of them was heeded. Moreover, I believe that approximately 160 amendments were tabled in total but not a single one was accepted during the rushing through an Teach seo of that Bille.
Mar rud eile, Ireland will assume the Presidency of an tAontas Eorpach. Cuirim fáilte roimhe agus roimh an G8 ag teacht go Lough Erne i bhFear Manach agus rudaí mar sin. I also welcome that the Taoiseach and the Airí will have the opportunity to chair European Council meetings and all that goes with that. However, cén fáth nach bhfuil an Ghaeilge in its proper place? Why is it not being used in its proper place in European publications? Why is Irish the only language, out of 23 languages in Europe, that is not where it should be? It is not published, it is not written and while it is recognised, it is not there. Moreover, I note we are paying for this and already have paid taxes to ensure our language is used in publications from the European Parliament. However, ours is the only language of 23 in this position and this should be corrected before anyone is invited here for The Gathering agus rudaí mar sin. We must do that as well - I look forward to and support that initiative - but we are not getting a fair bang for our buck. The Irish language is not to be put on the publications. While this is the case for the other 23 languages, ours is being left aside agus amach an doras, which is wrong. As I noted, we have paid already as we are paying a certain levy for such translation work, but it is not happening. I believe this is an issue our MEPs might take up but it certainly is an issue for an tAire Stáit agus an Taoiseach before we have our summits and cruinnithe i rith an tsamhraidh. I note Gaeleagras used to have beirt ag obair ach níl éinne ag obair ann anois. It is an empty office with no one there in that institution, which did much good work over the years. Níl fear nó bean ar bith ann, not a single one.
On examination, this Bill certainly can be brought through the House today. However, we must first get our house in order and there are many ways of so doing. There is no point in having the Bill and having all the back-up work done - I compliment those who helped the Minister in this regard and who worked on the Bill - but what good is it when legislation exists and when there are conditions that should be fulfilled but which are not being met? I refer to matters to which no credence is being given. Is mór an trua an rud sin. Members must be honest in this regard. Organisations such as Conradh na Gaeilge, Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann, Glór na nGael and many other organisations, in which I have been peripherally involved, must be supported. Above all, however, they must be listened to. Éistigí leis na daoine sin, who are at the coalface and who are doing their best for language, culture agus an dúchas. They should be listened to and acknowledged. The State gives them some support financially, although that is getting tighter, but it is more important to what they have to say.
Moreover, when such organisations go to the trouble of suggesting amendments to a Bill, they should be listened to and not simply ignored completely. Bhí mise mar Theachta ar feadh cúig bliana agus b'é sin an céad uair a chonaic mé na Teachtaí go léir ar an dtaobh seo ag súil amach an doras in disgust at the manner in which that Bill was being treated. I know the Minister has a huge interest in Gaeilge. He is from Dún na nGall agus usáideann sé an Ghaeilge i gconaí, agus comhghairdeas as sin, but as for that kind of indecent haste and ignoring those who tabled more than 137 amendments, not one of which was even discussed, let alone accepted, one must call a halt, nó stad, anseo agus gan féachaint ar an issue mar sin.
I reiterate my question as to whether an anti-Irish mentality exists within the Civil Service.
I must put that question. We have had Billí, statutory instruments agus rudaí mar sin. These are ideals and visions as a nation is not a nation without its language, as Pádraig Pearse said. Why is there only a small percentage of people in the Civil Service who can do the business proficiently as Gaeilge? Perhaps that is wrong but it is what I was told by Conradh na Gaeilge this morning. Where was the commitment when a former Minister, Deputy Ó Cuív, set up the consultation body, as there was no meaningful or honest engagement? Something is very wrong.
I assume it was not the Minister of State who decided to reject those amendments without discussion but rather the officials who were drafting the Bill. I am not ruling out the Minister's involvement but it was highly insulting for the organisation which sent in amendments for them not to be discussed. Is there a mentality in the Civil Service that is going against our language? If there is, this legislation and the money used to drive it is useless and will remain so. Iarraim ar an Aire to put it under review to see what is going on and if the figures are right. The structure is to be changed without so much as a focal being changed. I welcome the changes in taxi legislation and there is an ideal opportunity for us to promote our Irish language and allow drivers to display it. There are many non-nationals and newcomers ag tiomáint tacsaí anois and it would be wonderful for them to be able to embrace ár dteanga. Tá siad ag tiomáint gach uair an chloig around the cities.
It would be lovely for the visitors coming for The Gathering and our European Presidency to have a little bit of Irish put in front of them softly, as opposed to when we were ag dul go dtí an scoil. It was beaten into us. Dúirt mé go minic that we should have banned the teaching of Irish 20 years ago and everybody would be speaking it today. Now we must engage. I am heartened by the actions of the coimisiún, and despite the difficulties facing students, including grant issues, the cream always comes to the top. I would have thought, in the times we are in, that might not have been way but I am pleased. Sin rud iontach.
In the Bill there is reference to an leabhar, or I suppose we could call it the bible that has been brought together for use in Departments. Déanaim comhghairdeas leis na daoine a scríobh é. All the books and bibles in the world will be wasted if there is not a proper passion or ethos, with insistence from the machinery of the State that the language should get its rightful recognition. The officials dealing with it must have proficiency in Irish.
My Irish is not nearly as good as it could be. My seanmhathair, whom I did not know because she was dead before I was born in 1958, had no English. I come from a Breac-Gaeltacht and some in this House or commentators may say they find it difficult to understand me in English, not to mind Irish, but that is the lingo of Tiobraid Árann Theas and I do not apologise for it.