Ceisteanna - Questions (Resumed)

Cabinet Committee Meetings

Micheál Martin


1. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach when the Cabinet committee on EU affairs met last. [39244/13]

Richard Boyd Barrett


2. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Taoiseach when the Cabinet committee on EU affairs last met. [42215/13]

Joe Higgins


3. Deputy Joe Higgins asked the Taoiseach the number of times the Cabinet committee on EU affairs has met since the summer recess. [45920/13]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 1 to 3, inclusive, together.

The Cabinet committee on EU affairs met last month on Wednesday, 23 October in advance of the October European Council meeting in Brussels.

During Ireland's successful Presidency of the Council of the European Union in the first half of this year, the Tánaiste and I met Ministers daily to discuss a range of EU policy areas. The full calendar of Presidency events and meetings, and the need for rapid responses to EU policy questions daily, meant it was not always possible to maintain the regular structure of meetings of the Cabinet committee.

Now that we are in the post-Presidency period, with a focus on capitalising on the goodwill and expertise that was generated in the first six months of this year, a more regular schedule of meetings was resumed. In total, the Cabinet committee has met four times in 2013. I chaired meetings on 5 May, 13 May, 14 June and 23 October.

The role of the Cabinet committee on EU affairs is to oversee our preparations for Council meetings and ongoing negotiations with European Union partners. Given what the Taoiseach said last week about the decision on conditional funding emerging from what were called intensive discussions with EU institutions and governments, we must presume the Cabinet committee was involved.

The Taoiseach will recall that on 6 September, in advance of a meeting of EU finance Ministers, the Irish Minister for Finance, Deputy Michael Noonan, told the Irish Independent that he would be seeking a conditional credit line of €10 billion. The chairperson of the Eurogroup welcomed this and the Taoiseach confirmed it. He went as far as to say how appropriate the figure of €10 billion was and how it represented the responsible thing to do.

Since 6 September, the eurozone economy has weakened significantly. Can the Taoiseach explain why he and his colleagues reversed the position adopted in September? What changed on the agenda of the Cabinet committee that saw it completely reverse its position in the past two months?

We were promised last week the background information used by the Government to justify its decision not to seek any conditional credit line. Where is it? Why has it not been published yet? Will that material be published? Could the Taoiseach indicate the role of the Cabinet committee in the decision, given that it met four times - twice in May and also in June and October?

This is a fairly simple question, asking when the Cabinet committee on EU affairs last met. We are straying into territory that is not included in the question. However, it is up to the Taoiseach to respond.

I answered the question on when the committee met. I chaired the meetings myself. I must say, for Deputy Martin's general information, that from January to the end of June, the number of meetings involving the diplomatic services, Ministers, Ministers of State and civil servants at many different levels ran to a couple of thousand. From my point of view, Ministers were really active, both here and in Brussels, at various meetings. It was just not feasible to have regular, set meetings of the Cabinet committee on EU affairs. I spoke to the Tánaiste daily. Ministers were involved in various elements of their negotiations. We were in very regular contact in that regard.

With regard to the decision to exit the programme on 15 December, there were three options: a precautionary credit line; a precautionary credit line involving the EU and IMF or the IMF; and no credit line at all. The Minister referred to the fact that Ireland would have to borrow approximately €10 billion next year, and that this would be considered. However, the answer to the Deputy's question is that no formal request was made for any precautionary credit line from a European point of view.

The background information relevant to exiting a programme is already on the websites of the ESM and the IMF. We did not make a formal request for an exit with a precautionary credit line. One does not have volumes of information about any of that. The background to the exit, in its various dimensions, is already published on those websites. We requested that the Minister for Finance go to Brussels, Frankfurt and Washington. The Tánaiste spoke to his counterparts and I spoke to mine. Putting all the information together, the Government made a very clear, straightforward and decisive decision to ensure certainty rather than a drift into uncertainty and consequent confusion. Stability is very important to government. Certainty is very important in our decision for Ireland and its people. The Deputy should bear in mind the background to these developments, including interest rates, buffers for the NTMA and the eurozone buffer of €500 billion. All of these things led to the Government's clear decision about what will happen when the programme ends on 15 December. The barrier will be removed and we will stand again as a full member of the eurozone, with the opportunities, constraints and securities that it offers. The decision is clear and straightforward and, I hope, very decisive, so there will be no confusion for anybody.

The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Howlin-----

We are not getting involved in that. It is a simple question.

The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Howlin, did promise last week that he would publish all documentation that informed the Government's decision not to apply for a credit line. He said he would publish that documentation and that he would have no difficulty in doing so. Will the Taoiseach confirm that it will be published?

A question to the line Minister would be better.

It is a very basic question.

It is a very basic question but it is not the question on the Order Paper.

We are very restricted in what we can ask.

I know and appreciate that, but it is up to the Deputy to change the rules. I call Deputy Higgins.

We cannot, because the Taoiseach-----

The Deputy, having been in Cabinet himself for a long time, will know that the matters discussed at Cabinet committees are not to be discussed here.

I am not talking about that.

On what date did the Taoiseach say the Cabinet committee on EU affairs last met? There was a lot of noise at the time he was responding.

The dates were 5 May, 13 May, 14 June and 23 October.

Does that not mean that the Cabinet committee on EU affairs was in no way involved in the Taoiseach's decision not to seek a precautionary credit line on Ireland’s exit from the troika-led bailout? What does that say about how the Cabinet, or the Taoiseach, deals with crucial issues affecting our economy and our people in regard to the number of Departments, or Ministers responsible for Departments, that the Taoiseach involves or does not involve in the making of crucial decisions? Is it not the case that the Taoiseach's decision not to seek the precautionary credit line was to make big men, mar dhea, of the members of the Cabinet on leaving the troika behind? Is it not the case that this was a political decision to allow the Taoiseach and EU establishment to posture based on the fiction that three years of bitter austerity was somehow good for the Irish when it was, in fact, a disaster?

Is it not the case that the Cabinet committees the Taoiseach set up, supposedly to provide more effective government for the Irish, are really a charade?

What we have is the dictatorship of the Government politburo, known as the Economic Management Council, EMC, which makes all decisions. Members of the European affairs sub-committee include the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation and the Minister for Education and Skills. These Ministers are in charge of Departments for which decisions the Taoiseach makes on this issue have enormous implications, particularly regarding jobs. What is the purpose of Cabinet sub-committees if the new politburo makes all of the decisions?

The troika programme in which we were involved for the past few years was a programme of the IMF, the ECB and the European Commission. The Ministers mandated to deal with the troika were the Minister for Finance and the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform. We were included in this programme a number of years ago and were determined to exit it. That exit would depend on a recommendation brought to the Cabinet by the Minister for Finance, in particular, following his analysis of the information, advice and comhairle from a lot of sources. The independent, respected Governor of the Central Bank was very clear on this issue. While the director of the NTMA might have had a preference in the beginning for a precautionary programme, he was very happy, following analysis of the bond markets, that this was the right thing to do. The NTMA has already confirmed that it intends to set out its schedule to the markets for returning to normality from next January. It is very clear from the comments made by representatives of the NTMA that the buffer built up by the agency while we were technically still in the bailout programme gives us sufficient resources to fund the country until the end of quarter one or quarter two of 2015.

Of course, the Ministers to whom the Deputy referred are impacted on by this decision, as is everybody else. I have to say as a citizen and a politician, as distinct from the position I hold in this House, that the reaction across the country has generally been very favourable. I do not accept Deputy Joe Higgins's assertion that members of the Cabinet want to go around the country like "big men", as he put it. Nothing of the kind is the case. We have a long way to go. The Deputy has never heard me refer to the much abused terms that were bandied about by too many people for a number of years, nor will he ever hear me use these terms. We have a challenge. We must get the deficit below 3% by 2015. The Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation is in India negotiating further investment in this country, with the potential to create new jobs. The line of investment into the country is very strong; exports are at unprecedented levels and interest rates have fallen to 3.6% or 3.7%. These are strong indicators, but they do not negate the challenge we face. The scale of debt in the country is enormous. The national debt is still exceptionally high. Because of our sovereign rating and the scale of our debt, we have spoken to German colleagues about officials from the Department of Finance working with German officials in respect of the triple A-rated KFW bank. I hope we can put in place a structure to provide access to credit at much lower rates for small and medium enterprises which would have a direct impact on job creation. Officials will be in Berlin for the next few days to discuss this very matter. It was for all of these reasons that the decision was made.

The Deputy has asked me what the sub-committee on European affairs does. Clearly, for the first half of the year the committee and its members - various Ministers - were focused on their own responsibilities in Dublin Castle, negotiating with Commissioners and their colleague Ministers and Ministers of State. I had to travel to Brussels on a number of occasions with the Tánaiste to discuss difficulties that had arisen in the drafting of the European budget. The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Deputy Simon Coveney, was involved in very intensive discussions about CAP reform. We were able to hold on to 97.5% of the funding, despite predictions that it would drop by 20% or 30%. The Minister was also involved in the reform of the CFP. These activities were assisted in various ways by the sub-committee on European affairs. However, it was not a function of the sub-committee to make the recommendation to the Cabinet about the circumstances in which we would exit the programme, which will close on 15 December. That was a matter for recommendation by the Minister for Finance who was assisted by every other Minister, as well as by the Tánaiste and me in terms of advice and the contacts and consultations that we had had with other leaders. As I said to Deputy Micheál Martin, we made a clear decision which we announced with certainty. It is a statement of confidence about Ireland. While we recognise that we still have many challenges ahead, we are not constrained by confusion about what might or might not apply in other circumstances.

It is very clear from the Taoiseach's answers that the sub-committee on European affairs was not directly involved in the decision not to seek a conditional credit line. I repeat what I said earlier, that the Minister for Finance, Deputy Michael Noonan, did say to the Irish Independent in September that he was seeking a €10 billion credit line. This was not general talk about what the Government had to spend or would need to secure. It was said very clearly that the Minister was seeking a €10 billion credit line, which the Taoiseach publicly supported at the time. The Taoiseach and the Minister have changed their positions since, as they are entitled to do. In changing that position the Taoiseach, the Minister and others weighed up the pros and cons of the decision, with the key issue being the impact of any credit line on the cost of borrowing in the next few years. The simple question was whether the impact would be positive or negative and how it would affect our debt levels.

The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Brendan Howlin, said last week that he would publish all of the documentation that had informed that decision, that is, the decision taken by the Government. I am not talking about general memoranda or documentation pertaining to what Europe or the EMS has. I am talking about the analysis the Government undertook to inform its decision not to seek a credit line. The Minister said on Sean O'Rourke's radio programme that he would publish that documentation. He said he would have absolutely no difficulty in publishing it. I ask the Taoiseach to confirm that the Government will publish it.

Obviously, if the Minister made the comment, here or elsewhere, I am quite sure he will follow through on it.

I beg your pardon.

I am quite sure he will follow through on it. If he said he had information that he wanted to publish-----

It was not his decision. It was the Government's decision.

The Minister, Deputy Brendan Howlin, made the comment to which the Deputy is referring. I have said-----

He is on the EMC.

I am sorry, Deputy, but this is not Leaders' Questions.

If Deputy Brendan Howlin made a comment as Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform that he would publish information on this issue, I am quite sure he will do so. Information on the nature of an exit from a programme like ours has already been published on the EMS website, as well as on the IMF website. This country did not make a formal request for a credit line.

I did not suggest that we had.

Nor did the Minister for Finance bring a recommendation to the Government that we seek a €10 billion credit line. It was not a case of the Minister changing his mind at all. The time had come to make a decision, based on an exit date of 15 December. The Government stated it would make its decision before that date. Make your mind up time had arrived. The Government was very clear. We said that, on the basis of all the evidence, including independent reports and independent commentary that was favourable, as well as on the basis of all that had been achieved through the decisions taken by the Government and with the people, it was the right time to make the decision and that this was the right decision for the country, rather than leave confusion.

As the Minister pointed out, if precautionary lines were used, they last for 12 months with the possibility of an extension and a second extension plus the European response to bank stress tests being carried out in the autumn of next year. One does not know the answers to all these things yet.

Is anything clear?

We know where we stand now. We were clear and decisive. It was "make your mind up" time. The Government did so clearly, decisively and with certainty about where we are headed.

Is it not the reality that the Taoiseach's choice was between the sharks in the financial markets who will gouge the Irish people for all they can get over the next few years on the one hand and, on the other, falling back on the piranhas that are the EU establishment and the ECB who represent the financial markets as well, as they have demonstrated in forcing Irish people to carry massive private debt that had nothing to do with them? Will he recognise that either going back to the cesspool of the markets or relying on the neoliberals of the EU and ECB is not the way forward for the economy and the people and it is a question of repudiating this massive debt that is destroying the economy and provoking the horrific austerity the Government is imposing, which will continue for years to come to destroy the livelihoods of our people and the future of young people? The Taoiseach should recognise those realities at least.

As I understand it, the role of the Cabinet committee on European affairs is to provide the Taoiseach and the Government with strategic direction, coherence and co-ordination on European affairs. That is obviously an important function. In preparation for today, I went on the website of the Department of the Taoiseach and the members of the committee are listed. Lo and behold, it includes Minister of State, Deputy Lucinda Creighton. I thought I would inform the Government that she has left the Government and a new Minister of State is in place, Deputy Paschal Donohoe. Clearly, a committee charged with such an onerous responsibility to co-ordinate and give strategic direction should at least have that right.

The Taoiseach will also recall that prior to the last EU Council meeting I raised with him the issue of surveillance of member states by the US National Security Agency. He never answered me. He ignored my question and then it became a huge topic at the meeting on the back of the revelations by Edward Snowden. Has the issue of surveillance, which clearly goes beyond security concerns as it deals with business and financial matters, been discussed by the Cabinet committee? Has the Taoiseach established whether the surveillance and bugging that have been going on include him, Ministers or agencies of the State?

I remind the House once again that it is not in order to ask what is discussed by Cabinet sub-committees nor is it in order to give information as to what is discussed.

The information I have refers only to the Cabinet sub-committee that was the subject of the questions. As a matter of general observation, I said to Deputies Martin and Adams previously that perhaps a change in the way Taoiseach's Questions are structured might give each of them a priority question or two relating to specific matters they might wish to raise and I am willing to do that. These kind of questions leads to generalities all over the place.

They are important obviously but the question of the exit from the bailout is the subject of a response to a recommendation from the Minister for Finance because this was an issue between the Departments of Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform and the troika.

Deputy Higgins asked a question about the markets. He will be aware that this is the place where we have to raise money and he will also be aware that we have been blocked out of them for a considerable time. That is why the troika came in here. Interest rates were 14.5% and Ireland was blocked out completely. Some people might want us to continue in a bailout situation and others might want us to continue in a semi-bailout position. Taking all the factors into account, the Government made its decision for Ireland and it was clear, strong and decisive. It has been commented on favourably by other countries, institutions, ratings agencies, the Central Bank and the NTMA.

The decision in respect of the ESM from 29 June last year still stands and those discussions and negotiations are still for the future. That decision has been referred to repeatedly since last year and holds out the possibility of a variety of ways of recapitalisation in respect of banks.

The surveillance issue was raised at the European Council meeting, in particular by Germany and France. It was referred to by a number of other countries and Spain, for instance, had a particular view. Clearly the US has responded to this. I am not aware of the detail that has followed in respect of Germany and France in so far as the US is concerned. The Tánaiste referred to the situation in so far as Ireland was concerned and the information that apparently was out there in the public domain was that there was no listening post in Dublin. Are we being watched? Is that somebody listening? The fact of the matter is these days if one makes a call on one's iPhone or whatever and it is associated with electronics or satellites, somebody will always be able to track it. That appears to be a fact of life these days. I am not aware of surveillance being placed on Ireland or on members of the Opposition or the Government.

The Taoiseach can take it that it is.

I do not know but I have had a view for a long time that if one wants to say something to somebody, one should say to his or her face. Perhaps it should not be shouted out loud.

The Tánaiste has raised this issue with the US authorities. I understand there never was a listening post in Ireland and I hope that, as Chancellor Merkel pointed out, while this has been a serious blockage to discussions and negotiations, we want to move on to the future. I hope that can be ironed out.

Cabinet Committee Meetings

Micheál Martin


4. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach when the Cabinet committee on Irish and the Gaeltacht last met. [39245/13]

Gerry Adams


5. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach the number of times the Cabinet committee on Irish and the Gaeltacht has met since the beginning of the year. [40731/13]

Joe Higgins


6. Deputy Joe Higgins asked the Taoiseach the number of times the Cabinet committee on Irish and Gaeltacht has met since the summer recess. [45921/13]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 4 to 6, inclusive, together.

Bhí dhá chruinniú ag an gCoiste Comh-Aireachta ar an nGaeilge agus ar an nGaeltacht go dtí seo i mbliana, an ceann is deireanaí ar 22 Iúil seo caite.

Is léir nach raibh ach dhá chruinniú ag an gcoiste ar an nGaeilge agus na Gaeltachtaí le linn na bliana. Is oth liom a rá go bhfuil sé le feiceáil i bpolasaithe an Rialtais i leith na Gaeilge agus na Gaeltachtaí nach bhfuil an coiste ag teacht le chéile go minic. Tá díomá ar mhuintir na Gaeltachta go bhfuil easpa béime á leagan ag an Rialtas ar pholasaithe i dtaobh na Gaeilge agus na Gaeltachtaí. Is dócha go léiríonn an t-eolas a thug an Taoiseach dúinn inniu go bhfuil an ceart ag muintir na Gaeltachta agus muintir na Gaeilge go ginearálta nuair a bhíonn siad ag gearán faoi pholasaithe an Rialtais. Is léir freisin nach bhfuil mórán ag tarlú i dtaobh na straitéise 20 bliain, a chuir na hiar-Airí, Pat Carey agus an Teachta Ó Cuív, le chéile. Bhí gach éinne sásta leis an straitéis sin, ach níl mórán dul chun cinn le feisceál agus níos mó ná dhá bhliain imithe ón toghchán deireanach. Iarraim ar an gcoiste seo teacht le chéile i bhfad níos minicí sna míonna atá le teacht agus sa bhliain atá romhainn.

Ba cheart níos mó béime a chur ar an nGaeilge sa chóras oideachais. Is léir sa tuarascáil nua a fuaireamar maidir le múineadh na Gaeilge sna scoileanna go bhfuil i bhfad níos mó le déanamh sa chomhthéacs sin. Tá an-chuid le déanamh ag an gcoiste faoin cheist sin. Bhí díomá ar beagnach gach éinne, ach amháin an Rialtas, gur cuireadh an toghchán le haghaidh bord Údarás na Gaeltachta ar ceal. Beidh an tionchar agus an chumhacht go léir maidir le baill Údarás na Gaeltachta ag an Rialtas as seo amach. Is olc an scéal é sin. Is oth liom a rá go léiríonn an t-eolas atá faighte againn - gur tháinig an coiste le chéile faoi dhó i rith na bliana - an meas atá ag an Rialtas ar an nGaeilge agus ar na Gaeltachtaí.

Níor bhuail an coiste le chéile ach dhá uair i mbliana, ach ní hé sin le rá nach raibh obair ar siúl ag an Aire Ealaíon, Oidhreachta agus Gaeltachta agus go mórmhór ag an Aire Stáit, an Teachta Mac Fhionnlaoich. Tá an tAire Stáit tar éis cuairt a thabhairt ar chuile Gaeltacht - Dún na nGall, Maigh Eo, Gaillimh, Ciarraí, Corcaigh, Port Láirge, Ráth Chairn i gContae na Mí agus sa Tuaisceart - ar a laghad cúpla uair. Bhí sé sa Tuaisceart freisin. Bhí sé i gceist aige an réamhobair a chur ar bun ó thaobh straitéis na Gaeilge a chur i gcrích. Bhí an-chuid díospóireachtaí aige le comhlachtaí Gaeilge agus Gaeltachta i leith na straitéise. Nuair a tháinig sé chugam roimh an mbuiséad, bhí sé ag iarraidh suas le €500,000 i dtreo is go mbeadh plean réitithe agus aontaithe i leith tosú na straitéise. Tugadh €500,000 dó sa bhuiséad. Tá sé i dteagmháil le chuile Gaeltacht ag an bpointe seo chun an obair sin a chur i gcrích. Aontaím leis an Teachta ó thaobh an méid cruinnithe a bhí ann. Ní léiríonn sé sin go bhfuil easpa suime ann ó thaobh na straitéise sin a chur i gcrích. Bhí mé i gcuid de na Gaeltachtaí agus chas mé leis na comhlachtaí ansin. Tá siad sásta leis an obair atá déanta ó thaobh na straitéise a chur ar bun agus a chur i gcrích. I gcomhthéacs an phlean a thug an tAire Stáit dom roimh an mbuiséad, tá €500,000 curtha ar fáil don bhliain 2014 chun tosú láidir a dhéanamh agus é sin á chur i gcrích. Tá súil agam go dtarlóidh sé sin as seo amach.

Níl mé sásta leis an bhfreagra sin. Ní bhuaileann an coiste Comh-Aireachta go rialta mar nach bhfuil an Rialtas seo dáiríre faoin Ghaeilge. Is í sin an fhírinne. Go háirithe, níl an straitéis 20 bliain á chur i bhfeidhm ar chor ar bith. Chuir an Rialtas stad le toghchán Údarás na Gaeltachta. Bhí sé i gceist sa straitéis go mbeadh daltaí ag freastal ar ranganna taobh amuigh den rang Gaeilge, ach níl aon rud ar bith déanta faoi sin. Bhí sé mar rún sa straitéis Irish language resource centre a bhunú i mBaile Bhúirne, ach níl sé sin déanta. Tá an Coimisinéir Teanga ag tabhairt amach faoin tslí nach bhfuil an Rialtas ag leanadh ar aghaidh leis an Official Languages Act. Nuair a dhéanann daoine iarracht seirbhísí a fháil trí Ghaeilge, caithfidh siad go leor fadhbanna a láimhseáil. Tá Forbairt Naíonraí Teoranta faoi bhagairt. Tá Eagraíocht na Scoileanna Gaeltachta gan aon airgead. Beidh sé imithe um Nollaig. Sílim go bhfuil an tAire Stáit, an Teachta McGinley, ag glacadh airgid as Eagraíocht na Scoileanna Gaeltachta. Tá sé an-deacair eolas a fháil ón Roinn faoi sin. Tá mé ag lorg eolais faoi seo ón Roinn Cultúir, Ealaíon agus Fóillíochta sa Tuaisceart fosta. Níl an tAire ó Thuaidh sásta ós rud é nach bhfuil sí ar an eolas faoin rún sin. Má ghlacann an tAire Stáit maoiniú ó Eagraíocht na Scoileanna Gaeltachta - b'fhéidir nach ndéanfaidh sé é sin - caithfidh sé dul tríd an North-South Ministerial Council. Tá rudaí ar barr rudaí ar barr rudaí. Níl dul chun cinn á dhéanamh ag an Rialtas ar chor ar bith. Ní bhím i nGaeltacht Thír Chonaill rómhinic - cúpla uair in aghaidh na bliana - ach tá a fhios agam nach bhfuil daoine ansin sásta ar chor ar bith leis an tslí ina bhfuil an Rialtas ag dul ar aghaidh.

Nuair a bhí mé i nGaeltacht Ghleann Cholm Cille le déanaí, chas mé le go leor daoine atá ag breathnú amach go géar ó thaobh láimhséail na straitéise a chur i gcrích. Mar a dúirt mé leis an Teachta Ó Máirtín, tá an plean a leag an tAire Stáit amach réidh agus aontaithe. Tá an-chuid oibre déanta ina thaobh. Dúirt an tAire Stáit go raibh €500,000 ag teastáil agus cuireadh an tsuim sin ar fáil sa bhuiséad. Tá sé ag dul ar aghaidh le comhlachtaí Gaeltachta agus muintir na Gaeltachta chun é sin a chur i gcrích. Ní aontaím go bhfuil an méid a dúirt an Teachta faoi mhuintir Ghaeltacht Dhún na nGall fíor. Casaim leo go minic. Bhí scéal eile le rá acu le déanaí. Ba mhaith le chuile dhuine i ngach áit ar fud na tíre go mbeadh fostaíocht ar fáil, infheistíocht á dhéanamh agus jabanna ar fáil do dhaoine óga. Is í sin an phríomhaidhm atá ag an Rialtas agus cúrsaí caiteachais phoiblí á láimhseáil againn. Táimid ag iarraidh post a chruthú agus jabanna a chur ar fáil.

Tá na daoine óga san Astráil.

Tá a fhios ag an Teachta go bhfuil athrú tagtha ó thaobh an údaráis de. Tá bord nua le bunú. Beidh sé dírithe ar chúrsaí Gaeltachta. Tá pleananna leagtha amach ag chuile Ghaeltacht ó thaobh forbairt agus stádas na Gaeltachtaí éagsúla. Sílim go bhfuil sé sin tábhachtach. Tá a fhios ag an Teachta go bhfuil neart áiteanna a dtugtar Gaeltachtaí orthu, ach nach bhfuil focal Gaeilge labhartha iontu le fada. Caithfimid an fhírinne a dhearbhú sa chomhthéacs seo. Is é sin an fáth go bhfuil brú ar na grúpaí Gaeltachta plean a nochadh agus a chur i gcrích ó thaobh stádas na ceantair Ghaeltachta. Tá an tAire Stáit iontach láidir faoi seo. Tá a fhios ag an Teachta go bhfuil níos mó in ann an Ghaeilge a labhairt anois ná mar a bhí le fada. Tá neart Gaeilge acu. Sílim go gcuireann sé isteach ar dhaoine go minic má tá brú orthu Gaeilge chruinn cheart a labhairt an t-am ar fad. Is cuma má dhéanann siad botúin, nó nach mbíonn a gcuid Gaeilge go cruinn ceart an t-am ar fad. Is rud iontach tábhachtach í ár dteanga dhúchais Ghaelach. Nuair a théim thar lear, bíonn difríocht i gceist ós rud é go bhfuil mé in ann teanga dhifriúil a labhairt. I rith na toghcháin deireanacha, ghlac mé féin, an Teachta Ó Máirtín, an Teachta Adams agus-----

-----an Tánaiste páirt i ndíospóireacht.

An cuimhin leat é?

Don chéad uair riamh, bhí ceathrar ceannaire in ann díospóireachta a dhéanamh go poiblí as Gaeilge ar an teilifís. Mar is eol don Teachta, ceapadh bean iontach láidir go dtí an Chúirt Uachtarach le déanaí. Tá sí in ann triail iomlán a láimhseáil as Gaeilge sa chúirt sin. Taispeánann sé sin go bhfuil meon an Rialtais fabhrach dár dteanga dhúchais. Sílim go bhfuil sé sin tábhachtach.

Bhí cruinniú idir Airí ón Tuaisceart agus Airí ón Rialtas anseo in Ard Mhacha le déanaí. Bhí an LeasChéad-Aire ann mar ionadaí ó pháirtí an Teachta Adams. Molaim go mór an obair atá déanta, mar is eol don Teachta, ó thaobh Gaeilge Uladh de. Tá súil agam go mbeidh gach éinne in ann aontú le chéile i leith na hoibre tábhachtach atá á dhéanamh sa chomhthéacs sin.

Táimid ag caint faoin nGaeilge i nGaeilge anois. Níl mo chuid Gaeilge rómhaith. Tá mé fós ag foghlaim. Tá mé ag déanamh mo dhíchill. Is í sin an fhadhb mhór atá ann. Táimid ag caint faoin nGaeilge i nGaeilge. Ní dhéanann muid ár gcuid gnó anseo sa Dáil trí mheán na Gaeilge ach amanna. Ba cheart don Taoiseach éisteacht leis an méid a dúirt Conradh na Gaeilge faoin bpolasaí agus faoin straitéis ag coiste Oireachtais le déanaí. Tá sé soiléir nach bhfuil an straitéis á cur i bhfeidhm ag an Rialtas. Is í sin an fhírinne. Aontaím leis an Taoiseach agus creidim é nuair a deir sé go bhfuil grá mór aige dár dteanga dhúchais. Nílimid ag caint faoi sin, áfach, táimid ag caint faoin straitéis agus faoin pholasaí. Níl go leor déanta ag an Rialtas seo nó na Rialtais roimhe seo i dtaobh na Gaeilge. Is í sin an fhírinne. Tá a fhios agam go bhfuil níos mó daoine ag labhairt na Gaeilge. Bheadh i bhfad níos mó daoine ag labhairt na Gaeilge dá mbeadh polasaí maith i gceist.

Mar a dúirt mé leis an Teachta Ó Máirtín, bhí plean i leith na Gaeilge - an straitéis - le blianta anuas. Tá cruth curtha air anois. Dúirt an tAire Stáit liom go raibh €500,000 ag teastáil chun tosú láidir a dhéanamh agus é seo á chur i gcrích. Tugadh an t-airgead don Aire Stáit sa bhuiséad. Bhí an Teachta Adams i nDoire nuair a bhí an fleadh cheoil ar siúl ann. Ba iontach go deo an méid Gaeilge a bhí le cloisteáil ag an ócáid cheoil sin. Tarlóidh an rud céanna an bhliain seo chugainn i Sligeach, áit nach fíor-Ghaeltacht í.

Tá a fhios ag an Teachta cad a tharla nuair a cuireadh na Gaeltachtaí agus na breac-Gaeltachtaí ar bun sna 1950í. Bhí scéalta ag dul thart ag éirí as sin. Mar shampla, bhí fear pósta ag iarraidh an deontais a fháil. Ní raibh an bhean a bhí in éineacht leis an lá a tháinig an cigire pósta leis ar chor ar bith, ach bhí sí in ann an Ghaeilge a labhairt le haghaidh an triail Ghaeilge a bhí le déanamh. Bhí an bheirt acu ag iarraidh an deontais as ucht labhairt na Gaeilge a fháil. B'fhéidir gur phós an fear thall i Sasana agus ní raibh a bhean chéile in ann an Ghaeilge a labhairt ar chor ar bith. Cheap an cigire go raibh siad in ann an teanga a labhairt nuair a rinne sé an triail Ghaeilge. Tá deireadh leis sin, obviously.

Tá pleananna á gcur i gcrích ag muintir na Gaeltachta ó thaobh an stádas Gaeltachta atá acu. Sílim go bhfuil sé tábhachtach dóibh an stádas sin a choimeád. Ba mhaith liom go mbeadh an tír ar fad mar Ghaeltacht. Ba cheart go mbeadh daoine i gContae Loch Garman, i gContae Ros Comáin agus i gContae Lú, srl., in ann iarracht a dhéanamh triail bheag a bhaint as an teanga nuair is cóir.

Tá géarchéim sna Gaeltachtaí maidir le labhairt na Gaeilge agus an-chuid gnéithe beatha eile. Dúirt an Taoiseach linn gur tháinig an fochoiste maidir leis an nGaeltacht le chéile nach mór leathbhliain ó shin. Nach bhfuil sé soiléir nach bhfuil dáiríreacht ar bith sa Rialtas seo maidir le fadhbanna teanga agus fadhbanna Gaeltachta? Sa bhliain 2007, déanadh scrúdú cuimsitheach teangeolaíoch ar úsáid na Gaeilge sa Ghaeltacht. Ba cheart don Taoiseach an scrúdú sin a léamh. Cé gur cuireadh an tuarascáil le chéile sé bliana ó shin, tá pointí cumhachtacha fós le léamh inti. Léiríonn an scrúdú go méadaíonn fadhbanna teangeolaíochta sa Ghaeltacht nuair nach gcoimeádtar céatadán ard de chainteoirí Ghaeilge san áit. Más rud é go dtiteann an céatadán den phobal a labhraíonn an Ghaeilge sna Gaeltachtaí, beidh géarchéim i gceist - beidh níos mó brú ar an nGaeilge mar theanga phobail. Is é sin go díreach atá ag tarlú.

An aontaíonn an Taoiseach go bhfuil nasc díreach idir polasaithe eacnamaíochta an Rialtais agus na ceisteanna seo? An aontaíonn sé go bhfuil céatadán labhartha na Gaeilge ag titim ar an gcúis go bhfuil daoine óga agus daoine eile ag imeacht mar nach bhfuil poist ar fáil sa Ghaeltacht? Tá bánú na Gaeltachta ag tarlú de bharr polasaithe déine an Rialtais seo agus an Rialtais roimhe seo le cúig bliana anuas. An dtuigeann an Taoiseach go mbeidh géarchéim níos measa fós i gceist muna gcuirtear deireadh leis na polasaithe seo? Ba cheart polasaithe a chur i bhfeidhm a chuirfidh infheistíocht chun cinn sna Gaeltachtaí i dtreo is go mbeidh saol agus beatha le fáil ag muintir na Gaeltachta ina gceantair féin. An dtuigeann an Taoiseach gurb é sin, i ndáiríre, an freagra atá ar an bhfadhb seo? Deireann an tuairisc seo nach mbeidh an Ghaeilge á labhairt sna Gaeltachtaí taobh istigh de 20 bliain má leanann an Rialtas ar aghaidh le polasaithe áirithe - na billiúin a thabhairt do lucht na speiciléireachta agus na baincéirí, srl., thar lear - seachas an t-airgead sin a chur isteach in infheistíocht agus, go mórmhór, i bpoist sa tír seo chun daoine a choimeád sa bhaile.

Ní aontaím leis an Teachta go dtiocfaidh an toradh sin as. Sílim go mbeidh i bhfad níos mó Gaeilge á labhairt ar fud na tíre go coitianta agus de ghnáth. Ba mhaith le chuile dhuine go mbeadh jabanna, poist agus infheistíocht le fáil sa Ghaeltacht i dtreo is go mbeadh daoine in ann maireachtáil agus slí bheatha a bhaint amach ansin. Tá sé deacair infheistíocht den tsórt sin a chur isteach i ngach áit. Nuair a dhéantar iarracht infheistíocht a chur chun cinn sa chóras séarachais, sa chóras soláthar cumhachta nó sa chóras leictreachais - mar shampla, i gcás na muilte gaoithe - is minic a thagann na cúrsaí seo os comhair na cúirte. Ní féidir an chumhacht a láimhseáil gan infreastruchtúr a chur ar bun chun é sin a dhéanamh. Bhí cuid de mo chlann féin thiar sa Ghaeltacht, ghlac siad páirt sa ghrúpa do dhaoine óga ar a dtugtar Spleodar. Ba é an rud is tábhachtaí a tháinig as sin ná go raibh na daoine óga seo ag labhairt na Gaeilge eatarthu féin nuair a tháinig siad abhaile. Anuas ar sin, téann siad go dtí cruinnithe de ghasúir agus daltaí óga ar a labhraítear an Ghaeilge agus múintear na focail dóibh. Tá sé sin ag ardú agus ag neartú.

Tá an scéim maidir le scoileanna lán-Gaelacha neartaithe ar fud na tíre freisin agus tá brú ann faoi láthair go gcuirfí meánscoileanna lán-Gaelacha ar bun. Is iontach láidir an tsuim atá ag tuismitheoirí agus daltaí sa scéim seo.

Maidir leis na córais chumarsáide nua atá ann, tá aipeanna as Gaeilge agus cúrsaí cumarsáide as Gaeilge ar fáil. Tá córas ina bhfuil daoine in ann caint le chéile, ach ní hamháin sin, tá siad in ann an duine eile a fheiceáil agus iad ag caint. Tá na teachtaireachtaí ar na meáin chumarsáide nua seo ar fad as Gaeilge chomh maith. Ní aontaím leis an Teachta go bhfuil deireadh ár dteanga dhúchais ag teacht. Má tá an brú ann ó thaobh straitéis na Gaeilge a chur i bhfeidhm, beidh sin á láidriú agus á neartú as seo amach. Mar Ghaeilgeoir fíor chruinn é féin, tá dualgais cinnireachta á láímhseáil ag an Teachta féin agus is maith liom é a chloisteáil ag labhairt Gaeilge na Mumhan chomh breá agus chomh láidir agus a labhraíonn sé í.

Maidir leis an straitéis, mar a dúirt mé leis an Teachta Martin, tá seo á chur i bhfeidhm faoi láthair, agus an chéad bhliain eile, nuair a bheidh tuilleadh airgid le fáil, tabharfar é sin don Aire Stáit chun obair a dhéanamh le muintir na Gaeltachta, muintir cumarsáide agus muintir lasmuigh den Ghaeltacht. I dtaobh na bpleananna atá curtha i gcrích chun stádas Gaeltachta a chruthú nó, muna bhfuil siad sách láidir, chun iad a laghdú, beidh an córas sin á phlé. Mar Theachta agus mar Thaoiseach, ba mhaith liom go mbainfeadh an méid daoine is mó gur féidir triail a bhaint as cúrsaí Gaeilge labhartha a chur ar bun.

Luaigh an Teachta an tuarascáil agus an chaoi in ar féidir an córas nua cumarsáide a láimhseáil, ó thaobh múineadh na Gaeilge, na fuaimeanna agus an Ghaeilge a labhairt, cuireann sé sin ina luí ormsa go bhfuil ré nua amach romhainn ó thaobh labhairt ár dteanga féin de. Nuair a bhí mé mar chuid den Fhreasúra, labhair mé go minic faoin bhrú agus an dualgas a bhí ar dhaltaí Gaeilge a labhairt agus faoin chonspóid a chothaigh sin agus an Ghaeilge á bhrú orthu. Tá ré nua tagtha anois agus má ghlacann muid leis an obair atá á chur i gcrích, beidh an teanga neartaithe agus níos láidre ar fad.

Is maith liom go bhfuil an Teachta Martin, an Teachta Adams, an Tánaiste, an Teachta Higgins, an Teachta Ó Fearghaíl agus gnáth daoine eile ar fud Thithe an Oireachtais in ann Gaeilge a labhairt agus triail a bhaint aisti.

Táimid uilig go maith, ach táimid ag caint anseo faoi pholasaí agus faoin straitéis. Níl an Rialtas ag leanúint ar aghaidh leis an straitéis. Sin an fhírinne. Creidim an Taoiseach nuair a deireann sé go bhfuil grá mór aige dár dteanga dhúchais, ach níl an cheist chomh simplí sin. Bhí Conradh na Gaeilge istigh le coiste an Oireachtais agus bhí sé go han-soiléir nach bhfuil an Rialtas ag leanúint ar aghaidh leis an straitéis. Thug mé sampla don Taoiseach - an lárionad i mBaile Bhúirne. It is not there and there is no movement on that. Sampla eile, an dualgas go mbeadh daoine ábalta ranganna a fháil trí Ghaeilge. Níl sin déanta.

Maidir leis na toghcháin don údarás, dúirt an Taoiseach go raibh sé i dTír Chonaill, ach tá daoine ansin an-fheargach mar nach bhfuil aon toghchán ann údarás. Níl aon democratic input ó mhuintir na Gaeltachta.

Níl mórán dul chun cinn le feiceáil in aon chor i dtaobh an straitéis 20 bliain, go háirithe i gcomhthéacs cúrsaí fostaíochta nó cúrsaí oideachais, go háirithe múineadh trí Ghaeilge. Bhí moladh sa straitéis maidir le lárionad oideachais do mhúinteoirí atá ag múineadh gach ábhár trí Ghaeilge, go háirithe múinteoirí i nGaelscoileanna agus sna Gaeltachtaí. Chuir mise moladh mar sin ar aghaidh nuair a bhí mé mar Aire Oideachais. An moladh a bhí ann ag an am ná moladh an t-ionad a lonnú i mBaile Bhúirne, in iar-choláiste Íosagáin, ach bhí deacrachtaí maidir leis an suíomh agus mar sin de.

Ba mhaith an rud é dá mbeadh an tAire Stáit nó an Rialtas sásta dul ar aghaidh le togra mar sin, ionad oideachais a bhunú mar áis do mhúinteoirí, mar fós tá easpa téacsleabhar trí Ghaeilge in ábhar mar bhitheolaíocht, cheimic agus go leor eile. D'fhéadfadh ionad mar sin áiseanna eile a chur ar fáil do mhúinteoirí atá ag múineadh trí Ghaeilge i gcoitinne sna Gaelscoileanna agus ag an dara leibhéal. Tá géarghá ionad den saghas sin a chur ar bun agus i bhfeidhm. Tá an moladh sin sa straiteis 20 bliain. Dá mbeadh an Taoiseach nó an Rialtas sásta béim faoi leith a chur ar an togra sin, bheadh dul chun cinn le feiceáil as sin amach.

Maidir le fostaíocht, tá muintir na Gaeilge agus ionadaithe poiblí sna Gaeltachtaí amhrasach faoin treo ina bhfuil an Rialtas ag dul. Tá amhras orthu go bhfuil an chumhacht a bhí ag an údarás maidir le cúrsaí eacnamaíochta laistigh de na Gaeltachtaí imithe. Tá amhras orthu go bhfuil an chumhacht sin meallta go dtí údaráis eile ar nós Fiontar Éireann nó an IDA. Os rud é nach bhfuil na toghcháin á reachtáil a thuilleadh agus nach féidir le muintir na Gaeltachta duine a thogh don údarás, is droch scéal é sin do na Gaeltachtaí. Ta easpa tionchair acu as seo amach ar chúrsaí fiontair agus fostaíochta de dheasca an chinnidh atá déanta ag an Rialtas i dtaobh an údarás. Bhí ról speisialta ag an údarás maidir le fostaíocht.

Maidir leis na mná tí, rinneadh iarracht na deontais dóibh siúd a ghearradh siar. Tá na mná tí lárnach ó thaobh na Gaeilge de sna Gaeltachtaí. N'fheadar cén fáth go bhfuil an Taoiseach ag gáire. Níl na mná tí sásta ach an oiread leis an méid atá déanta go dtí seo i dtaobh na n-áiseanna agus na tacaíochta a fhaigheann siad.

Tá a lán nithe ag cur imní orainn. Níl sé soiléir go bhfuil an fuinneamh sa Rialtas na rudaí seo a dhéanamh. Ní aontaíonn an Taoiseach liom, ach is léir sin ó nach raibh an fo-choiste sásta teacht le chéile ach dhá uair i rith na bliana seo. Tá sin dochreidte agus is olc an rud é. Is oth liom a rá go léiríonn sé an easpa measa atá ag an Rialtas faoi fhorbairt na Gaeltachtaí ag an babhta seo. Tá i bhfad níos mó le déanamh agus tá sé in am dúinn sin a dhéanamh.

Le 30 bliain anuas tá fás agus borradh ar ndóigh tar éis teacht ar scoileanna lán-Ghaeilge agus a leithéid agus is breá sin. Tá sin tábhachtach agus tá sé tábhachtach go dteastaíonn ó an-chuid daoine agus daoine óga a bheith in ann an Ghaeilge a thuiscint agus a labhairt. Is rud dearfach é sin amach is amach. An rud atá i mbaol anois ná go leanfaidh an Ghaeilge mar teanga labhartha agus mar theanga phobail sna Gaeltachtaí. Sin an dainséar atá os comhair na tíre seo anois.

Ag deireadh thiar thall, maraíonn an caipitleachas cultúr mionlaigh agus teanga mhionlaigh. Tá sin tar éis tarlú in an-chuid tíortha. Ní thuigeann an Taoiseach cé chomh práinneach agus chomh géarchúiseach agus atá an scéal seo muna dtuigeann sé go bhfuil na polasaithe déine atá á chur i bhfeidhm aige ag cur isteach go mór ar na Gaeltachtaí agus ar an Ghaeilge mar theanga labhartha mar tá daoine óga ag imeacht mórthimpeall na cruinne seachas bheith in ann fanacht sa bhaile - cur fúthu ansin agus clann a thógáil - rud a chinnteodh go mbeadh an Ghaeilge i bhfad níos láidre mar theanga labhartha.

Tá teachtaireachtaí láidre curtha amach ag na Teachtaí. Labhair an Teachta Adams faoi Chonradh na Gaeilge. Tá a fhios ag gach éinne go bhfuil iarratas foirmeálta faighte ag Uachtarán na hÉireann dul trasna go dtí an Bhreatain ar chuairt Stáit go dtí Banríon na Breataine. Nuair a tháinig sí anseo cúpla bliain ó shin, bhí "a chairde" i measc na céad fhocail a dúirt sí nuair a labhair sí i gCaisleán Bhaile Átha Cliath. Ní bheidh mé ag scríobh ráiteas an Uachtaráin, ar ndóigh, ach tá súil agam go mbeidh sé in ann cuid dá ráiteas a dhéanamh i nGaeilge ar mhórthír na Breataine.

Tá mé ag caint faoin pholasaí.

Sílim go mbeidh áthas ar mhuintir na hÉireann anseo, agus orthu siúd a bheidh i láthair chun an tUachtarán a chloisteáil, má dhéanann sé é sin. Is é an polasaí atá againn, chun freagra a thabhairt don Teachta, ná an straitéis 20 bliain a chur i gcrích. Tá an straitéis aontaithe agus tá an plean réitithe. Nuair a tháinig an tAire Stáit chugam, dúirt sé go raibh €500,000 eile ag teastáil chun tosú láidir a dhéanamh ar an obair seo. Tugadh an t-airgead sin dó agus away leis anois ar fud na Gaeltachta chun é sin a chur i gcrích.

Labhair an Teachta Ó Máirtín faoin mholadh a cuireadh chun cinn ionas go mbeadh múinteoirí in ann an Ghaeilge a fhoghlaim in aon ionad múinteoireachta amháin. Roghnaíodh foirgneamh san iar-Choláiste Íosagáin, thíos i mBaile Bhúirne. Nuair a bhí mé thíos ansin ar lá iontach fliuch, taispeánadh dom an áit inar chuir an t-iar-Aire, Michael Woods, sluasaid airgid thíos sa talamh chun an bhunchloch a leagan. Ní dhearnadh tada faoi ó shin. Chun an fhírinne a rá, tá sé iontach éasca córas cumarsáide ó thaobh labhairt, feiceáil agus múinteoireacht na Gaeilge, nó teanga ar bith eile, a chur ar fáil ag an bpointe seo. Nuair a bhí mé thuas in Oideas Gael i nGleann Cholm Cille le déanaí, dúradh liom go bhfuil daoine ó chuile thír ag foghlaim na Gaeilge ní hamháin san ionad ach freisin ina dtíortha féin ar fud an domhain agus meáin nua á n-úsáid acu.

B'fhéidir go mbeimid in ann cúpla uair an chloig a chaitheamh ar díospóireacht anseo faoin straitéis, faoin Ghaeilge agus faoi na Gaeltachtaí roimh dheireadh na bliana. Ní thuigim go díreach an méid a bhí le rá ag an Teachta faoi na mná tí. Tá siad iontach tábhachtach ó thaobh múinteoireachta agus labhairt na Gaeilge de. Cuireann siad smacht ar dhaltaí trí iad a spreagadh chun coinneáil leo an Ghaeilge a labhairt nuair a bhíonn siad ag freastal ar chúrsaí Gaeltachta. Is maith an rud é sin. Sílim go bhfuil siad tábhachtach. Bhí mé ag féachaint ar chlár teilifíse cúpla seachtain ó shin mar gheall ar mhuintir na foraoise móire sa Bhrasaíl, atá ag féachaint ar mheáin chumarsáide nua chun déileáil leis an domhan mór amach rompu. Bhí fiú mairnéalach na réalta, an Commander Hadfield, ag tvuíteáil as Gaeilge faoi chomh hálainn agus chomh glas atá an t-oileán seo mar chuid den phláinéad.

Written Answers follow Adjournment.