Thank you, Sir. I feel that, in all good faith, the Senator has concentrated rather too much on one portion of this sub-section which I am endeavouring to have amended. Part of the purpose was to urge the new Department to consult and advise, but, in the same sub-section, it is stated that the function of the new Department shall be not merely, as we have heard, to promote the cultural, social and economic welfare of the Gaeltacht, but also "to encourage the preservation and extension of the use of Irish as a vernacular language." It does far more than simply suggest that it shall consult with other Departments. It is for that reason that I felt it worth putting down an amendment in relation to that, to add the words "and notably to endeavour to have Irish treated as a living, spoken language at all Department of Education examinations," which are the only examinations over which a Department of State has direct control.
I raised this matter on the Second Stage, and the Minister, while sympathetic with the notion that it would be a good thing and assuring us that his own Department of Education was going into the question, said, at column 115, that he would like me to
"set out a scheme by which the number of children, boys and girls, going through the Intermediate Certificate and Leaving Certificate examinations would be orally examined in Irish—in an examination which, so far as the Intermediate Certificate is concerned at any rate, is, to some extent, a competitive examination so far as certain results from that examination are concerned."
The implication there is that, because there is competition in an examination, and because that examination deals with large numbers of children, it would not be possible in this particular way to change the official attitude towards Irish as a spoken language, however much that may be desired. The Minister went on to speak in column 116 of
"the extent to which the Department of Education in this country is put to the pin of its collar to provide examiners for the Intermediate and Leaving Certificates, as these examinations stand."
He says that any Senator would understand:—
"that there might be a little additional difficulty and that if he had to undertake an oral examination it might be the last straw that would break the camel's back."
He adds a little further down in the same column:—
"While I suffer from the fears of a breakdown of the examination system for the Intermediate and Leaving Certificates, under the strain to which it is subject at present, I am not going to consider in any kind of a practical way... the whole question of oral examinations."
I feel disturbed by that, because I feel that there is a misapprehension in the Minister's own Department in relation to the possibility of finding more examiners to examine in Irish. I should like to put it to the Minister that one way to find more is to pay more. I reject utterly the suggestion that it is impossible to treat Irish as a vernacular tongue in official State examinations. The Minister thinks that, with the best will in the world, it is not possible, and that the whole system might break down. It is because of that doctrine of despair—he has accused me of being depressed and plunged in despair—but it is because of his own attitude of despair in relation to the subject that I feel it necessary to put down this amendment, so as to indicate that we do not believe it is an impossible thing, that you cannot find examiners or make arrangements for oral examinations in Irish in the Intermediate and Leaving Certificate examinations. I believe that if we underwrite that principle and insert it here as part of the function of the new Gaeltacht department, we will be asserting our belief that it can be done, despite the despair in the matter on the part of the Minister.