In May 2002 the then Minister for Education and Science announced the provision of 175 additional therapy training places to tackle shortages of physiotherapists, occupational therapists and speech and language therapists as identified by the report Current and Future Supply and Demand Conditions in the Labour Market for Certain Professional Therapists, prepared by Dr. Peter Bacon and Associates in 2001.
As part of this initiative, an additional 75 speech and language therapy places were provided at University College Cork, University of Limerick and the National University of Ireland Galway. Intake to these courses commenced in the 2003-04 academic year. The Bacon report set out to address the immediate issue of a shortage of therapists. It recommended that initiatives be set up as a matter of urgency to increase the supply of qualified personnel in each of the three therapy professions. It did not specifically address the provision of services through Irish. As the pre-existing overall shortage of therapists is beginning to be addressed, the issue of meeting the needs of those who require speech and language therapy in a language other than English is only in the early stages of development. I am aware that the colleges concerned are beginning to consider this issue.
More generally, an inter-agency working group on the development of third level education through Irish, comprising representatives from my Department, the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Údarás na Gaeltachta and the Higher Education Authority recently reported to my predecessor and to the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs. The working group made several recommendations on the provision of third level education through Irish and these are under consideration.