Tuesday, 9 July 2019

Questions (879)

John Curran


879. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the number of scholarships provided to secondary school students wishing to attend the Gaeltacht during the school summer holidays in each of the years 2017, 2018 and to date in 2019; the schools that participated in a scholarship programme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29812/19]

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Written answers (Question to Culture)

The Deputy  may be aware that my Department provides a subvention  - via Scéim na bhFoghlaimeoirí Gaeilge (the Irish Language Learners' Scheme) aimed at indirectly subventing the cost of attending any one of the Gaeltacht Irish summer colleges recognised under the scheme.

In 2018 approximately 26,000 students (both at post-primary and third-level) availed of this subvention to the value of €4.2m of exchequer funding in 2018 - is payable under the terms of the scheme to qualifying households (of which there are approx. 700), who provide accommodation to attending students.

The Deputy may also be aware that that earlier this year, I announced  the provision of a new scholarship fund: DEIS Gaeltachta, worth €50,000, to enable 50 students attending DEIS post-primary schools – to attend Irish college during the summer. This is the first time that such a measure has been initiated  by my Department. The measure represents the outworking of the commitment made under action 2.16 of the Government’s Plean Gníomhaíochta 2018-2022 don Ghaeilge (Irish Language Action Plan 2018-2022) , which was published in June 2018 following Government approval and is being implemented on an ongoing basis by relevant stakeholders including my Department.

The scholarship fund is being  administered nationally by the Galway and Roscommon Education and Training Board (GRETB) in conjunction with the Department. As a result of this practical measure, 50 students, who may not have this opportunity otherwise,  are being provided with the opportunity to attend Irish summer college and avail of the language learning and enrichment opportunities this presents. I understand that the scholarship fund has been fully subscribed for this year. 

In addition, and in overall support of providing learning opportunities for second-level students, my department  provides  specific grant-aid under the scheme by way of a further measure called: ÁRANN Gaeltachta. Under this measure  - which is in operation since 2007, specific grant-aid is provided  to qualifying households on the Aran Islands who provide accommodation for students attending one of the three island-based post-primary schools for an entire school-year. 40 students availed of the measure in 2017, while 30 students per year have availed of the measure in the intervening period - in line with the maximum number allocated under the terms of  the measure. 

I might also mention that I recently announced  the provision of a new fund worth €250,000 which will facilitate new opportunities for third-level students to spend three months in the Gaeltacht. Under ERASMUS Gaeltachta, a subsidy worth €17 per day will be provided to enable third-level institutions to offer a semester in the Gaeltacht to their students. Similar to the other aforementioned measures, this subsidy is payable to those providing accommodation under the terms of Scéim na bhFoghlaimeoirí Gaeilge. The fund is expected to accommodate up to 175 students and represents progress in relation to measures 2.13, 2.15 and 2.19 of the Action Plan. 

In the interest of completeness, I should say  that I am aware that scholarships are provided by various Irish language, cultural and sports organisations, as well as by several local authorities. I am also aware that some of the Irish colleges themselves offer part scholarships to students.

I am satisfied that these measures provide significant language-learning opportunities for young people; have the same or similar effect as scholarships; align with the key principles of social inclusion - as relevant; and generate substantial down-stream economic benefits for Gaeltacht regions.