I propose to take Questions Nos. 234 and 235 together.
As the Deputy will be aware, the Public Appointments Service (PAS) is the independent, statutory body that provides professional recruitment and selection services to the civil service.
In relation to the recruitment of fluent Irish speakers to the civil service, such speakers can apply for competitions that specifically require fluency in the Irish language. They can also apply for competitions that do not require fluency in the Irish language and express and, in doing so, indicate their fluency in Irish that may be taken into consideration for assignments to posts that may be vacant should they subsequently come under consideration for appointment. There is nothing to preclude candidates from applying from more than one competition provided they meet all eligibility criteria set out in the respective competition.
PAS forms panels for general civil service positions that candidates are assigned from as and when vacancies are notified to PAS by civil service employers. The number of positions available to any particular panel depends on the demand from Departments/Offices and adherence to their pay and numbers allocations. While every effort is made to endeavour that panels are not large, candidates are advised that placement on a particular panel is no guarantee of appointment to a position arising from their participation in a particular competition. PAS has continued to serve all requests for candidates to be assigned from panels throughout the pandemic.
In relation to the Irish Executive Officer panels formed from the 2019 competitions, my Department has already authorised PAS to extend the expiry date of the current Irish Executive Officer panels by three months to 31 December 2021, with a notification having issued to candidates on panels to this effect by PAS. A new Irish Executive Officer competition is due to be undertaken by PAS in January 2022 from which all future assignments will be made. I consider this an appropriate timeframe in terms of striking a balance between how long candidates may remain on panels against the need to refresh panels by allowing applications from those either not eligible at the closing date or who did not meet the standard at a point in time for a particular competition.
The Deputy will be aware that the Official Languages (Amendment) Bill, currently before the Houses of the Oireachtas, proposes a 20% Irish language fluency target for all new hires to the public service by 2030 in line with Programme for Government commitments. The implementation of the Government’s Rural Development Strategy “Our Rural Future” that was launched in March by the Minister for Community and Rural Development, may also provide enhanced opportunities for Irish-speaking roles in the public service in the years ahead.