Molaim an méid a dubhairt an Rúnaí Parlaiminte. Tá lúcháir orm gur ceapadh é mar Rúnaí Parlaiminte don Roinn seo mar, im thuairimse, níl aon duine sa Dáil níos oiriúnaí don phost sin ná é. Ta aithne rí-mhaith aige ar mhuintir na fíorGhaeltachta, ní h-amháin i dTír Chonaill ach i gCúige Uladh chomh maith. Tá na daoine ag fágáil na Fíor-Ghaeltachta; tá siad ag imtheacht leo agus tá súil agam go mbeidh ar chumas an Rúnaí Pharlaiminte rud éigin a dhéanamh chun feabhas a chur ar an scéal sin. Tá a fhios aige go maith go bhfuil na daoine sin, go mórmhór na h-oibrithe atá ag dul go hAlbain agus áiteacha eile, ag tnú le feabhas éigint le tamall fada. Tá obair dhian le déanamh ag an Roinn agus caithfimíd comhoibriú le chéile ag iarraidh an scéal a leigheas. Aon rud is féidir linn a dhéanamh ar an dtaobh seo den Tí déanfaimíd é ach is fíor a rá go gcaithfidh an Rialtas seo níos mó a dhéanamh thar mar a dhein an Rialtas a chuaigh rompa.
I wish to be brief for the benefit first of those who possibly do not understand my Northern dialect and also for the other Deputies who perhaps do not understand Irish. I should like to offer my sincere congratulations to the Parliamentary Secretary on the high honour bestowed on him in his appointment as Parliamentary Secretary to the Department of the Gaeltacht. I am perfectly certain nobody in the House is better fitted to look after this Department than Deputy Faulkner. He has an intimate knowledge of the Gaeltacht. He is a fluent speaker of the language and he spends practically every holiday in the heart of the Fíor-Ghaeltacht where Irish is still the spoken language of the children and for that reason alone, his appointment augurs well for the language. I do not say that as flattery; I am quite sincere in offering those congratulations. The Parliamentary Secretary and I have been associated for many years in minor ways in projects for the Gaeltacht and I sincerely hope the prayer he uttered in the final sentences of his speech, a prayer for co-operation, will be answered. I am sure that as far as this side of the House is concerned, he will get all the co-operation he requires.
I have been looking through some statistics in relation to the Gaeltacht and they make interesting reading. I quote from the Dáil Report, Volume 189, Columns 959,960 and 961 when in reply to a Parliamentary Question by Deputy Corish as to the total population of the areas regarded officially as the Fíor-Ghaeltacht, in the years 1926, 1946 and 1956 and 1960, the Deputy received the certain information from the then Parliamentary Secretary to Taoiseach, Donnchadh Ó Briain. In 1926, believe it or not, in the Fíor-Ghaeltacht in County Clare there were 3,434 Irish speakers. In 1936, the population was 3,252. There was a fall of approximately 200 between 1926 and 1936. In 1946, the figure was 2,934, a fall of over 300. Then again in 1956 the population was down to 2,497. Therefore, between 1926 and 1956, the population of the Fíor-Ghaeltacht fell by approximately 1,000.
Clare is not a typical county from which one has migration and emigration, so I shall refer to the counties of Donegal, Galway, Mayo and Kerry. In 1926, the population of the Donegal Gaeltacht was 48,874 but in 1956 it had fallen to 35,527, a fall of approximately 13,000 during those 30 years. Galway had a fall in its Gaeltacht population of 6,000; Kerry had a fall of approximately 9,000; and Mayo, strange as it may seem, had a fall in its Gaeltacht population of merely 3,000. However, the pattern was set there. Down through the years, since the establishment of the State the population of the Gaeltacht has fallen and very little attempt is being made to arrest that decline. The Parliamentary Secretary today, for the first time since this Department was established, tells us that the entire moneys voted for his Department last year have been expended. Year after year there was a carry-over of unexpended moneys voted for this Department and they have been taken into the moneys allocated for the following year. It is a very good sign that these moneys should be spent but I wonder was there increased employment given in the spending of these additional moneys or was it merely increased wages and costings that caused this expenditure.
I also notice that expenditure on various items to which the Parliamentary Secretary referred, employment in the Gaeltacht, housing, scholarships and social services, has not changed down through the years. Even the principal employers in the Gaeltacht, namely, Gaeltarra Éireann, do not appear to have extended their activities in the manner in which one would like to see them extended. Let me say that I am completely opposed to the establishment of industries in the Gaeltacht in which technicians or specialists must be imported because that tends to anglicise the Gaeltacht area into which these people are brought. Some of the voluntary organisations have done much more to preserve the Gaeltacht than the Parlimentary Secretary's Department, and when I refer to his Department, I refer to it down through the years under the various Governments in office in this State.
Although this Vote deals with the Gaeltacht and the people in it, it is a Vote that we cannot discuss without discussing the Irish language. Strictly speaking, the Irish language would be much more appropriate to a debate on the Estimate for the Department of Education but one cannot rock the cradle without shaking the baby and there can be no doubt that the Gaeltacht is the cradle of the Irish language. The day the Gaeltacht disappears, the Irish language as a spoken language will disappear and that will finish it for all time. It will become a dead language like Latin and Greek.
When I spoke on this Estimate in 1950, I suggested that one of the methods of reviving the language and of retaining the Irish speaker in the Gaeltacht was to send students to the Gaeltacht throughout the year for the purpose of acquiring a knowledge of Irish in the home of the language, namely, the Gaeltacht. It is insufficient to send students there for a month or two months during the summer. In the first place, the Gaeltacht is too small and too many students are being sent there at the same time, with the result that they have no opportunity of mixing with the native Irish speakers in the Gaeltacht. They are herded together and have no opportunity of mixing with the young people there and acquiring the spoken language or of learning the culture of the Gaeltacht. If these people were sent there in smaller numbers and sent throughout the year, not only would they assist in acquiring and preserving the language but they would assist the economy of the Gaeltacht considerably.
One of the main sources of income in the Gaeltacht is the keeping of students during the summer months. During that period there is prosperity in the Gaeltacht when the bean a'tí is able to put up a certain number of students. They cultivate little plots, which are scattered among the rocks, for the purpose of catering for the children. If students were sent throughout the year, it would be a shot in the arm to the economy of the Gaeltacht generally. I do not think it is impracticable. I do not suggest that the students should necessarily attend school and follow the ordinary curriculum but they could attend oral Irish classes taught not by trained teachers— so much the better if they are trained— but by native speakers of the dialect in that locality.
The number of students sent each year could be increased gradually and, if possible, they should be sent in units from the various schools so that when they would return, they would continue to speak the dialect used in the Gaeltacht. If that were done, we would find, instead of the sons and daughters of the households in the Gaeltacht emigrating or migrating, they would eventually build houses with the ambition of becoming fear a'tí and bean a'tí themselves. Not only would we be preserving the Gaeltacht as it exists but we would be able to extend that Gaeltacht out into the breac-Ghaeltacht and eventually into the Galltacht and in that way we would be doing a considerable amount for the language.
I do not say it is possible to establish Irish colleges in all Gaeltacht areas and, where it is not possible, we should endeavour to promote industries based on the raw materials of the district and, from that point of view, I know of none better than afforestation. I said last night when speaking on the Estimate for the Department of Lands and the Forestry Division that I thought afforestation one of the best sources of employment in the poor, mountainous Gaeltacht areas. The Parliamentary Secretary should discuss this with his Minister and endeavour to establish some liaison whereby, even in areas where it is uneconomic to have afforestation because of unsatisfactory soil condition, in order to provide employment for Irish speakers in an Irish-speaking environment, afforestation should be carried out. I appeal to the Parliamentary Secretary to do something about it because, in doing so, he will do good for the language and preserve it in its natural environment.
Some years ago when I had the honour of being in charge of Roinn na Gaeltacht agus na gCeanntar gCúng, as it was then called, we endeavoured to do something about fisheries. Fishing boats were provided for Irish speakers, either without any deposit at all or with only a nominal deposit. That scheme, I am sorry to say, was not a success because the boats were compelled to fish out of and into ports where Irish was not spoken. The idea was good. The idea was to have a skipper and crew who were all Irish speakers and who would transact their ordinary business through the medium of Irish. Unfortunately they had to follow the fish from port to port and use the facilities in these ports. It was impossible to continue with the scheme. I think now there should be a greater concentration on the half-decker type of boat, particularly in the west of Ireland. There are ports in the west close to the Fíor-Ghaeltacht where this scheme could be developed, particularly in relation to lobster and salmon fishing and inshore herring fishing. If the boats were made available, I understand there are a number of very small harbours in the west which could be developed.
By allocating greater sums for the making, development and improvement of roads in the Gaeltacht, the Minister is doing a great deal of good. I know one Gaeltacht which is actually expanding now, the Gaeltacht of Donegal. Rannafast, as the Parliamentary Secretary knows, is now overflowing into the Breac-Ghaeltacht of Annagry. The same thing is happening in Gweedore and Arranmore. I should like to pay tribute to the Parliamentary Secretary for the moneys expended on the making of roads in Arranmore. I hope that policy will continue and that all the roads in that Fíor-Ghaeltacht island will be completed because, by doing that, not only will the Parliamentary Secretary make social amenities available to the islanders themselves but he will also make available to visitors, tourists and students attractive tourist roads. I appeal to him to continue these generous grants for the making and improvement of roads in the Fíor-Ghaeltacht areas and I hope he will succeed in persuading the local authorities, when they take over these roads, to keep them in proper repair.
Years ago, a sum of money was made available under this Estimate for the building of dance halls in the Fíor-Ghaeltacht. The Fíor-Ghaeltacht has far too many dance halls. They are the curse of the Gaeltacht. I changed that policy when I was in charge. Instead of making money available for dance halls, I made it available for the building of theatres in which Gaelic would be the sole medium. I was glad to allocate a grant of £20,000 for Aisteoirí Ghaoth Dobhair for the building of a magnificent theatre there. That has proved a huge success. It attracts visitors and students throughout the entire year. No other theatre has been built in the Fíor-Ghaeltacht since then. That is a tragedy. It may be that initiative was not displayed and, if that is so, then initiative should be encouraged and more theatres erected. I may be wrong in saying that no theatre has been built since that money was allocated in 1956 and, if I am wrong, the Parliamentary Secretary will correct me. I should infinitely prefer to see moneys allocated for theatres rather than dance halls.
We welcome the Parliamentary Secretary's assurances and will respond to his request for co-operation. One matter to which I should like him to give attention is the revision of the Gaeltacht areas. Some areas will have to be curtailed because the language has gone out of them; others may have to be expanded. I am sure the Parliamentary Secretary remembers when the town of Falcarragh was not included in the Gaeltacht. As a result of representations, Falcarragh was subsequently included. There may be other areas in the west, south and north which, if given proper examination now, could be included in the Fíor-Ghaeltacht.
The time is not appropriate for a discussion of the White Paper. I welcome the increase, however, in the deontas paid to Irish-speaking schoolchildren but I think the Parliamentary Secretary should examine the scheme very carefully. I know one case in which Irish is the spoken language of the household. It is acquired Irish, not native Irish. The children have been refused the deontas on the ground that they are not native speakers. I doubt if that is the purpose of the scheme. I think the idea of the scheme is to encourage families to speak Irish, irrespective of whether it is acquired or native Irish. It would be worth while examining the scheme and, if any administrative amendments are found necessary, they should be made.
I congratulate the Parliamentary Secretary and wish him every success in his appointment. I sincerely hope he will continue to pay as much attention to the Fíor-Ghaeltacht of Donegal as has been paid to it in the past.