Ar feadh na blianta, go deimhin ó bunaíodh an Stát, is mó díospóireacht agus tuarascála a tháinig ós cómhair na Dála faoin Ghaeltacht agus faoin teanga. Is mó scéimeanna agus pleananna agus is mó atá ráite agus scríobhtha ag a lán daoine i rith na blianta faoi leas na Gaeilge agus na Gaeltachta.
Sa Bhille seo tá an tAire ag iarraidh údarás nua Ghaeltachta a bhunú. Nuair a foilsíodh an Bille ar an gcéad dul síos, tugadh le tuiscint go mbeadh cumhachtaí ag an údarás, agus bhí gach éinne ag súil agus ag fanacht go dtí an lá seo, go dtí go mbeadh deis ag an Aire ráiteas a thabhairt don Dáil ag miniú go díreach céard atá i gceist aige i dtaobh an údaráis seo. Bhí gach éinne ag súil, cuir i gcás, go mbeadh níos mó eolais ar fáil ar an ócáid seo ag an Dáil agus ag gach éinne taobh amuigh faoi pholasaí an Rialtais maidir le forbairt na Gaeltachta.
Tá imní orm agus ionadh faoin ráiteas beag, ráiteas an-ghairid ar fad, a thug sé anseo inniu—ceithre leathanach. Ba cheart go mbeadh i bhfad níos mó le rá ag an Aire, mar, mar a fheicimse an scéal ón ráiteas a thug an tAire, ní mórán athrú a bheidh sa Ghaeltacht tar éis an Bhille seo. Dáiríre, níl ach athrú amháin ann, sé sin go mbeidh tóghchán chun ionadaí a cheapadh nó a thóghadh don údarás. Sin é an t-aon athrú. Bhíos ag léamh sna nuachtáin ráiteasaí ó chainteoirí áirithe, nó cuid acu, nach raibh sa Bhille seo ach teideal nua do Ghaeltarra Éireann. Bhí mise ag súil nach mar sin a bheadh an scéal, ach ón mbeagáinín a bhí le rá ag an Aire inniu, tá eagla orm. B'fhéidir nuair a bheidh an tAire ag tabhairt freagra ar an díospóireacht go mbeidh níos mó le rá aige, ach ón eolas atá le fáil i ráiteas an Aire agus sa mBille féin, tá sé fíor a rá nach mbeidh aon athrú ach go mbeidh tóghchán sa Ghaeltacht, go mbeidh cúigear ionadaí tóghtha san tóghchán sin.
Níl aon mhaitheas le údarás muna bhfuil cumhachtaí forleathan acu. Sé an brí atá le "údarás" ná "authority", agus ba chóir go mbeadh cumhachtaí forleathan acu. Ach níl aon rud sa Bhille atá ag tabhairt cumhachtaí níos leithne ná mar atá ag Gaeltarra Éireann faoi láthair. Maidir leis an tóghchán, deireann an tAire sa chéad leathanach dá ráiteas, ag tagairt don mheitheal oibre a mhol Comhairle na Gaeilge go mbunófaí i 1971:
Cé go bhfuil moltaí áirithe a rin-neadh sa tuarascáil sin á gcur i bhfeidhm sa Bhille seo—mar shampla, seisear comhalta le ceapadh go díreach ag an Aire——
Sin é an t-aon moladh atá dá chur i bhfeidhm ag an Aire anseo, méadú ar líon na gcomhaltaí a bhéas ar an mbord nua. Bhí sé réasúnta bheith ag súil go mbeadh rud nua san údarás seo, go mbeadh cumhachtaí nua, cumhachtaí breise acu i gcomparáid leis na cumhachtaí atá faoi láthair ag Gaeltarra Éireann agus ag an Roinn féin, cumhachtaí breise a bhrostódh forbairt na Gaeltachta. Ach níl rud ar bith anseo.
Ba mhaith liom ceist a chur air, an bhféadfadh sé a rá linn céard tá ins an Bhille a chabhródh le chomharchumainn Ghaeltachta chun forbairt ceantair áirithe a chur chun cinn? Céard tá sa Bhille a chabhródh le comharchumainn na n-oileán in iarthar Chonamara chun an obair atá tosnaithe acu, agus atá ag dul chun cinn, a chur chun dea-chríoch? Conas a chabhróidh an Bhille seo leo sin? Conas a chabhróidh an Bhille an teanga a neartú, go háirithe sna limistéir ar a dtugtar an Bhreac-Ghaeltacht?
Ach, dar liom, sé an rud is measa leis an Bhille ná nach bhfuil aon eolas againn i dtaobh polasaí an Rialtais i dtaobh forbairt na Gaeltachta. An bhfuil sé i gceist ag an Aire forbairt na Gaeltachta a chur chun cinn tré an ghluaiseacht comharaíochta ar bhealach níos eifeachtaí? Céard tá ins an Bhille seo a cabhróidh le muintir na n-oileán chun forbairt na n-oileán a chur chun cinn, chun caighdeán maith maireachtála a chur ar fáil sna h-oileáin sin? Tá fadhbanna ar leith ag baint le forbairt na n-oileán agus sílim go mba chóir go dtabharfaí cabhair ar leith do mhuintir na n-oileán go háirithe os rud é go bhfuil comharchumann i mbeagnach gach oileán. Ba chóir go mbeadh sé mar cheann de na príomh-aidhmeanna ag an údarás leas muintir na n-oileán a chur chun cinn, ach níl aon eolas ar fáil ag an bpointe seo go mbeidh níos mò cabhair le fáil ag muintir na n-oileán.
Dá bhrí sin, tá imní orm maidir leis an Bhille seo. Is féidir liom é sin a rá ag an bpointe seo. Dá mba rud é go mbeadh deis agamsa mar Aire Bille mar seo a thabhairt isteach, ní dheánfainn é mar seo. In ionad an Bhille seo, sílimse go bhféadfadh an tAire teacht isteach sa Dáil agus leasú amháin a chur isteach i mBille um Thionscail na Gaeltachta maidir le toghachán do Bhord Ghaeltarra Éireann. Sin mar a fheicimse an scéal.
It is a simple matter of approaching the matter on a realistic basis. My interpretation of this Bill is that there is only one major change in this and that is the whole system of election of members to the board of the údarás. This could have been done by a simple amendment to the Gaeltacht Acts. The section in the Gaeltacht Industries Bill which deals with the election of members to the board of Gaeltarra Éireann could have been amended to include this system of election.
Is é an toghachán an t-aon rud suimiúil atá sa Bhille seo. Maidir leis an toghachán, i leathnach a 2 de oráid an Aire tá eolas faoi chéard atá beartaithe do na liminstéirí oifigiúla Ghaeltachta, agus is mar seo leanas a bheidh na hionadaithe toghtha iontu: beirt do Dhún na nGall, triúr do Ghaillimh, Mhaigh Eo agus Mí le chéile agus beirt do Chiarraí, Chorcaigh agus Port Láirge le chéile. Ó "Gníomh don Ghaeltacht" ní raibh na moltaí mar sin. Bhí sé i gceist i "Gníomh don Gaeltacht" go mbunófaí bord comharaíochta i ngach cúige agus go mbeadh triúr ar an údarás ó gach cúige. Níl fhios agamsa cén fáth a rinne an tAire athrú ar na moltaí sin: beirt do Dhún na nGall, triúr do Ghaillimh, Mhaigh Eo agus Mí le chéile, agus beirt do Chiarraí, Chorcaigh agus Port Láirge le chéile.
Nuair a bhí mé ag féachaint ar an scéal sin ní raibh mé sásta, go háirithe maidir le Gaillimh, Maigh Eo agus Mí. Rinne mé tagairt cheana do na h-oileáin Ghaeltachta, go bhfuil fadhbanna ar leith ag baint leis na hoileáin amuigh ó chósta na hEireann. Ach tá fadhbanna ar leith ag baint leis na Gaeltachtai beaga ar a dtugtar na cóilíneachtaí Ghaeltachta orthu. Níl ciall ar bith, dar liom, na Gaeltachtaí i gContae na Mí, Baile Gib agus Rath Cairn, a chur isteach ins an toghachán chéanna le Gaillimh agus Maigh Eo, agus beidh Oileáin Árainn chomh maith ins an ceantar toghchán sin. Beidh Gaillimh, na hOileáin Árainn, Maigh Eo agus Gaeltacht na Mí le chéile. Rinne "Ghníomh don Ghaeltacht" moladh go mbeadh coiste ann le cabhrú chun comhoibriú agus comh-ordú a dhéanamh ar fhorbairt i ngach cúige, ach ní dóigh liomsa go bhfuil sé i gceist ag an Aire coiste mar sin a bhunú.
Tá eagla mór ormsa, agus bhí i gconaí, maidir leis na Gaeltachtaí beaga, sé sin Gaeltacht Mhuscraí, Gaeltacht Phoirt Láirge agus Gaeltacht na Mí, cóilíneachtaí beaga Ghaeltachta go bhfuil fadhbanna an-mhór ann, ní amháin ó thaobh forbairt eacnamaíochta agus sóisialachta ach go háirithe maidir le forbairt cúltúrtha, fadhbanna an-mhór ar fad ó thaobh neartú na teanga i gcóilíneach beag, mar tá an Béarla ag brú ó gach taobh. Tá na pressures an-mhór ar fad agus de bhrí sin tá géarghá le polasaí i leith na gcean-tar mbeag Ghaeltachta sin. Tá súil agam nuair a bheidh an tAire ag ainmniú na comhaltaí don bhord, seachtar le togha agus seisir le ainmniú ag an Aire, go aithneófaí é seo—comhalta amháin ó Gaeltacht Mhuscraí, comhalta eile as Ghaeltacht Phoirt Láirge agus comhalta amháin as Ghaeltacht na Mí. Chomh maith leis sin tá súil agam go ndéanfaidh ar tAire athsmaoineamh ar cheist na n-oileán Ghaeltachta, nó mar a tugtar orthu, oileáin gan fostaíocht, sé sin Oileáin Tóraí, Inis Bofinne agus Clonbur, na hOileáin Árainn agus Oileán Chléire.
Bhí sé i gceist agamsa agus bhí mé ag súil go mbéadh coiste nó comhairle ar leith ag muintir na n-oileán Ghaeltachta. Is cuimhin liom cúpla bliain ó shoin gur tháinig ionadaí ó gach oileán Ghaeltachta le chéile agus bhí comhairle na n-oileán acu agus phléamar an cheist sin maidir leis an údarás. B'é mó thuairimse ag an am sin, agus sé mó thuairimse fós, go mba chóir ceantar toghacháin ar leith a thabhairt do na hoileáin Ghaeltachta ionas go mbeidh siad in ann a n-ionadaí a thoghadh agus a chur díreach ar an údarás. Sé an fhadhb is mó maidir leis an toghachán, go háirithe ins an dara ceantar—sé sin na hOileáin Árainn, Gaillimh, Muigheo agus Mí—nach mbeidh seans ar bith ag Gaeltacht na Mí nó ag na hOileáin Árainn mar níl an líon daoine chomh mór ann is atá san mórthír, i nGaillimh agus Muigheo. San chaoí a bhfuil sé ní bheidh ionadaí ar bith ar an údarás ag Gaeltacht na Mí nó na hOileáin Árainn. Dá bhrí sin nuair a thiocfaidh an tAire isteach sa Dáil leis an chéad Céim eile den Bhille tá súil agam go ndéanfaidh sé athsmaoineamh maidir leis na cóilíneachtaí Ghaeltachta agus na hoileáin Ghaeltachta. B'fhéidir go mbeadh sé ar a chumas ionadaithe nua as na cóilíneachtaí Ghaeltachta i bPort Láirge agus i nGaeltacht na Mí a ainmniú. Go háirithe tá mé ag rá leis an Aire go mba chóir dó ceantar toghcháin ar leith a thabhairt do na hoileáin Ghaeltachta.
Tá gluaiseacht na comharaíochta ag obair go han-mhaith ar feadh cúpla bliain. Chuir sé áthas agus gliondar croí orm a léamh ins na nuachtáin inniu gur bhuaigh Oileán Inis Meáin an chéad duais Chomórtas Forbartha Pobal na Gaeltachta. Cruthaíonn sé sin an deá-obair atá déanta ag muintir Inis Meáin agus muintir na n-oileán Ghaeltachta ar fad ar feadh cúpla bliain chun gluaiseacht na comharaíochta a chur chun cinn agus chun forbairt eacnamaíochta agus shóisialach a chur chun cinn. Tá sé fíor-thábhachtach go mbeadh deis ag muintir na n-oileán Gaeltachta faoin údarás nua leanúint ar aghaidh leis an deá-obair sin.
Admhaím go bhfuil deacracht ann faoin toghchán. Is é príomh-chuspóir an Bille ná go mbeidh toghchán. Is cuimhin liom go maith na blianta a bhí mise mar Aire na haragóintí agus na díospóireachtaí a bhíodh ar siúl faoin rud seo. Bhí sé mar thuairim agam, agus tá sé fós, gurb é an rud is tábhachtaí maidir le forbairt na Gaeltachta go mbeadh seans ag muintir na Gaeltachta páirt iomlán a ghlacadh i bhforbairt a gceantar féin. Dá bhrí sin, ó 1973 go 1977 rinneamar iarracht gluaiseacht na comharaíochta a chur chun cinn. Bhí sin mar phríomh-aidhm agam agus tá toradh an pholasaí sin le feiceáil ar fud na Gaeltachta.
Rinne mé tagairt do na hoileáin Ghaeltachta. Tá eolas maith agam faoin deá-obair a rinneadh ar feadh na blianta in Oileán Chléire agus Inis Meáin ina bhfuil tionscail nua a thosaigh mé nuair a bhí mé im Aire. Tá tionscail nua in Inis Mór agus bhí socraithe déanta agus mé im Aire i dtaobh Inis hOir. Chomh maith, bunaíodh tionscail in Árainn Mhór. Cé go bhfuil tábhacht ar leith ag baint le tionscail mar sin chun fostaíocht a chur ar fáil, sé an rud is tábhachtaí maidir le forbairt na n-oileán sin go mbeadh páirt ag daoine na n-oileán san obair sin. Ba é Comharchumann Inis Meáin a thosaigh an athbheochaint san oileán sin agus is comharchumann a rinne an obair chéanna in Oileán Chléire.
Chomh fada agus is cuimhin liomsa, nuair a d'fág mise Roinn na Gaeltachta bhí comharchumainn ag cúig oileáin, agus níl an Aire anois ag tabhairt aon aitheantas, tré an toghchán atá beart-aithe aige, do mhuintir na n-oileán.
Maidir leis na cumhachtaí atá sa Bhille, i leathanach 2 dá ráiteas déanann an Aire tagairt do na cumhachtaí a bhéas ag an údarás agus deireann sé gur deacair cumhachtaí den chineál sin a shonrú go cruinn roimhré. Sé alt 9 an t-alt is suimiúla sa Bhille. Faoin alt sin is féidir na cúmhachtaí a thabhairt le hordú ón Rialtas. Deireann an t-alt sin freisin go bhféadfar feidhmeanna aitiúla a thabhairt don údarás. Beidh toghcháin áitiúla ar siúl an bhliain seo chugainn agus cén fáth, má tá sé ar intinn ag an Aire cumhachtaí áitiúla a thabhairt don Údarás, nach bhfuil sé i gceist aige é a dhéanamh anois roimh na toghcháin áitiúla?
I want to make this point: looking back over the debates that have taken place on the Gaeltacht down the years since this Dáil was established, looking at the various reports, surveys, studies and so on that have been published, one must observe, first, that the future of the Gaeltacht, of our language, the preservation of our distinctive national identity and our rich cultural heritage are matters that should be of concern not merely to those fortunate enough to be able to speak the Irish language but also to every man, woman and child in the country. I believe therefore that every effort should be made to try to get across bilingually to the people the place of the Gaeltacht in the life of the nation, its role in the national life and its future role particularly in the development of our country.
It was my experience while I was Minister that the vast majority of our people, irrespective of whether they can speak the language or not, are interested in the welfare of the Gaeltacht people. From the very detailed scientific report known as the "Language Attitude Survey" carried out some years ago by international experts into the attitude of Irish people towards their language, their culture and their Gaeltacht, three things in particular emerged. The first was that the vast majority of the Irish people support policies for promoting our language, because it is an integral part of our national cultural heritage, a key part among all the components making up our national identity. I think it was 80 per cent who supported that view. An overwhelming majority rejected compulsory methods of language revival. A third one, which is very relevant to this Bill and which should encourage the Minister very greatly, is that an overwhelming majority of the people support policies for the economic and social development of the Gaeltacht. The economic and social development of the Gaeltacht has wide support transcending petty party politics, transcending political ideologies or otherwise. The development of the Gaeltacht should be looked at in a very serious manner.
During the four years I had the privilege of being Minister for the Gaeltacht I tried to approach the whole question of the revival of our language and the development of the Gaeltacht on a non-party political basis, because I am convinced that one thing more than any other which has bedevilled the language revival movement and has directly and indirectly hampered the proper development of our Gaeltacht regions is the fact that the language and the Gaeltacht were identified in the minds of people with some kind of ultra-nationalism, by implication, were identified with one particular political party. There have been attempts in recent times by certain "ginger" groups to abrogate unto themselves the right to put themselves forward as the sole custodians of the Irish language.
Since I went out of office I have had the opportunity of doing a bit of research on this matter, because it is very relevant to where we are going in relation to the language and the Gaeltacht. The impression has been created, particularly by the Minister's party, that they and they alone are the only party in the State who have any commitment to the revival of our language and to the development of the Gaeltacht. I want to avail myself of the opportunity of this debate to try to introduce a note of reality into this question of our language and the Gaeltacht. If we do not make it possible by every means in our power for the maximum number of native Irish speakers to live in their own regions in the Gaeltacht the Gaeltacht will die. If that happens the language will die. No person and no party in the country have a right to say that they alone are the only party who have a special commitment to the Irish language and to the Gaeltacht. This has happened. It is my opinion that it has been the greatest impediment to creating among our people of all shades of opinion, creed and class a basic love for our language because it is an integral part of our heritage and of our national identity.
We will find, if we look at the record, that before the Minister's party came into the House in the very early years of the State, when there were very difficult times and many problems confronting the Government at that time, the President of the Executive Council, the late W. T. Cosgrave, set up in 1925 Coimisiún na Gaeltachta under the chairmanship of the late General Richard Mulcahy. That commission travelled extensively throughout the Gaeltacht regions from Donegal to Cork. They met people on the spot and took copious evidence. In 1973 I had the privilege of being appointed Minister for the Gaeltacht and I spent almost the first year in office visiting the Gaeltacht areas meeting the people and taking evidence from them. I found that in 1973 and 1974 the people of the Gaeltacht were telling me almost exactly the same as they told Coimisiún na Gaeltachta in 1925, 50 years earlier. This does not reflect the problems of Gaeltacht development, economic and social problems, cultural problems, the emigration problem, trying to preserve the language against the pressures of modern life, the media, mass communications and so forth. All those problems were spelled out very dramatically to the commission in 1926 the same way as they were spelt out to me almost 50 years later. This does not reflect any great credit on any Government or on any party in the Oireachtas.
I have detected in recent times an attempt to try and create the impression abroad that the Fianna Fáil Party are the only party in the State who are committed to the Irish language. I am proud of the fact that our predecessors in this party, the great men who went before us, like the late W.T. Cosgrave and General Richard Mulcahy, thought, as early as 1925, that it was of sufficient importance that a proper Gaeltacht policy should be formulated and implemented. I can go further and say that between 1926 and 1956 the only major step of any significance towards Gaeltacht development was the establishment of Roinn na Gaeltachta in 1956. The Minister responsible for introducing the Bill setting up Roinn na Gaeltachta was the late General Richard Mulcahy who 30 years earlier was chairman of Coimisiún na Gaeltachta.
For the greater part of that period between 1926 and 1956 the Minister's party were in power. I feel it important to defend my party's stand in relation to the language and to the Gaeltacht and to say that it is my conviction, which I tried to give expression to during my period as Minister for the Gaeltacht, that all parties in the House are equally concerned and equally committed to the preservation of our language and to the economic and social development of the Gaeltacht. I noticed as late as last night on a certain programme on RTE a certain gentleman, who received substantial assistance from the Department of the Gaeltacht when I was Minister, again conveyed this impression. I will not spell out what he said. He received assistance beyond what he was probably entitled to and therefore availed of the opportunity to implement a programme to enunciate a certain political ideology conveying the impression that only one party, only one Government, have ever been concerned about the Gaeltacht or the Irish language. The policy being preached last night brought this whole thing into mind, and if this type of thing goes on it will not facilitate or encourage everybody to take an interest in the Gaeltacht. We must remember that the development of the Gaeltacht depends on the support of all people. The financing of Údarás na Gaeltachta will be done by the taxpayer and even to put it on its lowest denominator, a purely material denominator, it is only right that everybody should have an interest in the future of the Gaeltacht.
As Minister for the Gaeltacht I spent a lot of time trying to overcome problems which I am sure the present Minister has been confronted with. One of the problems was to bring in a Gaeltacht authority which would de facto be a meaningful authority with the necessary powers to accelerate the economic, social and cultural development of the Gaeltacht. The Minister has probably met with some of the problems I was confronted with, such as other Departments not wanting to give away any power, and so on. The Minister said that it could well be that some day Údarás na Gaeltachta will have the powers of a local authority. The Minister knows as well as I that if we were going to give this type of power to the new authority he would have done so in this Bill. What I am really concerned about is that this authority has no particular relevance nor is what the Minister is doing here a major step forward. I am concerned to ensure that the fantastic community development movement that was in the Gaeltacht before I took office, which I did my best to promote by means of generous assistance to the co-operatives and to the community development competition of the Gaeltacht, will be enabled to continue to work. There is nothing in this Bill, and I have searched it from top to bottom, to convince me that this work will continue. I would have been satisfied if the Minister had only said that it would be a major aim of his policy to encourage the co-operative movement and community development in the Gaeltacht.
Another defect in the Bill is that there is no indication as to what functions if any are being transferred from Roinn na Gaeltachta to the new authority. There is an enormous problem in relation to the division of functions and responsibility between Roinn na Gaeltachta on the one hand and Gaeltarra Éireann or Údarás na Gaeltachta on the other.
Cuir i gcás, tá Scéim na gComharchumann ann. Bhí an scéim sin faoi chúram Roinn na Gaeltachta agus tá na comharchumainn ag fáil tacaíocht ó Roinn na Gaeltachta faoi scéimeanna áirithe ar an lámh amháin, agus ar an taobh eile ó Ghaeltarra Éireann i dtaobh scéimeanna eile. Tá a lán deacrachtaí ag baint le scéimeanna mar sin, agus sílim gur chóir go mbeadh cúram na gcomharchumann faoin údarás nua seo ionas nach mbeadh aon bhaint acu leis an Roinn go díreach—ionas go mbeadh na comharchumainn in ann pleananna a phlé le húdarás amháin seachas bheith ag dul go Gaeltarra Eireann lá amháin agus ag teacht go Baile Átha Cliath lá eile chun buaileadh le Roinn na Gaeltachta. Sin é ceann de na fadhbanna, mar a fheicimse an scéal anois.
One of the biggest difficulties I see in relation to understanding what the Minister has in mind in this Bill is the fact that there is this division of responsibilities which makes it very difficult for the co-operatives particularly. Irrespective of what authority is set up and irrespective of what the Minister does or does not do, the future of the Gaeltacht depends on the development of community co-operation there, the encouragement of people to play their part and to put their hands into their pockets to contribute in some degree to the development of their localities through economic programmes, social programmes, cultural programmes and so on. I am convinced that the co-operative movement is based on the concept of community development which was preached throughout the length and breadth of the land 40 years ago by that great apostle of rural Ireland, the late Canon Hayes who founded Muintir na Tíre. It was because the co-operative movement and local community co-operatives had given adequate proof of their capacity virtually to transform their own locality that we decided in 1974 to introduce the comórtas pobail na Gaeltachta, the community development competition. This has been a fantastically successful scheme for a number of reasons. The communities which have won the award, which is now in the fifth and final year of its first phase, have shown absolutely fantastic results.
Is cuimhin liom go maith bheith i dTír Chonail cúpla bliain ó shin. San lá atá inniu ann níl aon scoil iar-bhunoideachais Ghaeilge ins an cheantair mór sin. Ait ina bhfuil an teanga beo, ina bhfuil an spoid ceart ann, tá na páistí ag dul go dtí an Ghaeltacht gach lá chun bunoideachas a fháil. As a result of the community development competition a fascinating new spirit arose in the Gaeltacht in Tir Chonaill and in 1976 or 1977 they won first place in the com-munity development competition.
Rachaimíd síos go dtí ceantair na n-oileán i gConamara, Leitir Móir, Leitir Mealláin, Gorumna, Tír an Fhia. O bunaíodh an Stáit ní raibh faic ar bith déanta ann chun fostaíocht a chur ar fáil do na daoine óga, chun caighdeán maith maireachtála a thabhairt do na daoine go dtí gur bunaíodh comharchumann amháin cúpla bliain ó shin. Is cuma cén taobh den Teach seo ina bhfuilimíd inár suí, tugann sé áthas agus gliondar croí dúinn dul go dtí ceantar Dúiche Sheoigeach agus ceantar na n-oileán agus an sprid atá le feiceáil ann. Tá comharchumann eile ar fud na Gaeltachta chomh maith.
Táim ag rá leis an Aire gurb é mo thuairim—ní tuairim polaitíochta é ar chor ar bith—maidir le gluaiseacht na comharaíochta, gluaiseacht forbartha pobal, nó community development, go mba cheart gluaiseacht na comharaíochta agus bunú comharchumainn bheith mar príomh-aidhm ag an údarás nua.
I am convinced that the future of the Gaeltacht and, as Canon Hayes said 40 years ago, of many rural parishes, whether they are Gaeltacht or Galltacht, depends on the development of community co-operation. Father McDyer has proved this beyond yea or nay in Glencolumcille. It was my ambition, and I hope the Minister has a similar ambition, to see a Glencolumcille in every Gaeltacht parish. If they can make a success of such ventures in Glencolumcille I do not see why the same cannot be done in other parts of the Gaeltacht.
I do not see what benefit this Bill will be to the many community leaders in Gaeltacht areas who are doing wonderful work in promoting the economic, social and cultural development of their areas. I do not see how this will help Éamon Ó Caoimh i gceantar Dúiche Sheoigeach, Pól Ó Foighil, nó Mícheál Mac Giobúin, an tAth Mac Duibhir, nó éinne eile, chun an obair a chur chun cinn. Níl fhios agam an mbeidh Scéim na gComharchumann faoi chúram Roinn na Gaeltachta nó Údarás na Gaeltachta thiar i nGaillimh.
Tá rud eile chomh maith atá anthábhachtach. Ins an tuarascáil sin, um Thaighde ar Leas an Phobail, rinneadh tagairt do na Breac-Ghaeltachtaí. Is cuimhin liom go maith nuair a bhí mise im Aire na Gaeltachta go raibh daoine á rá nach raibh sé ceart aon ghuth a thabhairt i dtoghchán Ghaeltachta do dhaoine taobh amuigh de na fíor-Ghaeltachtaí. Bhí daoine ann, go háirithe ionadaí Chonradh na Gaeilge, nach raibh sásta vóta ar bith a thabhairt do éinne i nGaeltacht Mhaigh Eo. Tá áthas orm anois go bhfuil an tAire ag seasamh mar sheas mise agus nach n-aithníonn sé ach Gaeltacht amháin, sé sin an Ghaeltacht oifigiúil atá leagtha síos faoi Achtanna an Oireachtais; ach mar sin féin, tá tábhacht ar leith ag baint leis na breac-Ghaeltachtaí agus na cean-tair ar imeall na Gaeltachtaí' ó thaobh na teanga agus forbairt eacnamaíochta.
These are vitally important and crucial areas to the future of the Gaeltacht. Some years ago we had people shouting that we should draw another line around the Gaeltacht and just have the Fíor-Ghaeltachtaí there. It is important that every effort be made to strengthen the language in what are colloquially termed the Breac-Ghaeltachtaí. In those areas the people know the language but do not speak it. By taking special measures in those areas we would be adopting the quickest way of extending the use of our national language. Such measures are also essential from an economic point of view. The Gaeltacht areas are small and scattered and in many cases are isolated units often on the fringe of large towns where the language is not spoken. Efforts should be made to revive the language in such Breac-Ghaeltachtaí areas.
I recall the first year of the awards for community development and the presentation which was made in a Dublin hotel. On that occasion Ardara won first prize and I was heckled and severely criticised, as were Gaeltarra Éireann, for daring to recognise Ardara as a Gaeltacht area, because half of that parish is in the Gaeltacht and the other half outside. That is the great tragedy of the whole thing. I found the same thing in Ring where half the parish was in the Gaeltacht and the Seana Pobal was outside. I felt it was only logical to try to unify the parish unit there and we recognised the Seana Pobal as a Gaeltacht area. It is just as important to try to strengthen the language in the Breac-Ghaeltachtaí as it is in the Fíor-Ghaeltachtaí. The two run parallel. I do not agree with the people who maintain that we should build a wall around the Gaeltacht. Our aim should be to extend the influence of the Gaeltacht outside the present boundaries.
The Minister is confronted with a problem in his county. Tá a pharóiste féin ag Oileán Acla, cuid den oileán sa Ghaeltacht agus cuid eile taobh amuigh. Tá sé an-deachair ar fad. I recognise the difficulty of trying to implement a proper comprehensive development programme for a place like Achill. The Minister is impeded greatly by the situation that ex-ists there. There must be greater co-operation in the case of such places. That area is a classical example of the problems a Minister for the Gaeltacht is confronted with, where part of the area is inside the Gaeltacht and the other part outside.
I am not advocating irresponsible extension of Gaeltacht boundaries or giving recognition to areas not entitled to it. I am in favour of encouraging the areas where people still have the language but do not speak it. Therefore the only answer to a problem like that of Achill—the same problem will be encountered in other areas also; it is the same in practically all of the Gaeltacht areas, in parishes on the fringe of the Gaeltacht—is that there be greater coordination between the Gaeltacht Authority and the agencies responsible for development in Galltacht areas. In other words, to undertake a development programme for Achill one would have to enlist the IDA, Bord Fáilte, the county development teams and the relevant agencies responsible for development in the Galltacht areas to work side by side with Roinn na Gaeltachta and Údarás na Gaeltachta.
Special measures should be taken to tackle this problem of encouraging people in the breac-Ghaeltachtaí to improve their knowledge of the language to the point where they can be validly and rightly recognised as official Gaeltachtaí. Since Roinn na Gaeltachta were established recognition has been given to very few areas only such as Baile Gib agus Rath Cairn. Thug an Teachta Faulkner aitheantas do siúd agus do thug mise aitheantas do Shean Phobal i gContae Phort Láirge agus do cheantar Clochán Braonaigh i gContae Chiarraí. I am not saying at all that we should create mock Gaeltachtaí. The ideal situation is to be found at Ardara, of which I was always hopeful during my term of office. I notice that Ardara has figured again in the community development awards this year. I am hopeful that the situation might develop to the extent that the whole parish of Ardara could be validly and legally recognised as a Gaeltacht, that nobody could point a finger to the Minister and say that this was a mock-up job, done for political reasons or something else.
I recommend very sincerely to the Minister the importance of community development and of a co-operative movement in the Gaeltacht. Further I recommend very strongly that special attention be paid to the Breac-Ghaeltachtaí, na ceantair ar imeall na Gaeltachtaí. The term "Breac-Ghaeltachtaí" has no official designa-tion. As was often pointed out to me during my period in office, it is a misnomer. There is only the official Gaeltacht and the Galltacht. What we mean by the breac-Ghaeltachtaí are areas such as part of Ardara.
What saddened me most during my period as Minister—and I am sure the present Minister will agree with me in this—was to go down to a place like Doonbeg in west Clare, or Kilbaha or Carrigaholt and find there old people who can speak Irish still but the language gone completely otherwise. Here was evidence of that wonderful Gaelic tradition on that west Clare coast which, unfortunately, has been allowed to die except among a few old people one might meet there and whom I had the pleasure of meeting. However, the Gaelic tradition is still alive there through the media of traditional Irish music, dancing and so on. But what a great tragedy it is that this deteriorating position was allowed to develop.
There is another area also I want to draw particularly to the Minister's attention, that is Baile Mhic Oda, Gort Rua and Cilla i gContae Corcaí. A lot of things have been said about the revival movement going on there. Deputy Hegarty spoke of it here earlier today. The situation there is another classical example like that of Ardara, where the potential exists for doing great things for the language and the Gaeltacht. In 1973 or 1974, when it was first brought to my attention, I was amazed at the number of old people there, and indeed quite a lot of young people, who were quite fluent in the Irish language. A revival movement was initiated under the auspices of Conradh na Gaeilge and Ceantar Youghal.
Following Youghal winning the Glór na nGael competition a strong desire emerged that a special effort be made to restore this wonderfully historic district of Baile Mhic Óda, Gort Rua, Cilla, on the fringe of Youghal to its former status as an Irish-speaking region. I said "Fine, I think this a wonderful thing." I believe it is the duty of the Minister, the Department of the Gaeltacht and indeed of the Department of Education, who were involved at the time—they were about to close a school at Cilla—to encourage the people in this. But the many misinterpretations, misunderstandings, the flak that was thrown by certain fior Ghaeilgeoírí organisations, mostly Dublin-based, were unbelievable. It would make anybody become disillusioned and despondent about the future of our language. These were people who had come together, had organised winter classes, had held cultural functions throughout the summer months. The local teachers were making their services available free of charge. I used to make a point of visiting that area once or twice a year and it was fascinating to see the progress made between each visit.
I hope the Minister will examine this very carefully. I am endeavouring to help the Minister in this without being at all critical. Whatever experience I acquired during the four years I had the privilege of being Minister, or whatever mistakes I may have made, I feel I should speak and go on record with a view to helping the present Minister. At that time we resisted pressures to declare that area an official Gaeltacht before the people were ready or before they were entitled to that recognition. I found—and I am sure the present Minister finds this also—that when one visits a Gaeltacht area invariably one meets a deputation from a parish just beyond the boundary of that Gaeltacht. They see good development work going on inside the Gaeltacht area and they want to know why the same thing cannot be done outside the Gaeltacht. They think that if they could get recognition as an official Gaeltacht they would be entitled to all the grants.
That is something that must be resisted. In the case of areas like Baile Mhic Óda, Gort Rua, and Cilla, in my time in the Department we carried out surveys when there was undoubtedly clear evidence of substantial progress having been made in improving knowledge of the language, spreading the spoken language there and so on. Therefore I would ask the Minister to look at this area. I hope he will nurse it along in the way I tried to do when I was Minister. I am convinced that, if this effort is continued, the Minister some day will be able to declare Baile Mhic Óda and that area a Gaeltacht.
Under this Bill I understand that Gaeltarra Éireann are to be abolished. I want to put on record my view of the role that Gaeltarra Éireann have played in the development of the Gaeltacht. My interpretation of this Bill is that de facto what the Minister is doing in this Bill could be done by way of an amendment to the section in the Gaeltacht Act which deals with the appointment of members to the board of Gaeltarra Éireann.
There has been a lot of criticism from time to time about Gaeltarra Éireann. They were given a job to do which was far more difficult and complicated than the tasks given to any other of the bodies set up in the history of this State. What have they and the údarás been asked to do? Gaeltarra Éireann were asked to promote economic development, create and establish industry and generate jobs in the most remote and isolated and least developed of any peripheral regions in western Europe. They may have made mistakes, as everyone does from time to time, but I am satisfied that they have tackled this problem and discharged their duties on the overall balance, and graphs will show a continuous steady increase in the numbers employed in the Gaeltacht every year. That is no small achievement.
A couple of years ago I brought an official of the EEC who was at commissioner level on a tour of the Gaeltacht. We were driving through a remote part of Connemara past mountains, rocks and so forth. We came suddenly upon a place which I wanted to identify. There was a new factory building, a new industry having being established there. I said to the driver, "Please slow down". The EEC official said, "How in God's name did Gaeltarra Éireann succeed in establishing an industry in this remote corner?" Those who criticise Gaeltarra Éireann and who question their efficiency and effectiveness forget that to establish an industry in the Gaeltacht more often than not means literally hewing a site out of rock or laying a foundation on a bog, using access roads not fit to carry heavy traffic, water and power having to be brought in, and there are enormous problems. I have said to Gaeltarra Éireann, "If you continue to make progress and are sure at the end of the year that you can show a reasonable increase in the number of people employed in the Gaeltacht, I will overlook a lot of other things". That was my attitude. Even during the economic recession when industries were folding up all over the country and there was a huge increase in unemployment the graph still continued to go up consistently with more numbers employed. I do not want to talk about this in any egotistical fashion, but their performance was very impressive, taking into account the magnitude of the job they had to do.
Due to a change in the Government's industrial development strategy it now appears that the same level of grants basically are being offered all over the country and, de facto, an industrialist can locate in Dublin city and get much the same level of grants as he would get in Belmullet or Tourmakeady or even in the Aran Islands. There might be marginal differences, but the differentials which traditionally existed in relation to industrial grants favoured the Gaeltacht regions. How can you persuade an industrialist to go to the Gaeltacht areas unless some special incentive is given to him to go there? The Minister should look at this very carefully. There is no reference here to the level of grants. Just before I left office Gaeltarra Éireann were becoming very concerned about the lack of flexibility in their range of grants. I cannot remember the details now, but what was valid then is no longer valid because it is necessary still to maintain a reasonable and maybe substantial differential in the level of grants in favour of the Gaeltacht areas. There is justification for this, particularly as the Gaeltacht people themselves through co-operatives are tending to establish industry there. This is the ideal that should be aimed at. A local community co-operative should have responsibility for every aspect of development in their area, economic, social, cultural, industrial, job creation, water supply—you name it; it has been done in certain areas very effectively over recent years.
Generally speaking, I am satisfied that Gaeltarra Éireann have done an ex-cellent job. Occasionally there is ill-informed criticism of their work. One cannot measure the contribution of a semi-State body like Gaeltarra Éireann, charged as they are with very specific responsibility and having a mandate which imposes major responsibility of a cultural nature on them. On promotion tours abroad I have met people of other countries and I have met people from other countries here who have said, "You cannot do this. You cannot promote economic development and at the same time have responsibility for cultural development". Other State agencies abroad—and I am thinking particularly of the Highlands and Islands Development Board in Scotland with whom I became very familiar and who were most helpful and co-operative with us in every way—have no cultural responsibility. That argument has been put forward time and time again on two bases. One is that you will kill the Gaeltacht with building factories and economic development of all kinds; the other is that an agency with economic development responsibility cannot effec-tively discharge that responsibility if they have a cultural dimension in their responsibility as well. Of course the Minister has met this argument also from tourists.
Gaeltarra Éireann in the main have proved that it is possible to have economic development and provide a decent standard of living for the people side by side with cultural development. The Minister will agree that we will have no Gaeltacht if we do not keep the people there. Without the Gaeltacht the future of the language is very dark. If we are to keep the maximum number of people in the Gaeltacht areas we must create employment opportunities and stem the awful haemorrhage of emigration which has bled these regions of the cream of their young people. How can we expect the young people in the Gaeltacht areas to stay there if we do not provide employment for them? The job the new údarás have to do is to provide employment opportunities of a range and a variety which will satisfy the aspirations of the young people in the Gaeltacht areas.
I do not know whether the Minister saw the report of a survey carried out in 1974-75. It was an EEC assisted survey into the job aspirations of young people attending post-primary schools in the Gaeltacht at that time. I was shocked into reality by one of the findings in that report. It was that a small number of those young people in the junior and senior post-primary schools—8 per cent—gave as their first choice a job on a factory floor. Most of them opted for traditional jobs such as teaching, nursing and so on.
We must create job opportunities and provide the same standard of living in the remote off-shore Gaeltacht islands for the young people as they can find here or abroad. This is a difficult thing to achieve and I want to pay a sincere tribute to Gaeltarra Éireann, who are now being abolished. If I wanted to be nasty and political I would say their name has been changed, as some outside commentators have said. I pay tribute to the board and staff of Gaeltarra Éireann for their dedication to the difficult assignment of creating employment in areas which are, by their nature, least suited to development. The new Udarás na Gaeltachta will have 13 members compared with seven at present. I am not too worried about the numbers but I would have increased it to 20. The important thing is that the electoral system has now been established and I have expressed my views on it. I have asked the Minister to look at the Gaeltacht islands and the small Gaeltacht colonies in Meath, Waterford and Cork. I have a few suggestions to make to the Minister in relation to the people that he is going to appoint. Deirtear go mbeidh 25 ag teacht díreach ag an Aire. The Minister has a number of options open to him in relation to this matter. In view of the fact that small Gaeltacht areas such as Meath, Waterford and Cork are being put in with larger areas and there appears to be no provision for the coiste mar a bhí san tuarascáil "Gníomh don Ghaeltacht", he should nominate to the údarás representatives from Meath, Waterford and the Gaeltacht Muskerry in Contae Corcaigh. He should also rethink the question of the seven off-shore Gaeltacht islands. They should have a special election area of their own and should be entitled to elect their representatives to the board of the údarás.
As I saw it, the big problem in relation to Gaeltacht development was duplication between Roinn na Gaeltachta and Gaeltarra Éireann. Certain schemes are administered by Roinn na Gaeltachta and certain schemes are administered by Gaeltarra Éireann. The unfortunate coops in the Gaeltacht have to go from one to the other and it is very hard to formulate a cohesive programme. What is important is the question of coordination and development. Will the údarás have cumhacht chun chomhordú a dhéanamh idir Aire Stáit agus na cumhachtaí Stáit agus an Rialtas?
Cuireadh an díospóireacht ar athló.