Official Languages Bill 2002: Second Stage (Resumed).

Question again proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

Roimh an athló bhí mé ag caint mar gheall an an cháipéis, "Sustaining Progress" agus dúirt mé nach raibh focal Gaeilge sa cháipéis sin. Ó d'fhág mé an Teach fuair mé amach gur cuireach aistriúchán ar an gcáipéis ar an Idirlíon ag Roinn an Taoisigh. Féach cad a tharla anseo. Ní raibh focal sa téacs Bhéarla mar gheall ar an nGaeilge nó mar gheall ar an mBille seo atá ós ár gcomhair inniu, ach tá aistriúcháin ar an Idirlíon.

An bhfuil aon rud ann faoin mBéarla?

Níl suim agam sa Bhéarla ar an gceist seo. I ndeireadh na dála caithfear a admháil gurb ar an nGaeilge atáimid ag díriú agus muid ag plé leis an mBille seo.

Tá aistriúchán Gaeilge ann ach ní raibh a fhios agam go raibh sé ann go dtí go raibh mé ag caint le duine éigin ar ábhar eile ar fad. Cuireadh cóip Béarla amach do oibrithe agus do dhaoine eile ar fud na tíre. Scaipeadh go forleathan iad agus táim ag glacadh leis gur léadh iad agus ní raibh focal mar gheall ar Bhille na dTeangacha Oifigiúla ann. Ba mhór an chailliúint í sin chun díospóireacht a spreagadh imeasc an phobail a dhéanfadh an-mhaitheas don Ghaeilge.

Nuair a bhíonn aird dhaoine dírithe ar chúrsaí pá nó ar chúrsaí leasa shoisialta, mar shampla, féachann siad ar rud a chosnódh airgead, b'fhéidir. An féidir aird dhaoine a dhíriu ar an mBille seo ar aon tslí is ceart é sin a dhéanamh? Caithfidh an t-Aire glacadh leis nach bhfuil eolas ag an bpobal i gcoitinne ar an mBille seo, fiú amháin san nGaeltacht. Tá reachtaíocht thábhacht os comhair an Tí maidir le stádas na Gaeilge agus níl a fhios an an pobal go bhfuilimid á phlé. Tá an locht sin ar an Rialtas sa mhéid is nár deineadh iarracht díospóireacht a spreagadh nó eolas a chur os comhair an phobail mar gheall ar an mBille. Ní feidir leis an Aire éalú ón fhírinne sin agus caithfidh sé é sin a admháil má tá sé macánta faoin mBille.

Tá rudaí maithe ag tarlú i dtaobh na Gaeilge. Tá sé idir lámha ag an bhForas Teanga, mar shampla, foclóir údarásach nua-aimseartha a chur ar fáil. Tá sin ag teastáil le fada. Tá cuid mhaith focal nua tagtha isteach sa teanga ach níl siad le fáil ins na foclóiri. Deirtear go dtógfaidh sé cúig bliana leis an bhfoclóir seo a cur le chéile. Bhéadh sé i bhfad níos fearr don nGaeilge dá gcuirfí níos mó airgid sa bhfeachtas sin agus an foclóir a bheith le fáil chomh luath agus is féidir. Ach tá tús curtha anois ar an scéal sin a leigheas agus sin an rud is tábhachtaí. I ndeireadh na dála nuair a bhíonn tír, comhlucht, Roinn Stáit nó daoine ag iarraidh cuspóir a bhaint amach caithfear a bheith soiléir cad é an cuspóir atá acu. Is cuimhin liom muinteoir a bhí ag múineadh liomsa uair amháin a bhí ar fheabhas ar fad ag múineadh na Gaeilge. Ach, ós rud é nach raibh an timpeallacht ag tabhairt tacaíochta don Ghaeilge nó ag mealladh na daoine óga chun an Ghaeilge a d'fhoghlaim siad ar scoil a úsáid, diag ar ndiag chaill siad a gcuid Gaeilge. Sin an fáth go mbeidh mé ag rá arís agus arís eile go bhfuil sé thar a bheith tábhachtach go mbeadh díospóireacht ann ar cheist na Gaeilge go hiomlán. Gach lá a théann thart nach bhfuil sé sin ag tarlú tá an scéal ag dul i léig.

Tá a lán ag dul leis an mBille seo agus a bhfuil ann ach ní cheart go mbeimid ag cur dallamullóg orainn féin nó ag iarraidh dallamullóg a chur ar dhaoine eile agus ag maíomh go leigheasfaidh an Bille seo ceist na Gaeilge. Tá i bhfad níos mó ag teastáil. I ngach áit a bhfuil airgead á chaitheamh chun an Ghaeilge a chaomhnú agus a fhorbairt caithfidh go mbeadh cuspóir soiléir agus plean chun an cuspóir sin a chur i bhfeidhm agus an t-airgead ar fáil chun an jab a dhéanamh. Tá sé thar a bheith tábhachtach go mbeadh córas éifeachtach ann chun tomhas a dhéanamh ar cé chomh maith is atá cúrsaí ag dul ar aghaidh nó an fearr aistriú ó shlí amháin go slí eile. Tá an aidhm a chuir an t-Aire os ár gcomhair i bhfad níos laige ná an tír a dhéanamh dhátheangach ach b'fhéidir go bhfuil sé macánta agus gur sin an méid gur féidir a bhaint amach. Níor mhaith liom go gcaillfimis an aidhm straitéiseach eile. B'fhéidir gur leor an aidhm atá leagtha amach ag an Aire don noiméad seo agus go dtiocfaidh an lá nuair a shroichimid an aidhm eile.

Muna bhfuil meoin i measc an phobail úinéireacht deimhneathach a bheith acu ar an dteanga agus gur leo é, is beag dul chun cinn a déanfar.

I wish to share time with Deputies Cowley, Sargent and Ó Snodaigh.

Acting Chairman

Is that agreed? Agreed.

Cuirim fáilte roimh an mBille seo. Is cúis áthais dom tacaíocht a thabhairt dó. Tá Bille mar seo ag teastáil le fada an lá agus is fíor chéim ar aghaidh é don Ghaeilge agus do stádas na Gaeilge i gcomhionnannas leis an mBéarla mar theanga oifigiúil.

I support the principle behind the Bill. I am happy that people will be enabled to carry out day-to-day business and their principal activities in the Irish language, without the fear of being a figure of curiosity or ridicule.

The Bill confirms the equal status of Gaeilge and English as official languages of Ireland. This equal status should extend to the sphere of education. It should be the inalienable right of every student to receive a primary and secondary education in schools of their own choice, whether Gaelscoileanna, Gaelcholáistí or bilingual schools. There appears to be a retreat from this type of educational provision.

In my own constituency, a dedicated group of Irish language supporters, Cáirde Ghaelcholáiste Mhuíneacháin, has fulfilled all the necessary criteria for the establishment of an all-Irish post-primary school, and was confidently expecting its official opening to take place in September next. The group had already arranged for a patron, identified a premises and had an assurance of in excess of 30 students to commence their post-primary Irish language education, having graduated from Monaghan's three existing Gaelscoileanna.

These were the required criteria prevailing at the time of application in September 2002. The coiste of the proposed Gaelcholáiste satisfied every one of them. The Department of Education and Science has frozen its application, deferring it for at least another year until the school accommodation committee comes up with some ‘revised criteria', as if the existing criteria were not good enough for the existing Gaelscoileanna and Gaelcholáistí. Where is the equality in this scenario? Certainly, there does not appear to be much parity or equality of treatment for those worthy people who have campaigned earnestly to have this Gaelcholáiste established.

All existing Gaelscoileanna and Gaelcholáistí began in precisely the same manner – with a ground-breaking and dedicated group of Irish language enthusiasts who were imbued with a vision, which they succeeded in seeing through to fruition. No doubt, one of the first actions of the proposed official languages commissioner will be to adjudicate upon, and address this situation, which makes a mockery of any concept of a perceived right to a post-primary education through the medium of Irish, not to mention of all the preparatory work and negotiations by the founding coiste of the Gaelcholáiste.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the founding of Raidio na Gaeltachta and the 50th anniversary of the establishment of that great and imaginative Irish language organisation Gael Linn. At the time, dire results were forecast and modest expectations were held out for the success of both these projects. However, they have amply exceeded all expectations, and are now respected and ingrained component parts of the Irish national psyche, as it were.

Teilifís na Gaeilge, or as it has subsequently become known, TG4, has been an unqualified success, generating a high standard of Irish programme output, and using the latest modern state-of-the-art communications technology to get its message across, which is, essentially, the promotion of Irish.

There is something lacking in the current system of teaching Irish when many young people develop an aversion to the study and learning of Irish and leave primary school with a less than adequate knowledge and a distinct lack of enthusiasm for it. There have been numerous innovative programmes aimed at raising the standard of spoken Irish in schools, including the "Buntús Cainte" method, and the subsequent TV series "Labhair Gaeilge Linn" and "Anois is Arís". All these have apparently failed to significantly raise the standard of spoken and written Irish in schools. This must give cause for serious concern about the future viability of the Irish language.

The position vis-à-vis the Bill closely resembles that which obtains in Canada, where English and French are the official languages and have equality of status and equal rights and privileges as to their use by all institutions. The Canadian commissioner of official languages acts as a type of languages ombudsman and is the custodian of fundamental linguistic rights. No doubt the Irish official languages commissioner would also address fundamental causes of linguistic deficiencies.

Fearaim fíor-chaoin fáilte roimh an mBille seo.

Tá áthas orm tacaíocht a thabhairt don Bhille iontach seo. Tá sé an-tábhachtach go mbeidh sé seo i bhfeidhm. Gabhamid uilig buíochas le TG4 agus Raidió na Gaeltachta as na seirbhísí an-mhaith ar fad a chuireann siad ar fáil.

Tá mé an-bhródúil bheith anseo ag labhairt as Gaeilge agus beidh seans againn as seo amach á labhairt cosúil leis an Bhéarla. Le blianta fada, ní raibh aon tacaíocht don Ghaeilge. Bhí dualgas ar dhaoine freastal ar an Ghaeilge ar scoil agus, mar gheall air sin, bhí an teanga i gcontúirt mar ní raibh dea-mhéin ag daoine don teanga ach anois beidh seans ag daoine í a chothú arís. Déanaim féin iarracht Gaeilge a labhairt.

Molaim Údarás na Gaeltachta agus dreamanna mar sin. Bhí muid ag cur geolta ar an fharraige in Acaill agus cionn is go raibh muid ag baint úsáid as an Ghaeilge agus sinn á dhéanamh, thug Údarás na Gaeltachta airgead dúinn leis an obair. Tá suim mór ag daoine óga sna geolta agus nuair a tháinig siad le breithniú ar an obair, chuala siad sinn ag labhairt na Gaeilge agus tugann sin dóibh rud nach raibh acu riamh – seans an Ghaeilge a labhairt fosta. Tá cúpla focal ag gach duine ach tá muid cúthail úsáid a bhaint as. Cuireann rudaí mar seo misneach do dhaoine.

Bhí mé ar Oileán Mhanainn cúpla seachtain ó shin agus chuala mé Manainnis ar an raidío. Cé go raibh tionchar an Bhreatnais soiléir, ba léir gur tháinig an teanga sin ón Ghaeilge. Chuir mé ceist ar dhaoine an bhfuil an Mhanainnis beo ar an oileán agus dúirt siad go bhfuil 650 duine atá in ann á labhairt. Tá 80,000 ar an oileán agus tá an teanga ar an raidió. Tá seans againn cuidiú a thabhairt do na daoine sin. Tá áiteanna eile ina bhfuil teanga ach nach bhfuil go leor misneach ag daoine í a labhairt.

Cuireann rudaí mar sin dóchas orm agus tá súil agam go tabharfaidh an Bille seo seans do dhaoine atá as cleachtadh snás a chur ar a gcuid. Cuirfidh an Bille fostaíochta ar fáil fosta, le seirbhísí nach raibh ann riamh agus tá sin tábhachtach. Bhí an Stát ag tabhairt béalchrábhaidh don teanga agus seo seans dó sin a cheartú.

Ar feadh na blianta bhí rudaí uafasach ag tarlú. Bhí an bata scoir ann agus cuireadh eang sa bhata gach uair a labhair páiste Gaeilge agus ansin bualadh air nó uirthi. Ní mór dúinn dearmad a dhéanamh air sin agus a chuimhniú gur throid daoine go cruaidh ar son na Gaeilge agus le haghaidh seirbhísí i nGaeilge. Molaim an Bille seo.

Díreach mar a bhíonn an dúlra níos boichte agus níos laige má chailltear ainmhí nó planda, bíonn an saol níos boichte agus níos laige má chailltear teanga, mar cailltear luachanna, míniú ar stair an phobail agus go leor eile. Creideann an Comhaontas Glas gur tubaiste as cuimse i stair na nÉireann i gcás formhór na ndaoine cailliúnt na Gaeilge. Creidimid go mbeadh i sochaí eiceolaíoch deireadh leis na forsaí atá tar éis a sheilbh ár ndúchas saibhir idirdhealaithe agus a chosc ar an daonra iomlán. Is cúis imní duine í go bhfuil cap an bháis a bhagairt ar an Ghaeilge ag na forsaí seo.

Ag an am céanna, aithnímid go spreagann úsáid na Gaeilge forbairt na féinmhuiníne, nadúr na meithle agus forbairt na crurthaíochta i measc ár muinteartha. Mar gheall air seo, beidh feidhm lárnach ag an Ghaeilge sa reabhlóid éiceolaíoch atá de dhíth orainn. De bharr na cúise seo agus le cearta a chosaint agus maoireacht fhreagracht an domhain, geallaimid an ceart do gach duine áiseanna teagasc na Gaeilge a fháil agus a úsáid.

Is gá go mbeadh gach duine in Éirinn in ann a shaol nó a saol nó aon chuid den saol sin a chaitheamh trí Ghaeilge más mian leis nó léi, go mór mór i réimsí riaracháin phoiblí, craolacháin agus oideachais. Anuas ar seo, ní foláir do gach ceantar Gaeltachta bheith saor ó scrios eacnamaíochta agus teanga agus a chúrsaí polaitíochta féin a reachtáil go neamhspleách.

Go minic cuirtear an cheist conas is féidir gan ghéilleadh don bhrú Béarla a úsáid. Tuigimid go léir má tá cúigear ag bualadh le chéile in áit ar bith, agus má tá Gaeilge ag ceathrar acu agus Béarla ag duine amháin, deirtear go bhfuil sé drochbhéasach gan Bhéarla a labhairt. Sin cuid den bhrú atá ar lucht na Gaeilge go minic. Sa Chomhaontas Ghlas, aithnímid go bhfuil daoine tar éis dul i ngleic leis an fhadhb seo le teangacha neamfhorleathanacha agus teanga móra lámh le chéile.

In Éirinn, tír ina bhfuil teangacha éagsúla á labhairt anois, bheadh teanga neodrach a fhoghlaimítear go furasta úsáideach i dtreo is nach mbeadh míbhuntáiste ar chainteoir teanga amháin i gcomhrá le cainteoirí teanga eile. Tá polasaí ag an Chomhaontas Ghlas a mholann comhpháirtíocht leis na tíortha is boichte ar domhan agus chuirfeadh teanga neodrach ar chumas phobail difriúil labhairt le chéile gan chultúr agus teanga phobail amháin a bheith thíos ar mhaithe le pobal eile atá níos láidre. Sa chomhthéacs sin, is ceart iarracht a dhéanamh Esperanto nó teanga cosúil leis atá neodrach agus furasta a fhoghlaim agus triail a bhaint as. Is fiú sin a chur chun cinn.

I gcomhthéacs Bille na dTeangacha Oifigiúla 2002, cuirimid fáilte roimh fhoilsiú an Bhille agus tá súil againn go spreagfaidh sé suim i gcúrsaí teangan, i gcúrsaí féinmheasa, i gcúrsaí cultúir agus i gcúrsaí éagsúlachta sa tír seo, ní amháin i measc daoine ach i measc na comhairlí condae agus comhlachtaí príobháideacha agus poiblí. Is cuimhin liom go maith go raibh tráth ann nuair a bhí comhlucht ar nós Toyota as foilsiú fógrái as Gaeilge ar an teilifís. Thuig an comhlucht go raibh suim ag pobal na hÉireann ins an teanga agus cheangail siad í leis na hearraí a bhí á dhíol acu. Tá suim ag daoine a thagann ar cuairt go dtí an tír seo an difríocht a bhaineann leis an tír a fheiceáil, agus tá an teanga mar chuid de sin.

Is bun rud é seirbhís Ghaeilge a bheith ar fáil agus is bun chuid den mBille seo é sin. Ach tá sé chomh tábhachtach go mbeadh an Ghaeilge feiceálach, cruinn agus beo ar chomharthaí. Feicim go minic botúin i gcomharthaí ar fud na háite. Caithfear deireadh a chur leis na botúin sin mar cuireann siad olc ar dhaoine agus is léiriú drochmheasa ar an dteanga é. Cur i gcás,chonacthas, "Sráid na Mórcha Ná Lach" i mBaile Átha Cliath ar "Grand Canal Street" i mBéarla. Shílfeadh duine gur Dáithí Lacha a bhí á chomóradh. Chuirfinn deireadh leis an mBéarlachas atá á n-úsáid i gcuid mhór logainmneacha timpeall na tíre. Níl iontu ach Gaeilge truaillithe. Má táimid i ndáiríre mar gheall ar an dteanga, mar gheall ar stair na tíre agus mar gheall ar fhorbairt an phobail ba cheart go dtuigfeadh daoine cad is brí le logainm a n-áit féin. Dá nglacfadh pobal na háite leis an athrú chuirfinn deireadh leis an leagan truaillithe atá ar an áit.

Ní chuirfear seirbhísí ar fáil go dtí go mbeidh feabhas mór ar an gcóras ceapacháin ins an Stát Seirbhís. Táimid tar éis dul siar go mór ó thaobh chaighdeáin de. Thuig mé é sin go maith nuair a labhair mé Gaeilge sa Teach seo i mbliain na míle aoise. Dhiúltaigh mé Béarla a úsáid ná a labhairt ar feadh na bliana sin. Bhí an-deacracht ag na státseirbhísigh ag plé leis na ceisteanna pairliminte a chuir mé agus le glaonna teileafóin a rinne mé. Léirigh seo dom go bhfuil jab mór le déanamh ag an Aire agus guím gach rath air. Is cinnte go bhfuil obair mhór le déanamh.

Tá gearán déanta ag an Aire mar gheall ar leasaithe atá ró-dhian, ó Chonradh na Gaeilge mar shampla. Tuigim go bhfuil deacrachtaí praiticiúla a bhaineann le cáipéis dlí agus mar sin de ach ní haon dochar na deacrachtaí a phlé agus féachaint cé chomh praiticiúil agus is féidir linn a bheith agus cé chomh idéalach agus is féidir linn a bheith. Ceapaim go bhfuilimid ag dul i dtreo chóras na Breataine Bige, tír atá fós faoi chos ag na Sasanaigh, agus ní i dtreo Cheanada. Ar ndóigh tá banríon acu siúd chomh maith.

Táimid idir an dá thír. Tá na gnéithe is fearr den dá chóras againn.

Ins an tuairisc atá agam anseo ón Welsh Language Board deirtear:

The main factor that contributes to the death of a language is the failure to transfer the language from one generation to the next. To put it simply, for a language to survive parents have to speak it with their children, thus creating a new generation of indigenous speakers.

Éinne a bhfuil Gaeilge acu tá súil agam go bhfuil sé sin ar siúl acu sa bhaile mar tá dualgas orainn é a dhéanamh.

Ó thaobh chúrsaí oibre de, deir an tuairisc:

Welsh helps you get a job. Employment agencies in Cardiff cannot provide enough bilingual secretaries and receptionists. Welsh language media companies cream off the best graduates and insist upon Welsh speaking spokespersons for news bulletins. The arrival of the Welsh Assembly resulted in a shortage of translators. The working Welsh speaking parents want a Welsh speaking nanny for their children.

A large number of Welsh people have discovered the value of the language. For some it is a matter of defining who they are, for others it is a matter of ensuring that their children are not deprived in the same way as they were, for others there is an economic advantage in being bilingual and for some it is a matter of belonging to the community that they live in.

Bhuail mé le bean in Rath Chairn le déanaí. Cheap mé gur chainteoir ó dhúchas a bhí inti ach bean ó Chicago ab ea í. Tá a fhios aici cé hí agus mé ag déanamh tagairt di ach léiríonn seo gur féidir le daoine teacht anseo agus Gaeilge a fhoghlaim.

Beidh an-fhreagracht ar an gcoimisinéir teanga. Sin an dóchas atá sa Bhille seo, go mbeidh coimisinéir againn. Dá bharr sin beidh Gaeilge agus Béarla ar phacáistí ar nós Kelloggs Corn Flakes, b'fhéidir go mbeidh ollscoil Gaeilge againn agus gréasán sóisialta do lucht na Gaeilge. Tá tús maith tógtha ag an Uachtarán atá tar éis Gaeilge a fhoghlaim agus molaim í as sin. Aontaím leis an Teachta O'Shea, gur cheart go mbeadh an dualgas ar pháirtithe forógrái a chur ar fáil sa dá theanga. Tá ceann an Chomhaontais Ghlais le fáil, má tá suim ag éinne ann.

Fáiltím roimh an mBille seo. Fáiltím roimh aon rud a chuidíonn liom, mar Ghaeilgeoir, mo chearta a bhaint amach. Tá laigí ann, déanadh iad a phlé sa Seanad agus déanfar iad a phlé go mion ar Chéim an Choiste sa Dáil. Mar sin, níl mé chun iad a phlé go doimhin anois.

Mar a dúirt an t-Aire, taobh amuigh den mBunreacht níl aon reachtaíocht ann chun cinntiú go gcuirfear seirbhísí ar fáil sa Ghaeilge. Tá an Bille seo á mholadh aige chun an fhaillí sin a leigheas. Rachaidh an Bille bealach éigin chun an fhaillí sin a leigheas ach ní haon panacea é. Is léir ón méid sin cé chomh dona is a caitheadh leis an nGaeilge ó bunaíodh an Stát. Ní gá dul siar chomh fada leis an Chéad Dáil. D'aithin an Chéad Dáil cé chomh luachmhar is a bhí an Ghaeilge mar bhí Aire Gaeilge acu, rud nach raibh againn ó shin. B'fhéidir go mbeimid in ann filleadh air sin amach anseo.

Má tá sé mar aidhm fós ag an Stát an Ghaeilge a ath-réimiú caithfimid díriú isteach ar conas is féidir sin a dhéanamh. Tá sé mar aidhm ag páirtí s'againne an Ghaeilge a cur arís i mbéal an phobail agus a bheith mar theanga labhartha ag formhór na ndaoine sa tír. Chun é sin a dhéanamh ní féidir brath ar an mBille seo. Caithfidh an Stát plean straitéiseach a chur i bhfeidhm agus an Bille seo mar chuid de. Ní ann dó faoi láthair agus ní ann dó le tamall fada.

Caithfidh an plean straitéiseach díriú isteach ar an oileán ar fad, go háirithe agus Foras na Gaeilge ann. Tá deis againn an Ghaeilge a chur chun cinn ar gach uile chuid den oileán seo. Ba chóir don Aire labhairt leis an Rialtas agus impí air iacall a chur ar Rialtas Shasana a leithéid de Bhille a fhoilsiú agus a achtú sa Tionól nuair a thagann sé le chéile arís, ionas go mbeidh Bille teanga againn sa Deisceart agus sa Tuaisceart. Tá leasuithe curtha ag dreamanna éagsúla – beidh ár gcinn féin againn – agus impím ar an Aire díriú isteach orthu agus féachaint go géar ar an tuairim taobh thiar de na leasuithe sin. Ní leasuithe ar son leasuithe iad. Tá i gceist ag na heagrais ar fad agus ag Teachtaí sa Teach seo go mbeidh an Bille seo chomh láidir agus is féidir. Ní fiú é muna dtiocfaidh rud éigin as agus é ina shuí ansin gan bheith curtha i bhfeidhm.

Sa dóigh is go mbeidh sé in ann feidhmniú i gceart caithfimid airgead a chur ar fáil. Sin ceann de na príomhrudaí a bheadh mise ar a lorg. Tá gach rud sa Bhille ag brath ar toil an Aire Aireagadais. Is trua an nasc sin a bheith istigh ann. Is féidir nasc a ghlacadh dá mbeadh sé ag brath ar an Rialtas ach ní ar thoil an Aire Airgeadais, go háirithe toil an Aire Airgeadais atá againn nach bhfuil sásta pingin rua a chaitheamh ar aon rud seachas ar na capaill.

Luaigh an Teachta Ó Sé níos luaithe go gcaitear a lán airgid ar an Ghaeilge ach ní aontaím leis sin mar níor caitheadh riamh go leor airgid ar an Ghaeilge a athréimniú. Baineann seo le tosaíochtaí – más tosaíocht dár gcuid mar náisiún an Ghaeilge a chur chun cinn, cuirimis an t-airgead ar fáil. Tiocfadh muid thar aon bhac a bheidh os ár gcomhair má dhéanfar sin.

Níl an toil sin léirithe sa Státchóras go dtí seo agus tá an Bille seo dírithe ar an Státchóras – an Státseirbhís, na seirbhísí sláinte agus na cúirteanna. Muna athróidh an toil, ní oibreoidh an Bille. Ba chóir dúinn é a dhéanamh níos daingne agus níos láidre ionas gur féidir le duine dul isteach agus Gaeilge a bheith ar fáil láithreach. Nuair a thiocfaidh duine isteach in aon Roinn Stáit, ba chóir go mbeadh Gaeilgeoir ann, ní amháin sa Ghaeltacht ach sa tír ar fad. Tá sin sa Bhille ach caithfidh na Ranna sin a chur i bhfeidhm láithreach agus gan bheith in ann a rá go bhfuil scéim ag córas. Caithfear cur leis an scéim gach uile uair a bhíonn athchoimre uirthi fosta.

Caithfimid díriú isteach ar an earnáil phríobháideach chomh maith leis an earnáil phoiblí. Ní hí an Státseirbhís a dhéanfaidh an Ghaeilge a athréimniú nó í a thógáil ó aon chruachas ina bhfuil sí, is é an pobal a dhéanfaidh sin. Caithfimid meas a mhuscailt inár muintir féin agus iad a chur arís chun foghlaim na Gaeilge. Níor mhaith linn iachall a chur orthu á dhéanamh ach caithfimid iarracht a dhéanamh iad a mhealladh ionas go mbeidh siad sásta díriú isteach ar an Ghaeilge agus go dtuigeann siad an luach atá léi agus gur cuid lánach dár gcultúr agus stair í.

Tá an-fhadhb ann sa Státchóras. Fuair mé trí litir le déanaí ón Státchóras, ceann acu ón General Medical Services Division of the Department of Health and Children. Tá sí go huile is go hiomlán i mBéarla agus tá sin scanallach. Fuair mé dhá litir ón a boird sláinte agus cé go bhfuil aistriú ainmneacha ann, i gcónaí bíonn an Ghaeilge sa dara háit agus bíonn sí beag. Caithfidh an Ghaeilge bheith ar chomhchéim nó chun tosaí – sin an stadas atá ann ag an Ghaeilge sa Bhunreacht – agus ní amháin sa Ghaeltacht.

Caithfimid díriú isteach ar na meáin cumarsáide agus a fheiceáil orthu. Dúirt Teachtaí nach mbíonn an méid a deir siad sna nuachtáin nuair a labharann siad Gaeilge. Caithfear athrú meoin a theacht orthu. Sin an dúshlán mór atá romhainn mar phobail ionas go mbeidh toradh ar an obair seo.

Tá sé go hiontach an Bille seo a fheiceáil mar bhí mise ar Choiste Ghnó Chonradh na Gaeilge i 1986 agus ag an am sin bhíodh baill foirne ag caint faoi Bhille teanga le deich mbliain. Sa deireadh thiar tá rud éigin os ár gcomhair agus tá súil agam go mbeidh sé foirfe agus gur fiú an feitheamh fada a bhí romhainn chun go mbeimid in ann, ar a laghad, an leithéid atá déanta i gCeanada nó sa Bhreatain Bheag a dhéanamh sa tír seo, go mbeimid in ann sampla a thaispeáint do thíortha eile agus go mbeimid chun tosaí le hathbheochan teanga.

Go minic, cloisimid na focail, "Is mór an onóir domsa bheith anseo ar an ocáid speisialta stairiúil seo," agus sé sin an rud céanna lena rá "Níl Gaeilge agam". Is trua sin.

Tá an Ghaeilge i lár an Bhille ach cén fáth go bhfuil sé scríofa? Sa dóigh is go mbeidh gach duine sa tír in ann úsáid a bhaint as Gaeilge, teanga cheart na tíre seo. Tá a lán oibre le déanamh leis na daoine atá cosúil liom féin, daoine aga bhfuil suim acu sa teanga, ach atá imithe ón seomra ranga.

Thosaigh mé ag foghlaim na Gaeilge ar scoil agus gach lá bhí rang agam. Léigh mé leabhair agus scríobh mé scéalta faoi mo rothar nua agus a leithéid. Thug mé freagraí don mhúinteoir nuair a chuir sé ceist orm, "Caide a tharla ansin?". Ansin chuaigh mé go Béal Feirsde, rinne mé ceol agus fuair mé teastas múinteoireachta. Ní raibh Gaeilge ar an chúrsa agus ní raibh Gaeilge ag na mic léinn eile. Mar sin, rinne mé dearmad ar an chuid is mo den teanga. Cén fáth? Mar d'éirigh mé as labhairt na Gaeilge nuair a chríochnaigh mé an mheánscoil agus tá an scéal céanna ann d'fhormhór na ndaoine.

Le blianta anuas, shíl mé go mbeadh an seans agam cúpla focal a fháil ar ais ach ní raibh an t-am agam nó ní raibh rang ar siúl. Mar sin bhí leithscéal agam agus sin an scéal a bhíonn ag mórán daoine.

An bhliain seo caite, áfach, fuair mé post nua – Cathaoirleach i gCoiste na hEalaíne, Spoirt, Tuarasóireachta, Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta – agus tá seans agam mo chuid a fháil ar ais. Tá mise agus a lán Teachtaí eile ar ais ar scoil le ranganna Gaeilge an-mhaith ar fad. Tá mórán againn ag labhairt as Gaeilge i dTithe an Oireachtais. Níl muid líofa ach déanaimid ár ndícheall agus tá suim mhór againn sa teanga agus tugann na ranganna seans eile dúinn. Gabhaim buíochas le gach duine atá ag caint agus ag tabhairt cuidiú dom.

Cad chuige a bhfuil mé ag caint fúm féin? Tá an Bille seo dírithe ar seirbhísí trí Ghaeilge agus cuirfidh sé an teanga ar ais ar an chlár – gníomh stairiúil. Ba mhaith liom féin mar Éireannach bheith in ann labhairt go líofa i dteanga na tíre agus mo chuid oibre a dhéanamh as Gaeilge nó as Béarla. Gach bliain téann daoine thar lear agus caitheann siad tamall ag foghlaim cupla focal – ein bier bitte, vin rouge s'il vous plaîtvino blanco por favor. Ní bhaineann siad úsáid, áfach, as a dteanga féin – an Ghaeilge. Chuala mé duine as Madrid ag rá, “Go raibh maith agat” in Dún na nGall nuair a cheannaigh sé pionta Guinness. Ba mhaith liom é a chloisteáil as pobal Dhún na nGall freisin. Níl mé i mo chónai san nGaeltacht – níl Dún na nGall go léir san nGaeltacht – ach tá a lán obair nua le feiceáil tríd an gcontae. Tá naíonraí, Gaelscoileanna agus meanscoileanna ag éirí. Go minic tá sé deacair rud nua a dhéanamh ach sílim go bhfuil sé “cool” anois caint as Gaeilge agus tá suim úr ag tosú, ach níl sé ag críochnú. Thug TG4 saol nua don teanga agus sílim go bhfuil an fhadhb simplí. Fuair muid Gaeilge ar scoil, tá Gaeilge againn ach má bhím féin ag caint as Gaeilge bím ag lorg na bhfocal agus mar sin ní bhíonn mo cheann ag obair comh tapaidh le mo bhéal. Má bhíonn cuid mhór den Ghaeilge timpeall na háite beidh muid in ann cuid mhór Gaeilge a fháil. Tá a Ián ranganna de díth ag na daoine timpeall na tíre atá imithe as an scoil. Tabhair seans dóibh.

I do not apologise to those who realise my Irish is not perfect. I am proud to have contributed as much as I did on my own and it was my own script, for all its faults. It is important that those of us with less than perfect Irish are encouraged to contribute. Sometimes one can be unlucky when speaking Irish and encounter someone who is more interested in making sure the grammar is perfect than in getting the gist of the message across. That hinders the spread of Irish.

In any country one goes to on holidays, if the person one is speaking to understands one is making an effort, he or she appreciates that effort and helps one. However, the situation I mentioned can be a problem with developing one's Irish. There is a percentage of people who will answer one in English and refuse to speak Irish if they do not understand one. There is only one way to ensure the language develops and that is to have it around one.

When I was in university I carried out a study among primary school children and called it Familiarity Breeds Tolerance. I was trying to explain to ten year olds who did not like classical music that it was not all the same. I explained that I hated some classical music and loved other classical music and that it would be the same for them. The familiarity bred tolerance and I played pieces for them they would have heard elsewhere, like "Nessun Dorma" and the music from the Old Spice advertisement. The children thought those were great.

We are dealing with a Bill which is trying to make services available through Irish. We are really trying to ensure that the Irish language is there throughout the country, not just in the Gaeltacht, for whoever wants to use it. Ultimately we are trying to give everyone the opportunity to try to express themselves in their native language, which should be Irish, at whatever level they can. When I taught primary schoolchildren music and played it for them over and over, they began to regard it as familiar and accepted it. It is the same with Irish – the more we hear it the more we will accept it and try to use it. If people accept one's Irish is not perfect and allow one to contribute, then one will improve.

In the last couple of weeks there has been an astonishing change in the House. I am here seven years and I have heard more Irish in the last fortnight than in the previous seven years put together. People are having fun, which is what Irish should be about, and they can converse in the corridors. We are going in the right direction and we should be positive. I accept the special status of the Gaeltacht and we must preserve what we have there but I am from an area outside the Gaeltacht and we should have the right to speak Irish also.

There are many gaelscoileanna, naionra and Irish language schools at different levels trying to get off the ground in Inishowen, where dedicated people are working in this area. There is also good work being done in teaching Irish in mainstream schools. I ask the Minister to look at the protection and support that can be given both to these schools and to adult education. People like ourselves should be able to access support to get us back into the language. TG4 has been a significant influence, while Raidio na Gaeltachta has been operating for many years, in trying to establish Irish as cool and trendy. It is becoming more cool and trendy than it has ever been.

Many people come to Ireland to learn English, and that is a significant economic boost to the country. We recently had an intern from America who said the number of people speaking Irish there is phenomenal. Many people would come here to learn Irish and we are not doing enough to promote our language, music and dance in certain parts of the country. This should be examined.

I welcome the fact that Deputies O'Shea and Wall are looking at the whole issue of the Irish language and as Cathaoirleach of the Joint Committee on Arts, Sport, Tourism, Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, I look forward to working with them on our report.

I wish the Bill well. The fact that we are talking about the position of Gaeilge within our communities is very important. I hope to come back am éigin eile agus mé líofa sa teanga. Ba mhaith liom cupla focal eile a fháil, ach tús maith leath na hoibre. I hope to go from strength to strength and to succeed in getting Irish from the back of my head to the front.

Tá mo bhuíochas ag gabháil don Teachta Cecilia Keaveney as ucht a cuid ama a roinnt liom. Maraon léi is cúis áthais agus bróid dom a bheith páirteach ins an ghnó thábhachtach atá idir lámha againn anseo le Bille na dTeangacha Oifigiúla 2002. Tréaslaím leis an Aire, Éamon Ó Cuív, leis an iar-Aire Stáit, Mary Coughlan agus le foireann na Roinne as ucht a dea-obair atá déanta acu an reachtaíocht seo a thabhairt os ár gcomhair. Is Bille suntasach, misniúil, praiticiúil é a bhfuil éileamh air le fada an lá. Táim féin cinnte go dtabharfaidh sé sásamh agus spreagadh do lucht na Gaeilge sa Ghaeltacht agus sa ghalltacht. Tá sé thar am rud dearfach a dhéanamh mar gheall ar an easpa reachtaíochta i leith na Gaeilge atá ann ó bunaíodh an Stát, agus go háirithe ó ghlacamar le Bunreacht a thug stádas speisialta don Ghaeilge mar phríomh theanga oifigiúil na tíre. Ní fhéadfadh éinne a rá ach go bhfuil meon an phobail i dtaobh na Gaeilge i bhfad níos báúile anois ná ariamh agus dá bharr sin táim den tuairim go bhfáilteofar go forleathan roimh an mBille seo.

Is maith is cuimhin liom laethanta m'óige i gCill Dara ar bhunscoil de chuid na mBráithre de la Salle, agus iad a baint úsáid as an mbata chun Buntús Cainte a mhúineadh dúinn. Inniu tá an brú agus an éigeanntacht imithe agus ina n-ionaid tá módhanna nua-aimseartha in úsáid ins na scoileanna a ligeann dos na daltaí taitneamh agus tairfe a bhaint as an teanga. Siar ins na seachtóidí bhí mé imeasc scata déagóirí i mBaile Chill Dara, i gceartlár na galltachta, a chláraigh le hÓgras, óg eagras Chonradh na Gaeilge, a tháinig le chéile go seachtainiúil chun imeachtaí do dhaoine óga a reachtáil trí mheán na Gaeilge. Cuimhním ar an íonadh a chuireamar a mhuintir na háite agus muid ag dul timpeall le chéile a labhairt Gaeilge. Inniu, ní haon rud íontach nó eisceachtúil é comhrá i nGaeilge a chloisteáil i mbialann, nó i dteach tabhairne nó ar an tsráid in aon áit i gContae Chill Dara.

Tá anois cúig bhunscoil lán Ghaeilge ag feidhmiú sa chontae, i Léim an Bhradáin, i gCill Choca, i Má Nuad, i Nás na Rí agus ar imeall bhaile Dhroichead Nua, áit a bhfuil Gaelscoil Chill Dara lonnaithe i bhfoirgneamh íontach a cheannaigh an Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta anuraidh ó chomhlucht Seapánach a bhí tar éis meánscoil phríobháideach a eagrú ann ar feadh roinnt blianta roimhe sin. Tá fás buacach ag teacht ar na scoileanna seo agus tá iarracht ar siúl faoi láthair bunscoil eile a bhunú i mBaile Átha Í i ndeisceart an chontae. Níl aon amhras orm ach go n-éireoidh leis an iarracht sin chomh maith. Tá níos mó ná 150 gaelscoil timpeall na tíre faoi láthair. Mar a tharla i gCill Dara, tháinig an iarracht agus an fuinneamh agus an díograsacht ar fad chun iad a bhunú ó thuismitheoirí agus i roinnt mhaith cásanna ó thuismitheoirí nach raibh líofacht acu féin sa Ghaeilge. Cruthaíonn seo an bá agus an meas atá ag an phobal go ginearálta don teanga, rud nach raibh riamh chomh soiléir is atá sé anois.

Sa chomhthéacs sin, is ceart aitheantas a thabhairt do na heagrais deonacha agus na heagrais Stáit atá freagrach as an dul chun cinn atá déanta – Conradh na Gaeilge, Comhdháil Náisiúnta na Gaeilge, Cumann Lúthchleas Gael, Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann, Bord na Gaeilge mar a bhí agus anois Foras na Gaeilge. Is fiú aird faoi leith a dhíriú ar a bhfuil déanta ag Raidió na Gaeltachta le níos mó ná 30 bliain anuas agus le déanaí ag TG4. Feicim mo pháistí féin ag baint taitnimh as cláracha TG4 – d'éirigh leis an stáisiúin na daoine óga a mhealladh. Tá an-chuid déanta ag an chraoltóir náisiúnta chomh maith le dearcadh na ndaoine i leith na Gaeilge a athrú. Bhí an-tionchar ag Éamon de Buitléir le "Amuigh Faoin Spéir", ag Liam Ó Murchú le "Trom agus Éadrom", gan trácht ar bith a dhéanamh ar atá déanta agus atá ag déanamh go fóill ag Micheál Ó Muircheartaigh.

Feictear domsa go bhfuil ceithre príomhghnéithe ag baint leis an reachtaíocht seo. Fáiltím roimh altanna 12 agus 13 ina leagtar dualgas ar chomhlachtaí poiblí scéim a ullmhú agus a éisiúint ina dtabharfar sonraí maidir leis na seirbhísí a chuirfidh siad ar fáil trí Ghaeilge. I lár na 1990í bhí mé imo chathaoirleach ar choiste na Gaeilge i gComhairle Chondae Chill Dara. Ar iarratas ó Bhord na Gaeilge chuir muid le chéile plean don Ghaeilge agus leag muid amach spriocanna don chomhairle maidir le Gaeilge a úsáid ag cruinnithe, ar fhoirmeacha, ar fhógraí, ar an ngúthán agus i measc na foirne agus í ag déileáil leis an bpobal. D'éirigh linn roinnt dul chun cinn a dhéanamh ach ar bhealach éigin, tháinig meath ar an iarrach. Cabhróidh an reachtaíocht seo go mór le húdaráis agus le comhlachtaí poiblí an cineál iarracht a rinne muid i gCill Dara a chur i gcrích, ní amháin toisc an fhoráil atá ann in alt 16 maidir le hathbhreithniú tréimhsiúil ar na scéimeanna.

Cuirfear fáilte chomh maith roimh na forálacha atá ann in altanna 9 agus 10 ina leagtar dualgas breise ar chomhlachtaí phoiblí féachaint chuige go bhfuil cinnteacht ann gur féidir le daoine teagbháil a dhéanamh leo agus seirbhísí a fháil i gceachtar de na teangacha Gaeilge nó Béarla agus go n-úsáidfear an Ghaeilge ar stáiseanóireacht, ar chomharthaí agus ar fhógraí. Níl amhras orm ach go bhfuil baill foirne ann i ngach údarás agus comhlacht poiblí agus fonn orthu tabhairt faoin obair seo ach an deis agus an spreagadh bheith tugtha dóibh é a dhéanamh.

I measc na bhforálacha is tábhachtaí a leagtar síos tá an ceann a bhaineann le húsáid na dteangacha oifigiúla in imeachtaí dlíthiúla agus an ceart a thugann siad don duine éisteacht a fháil sa teanga oifigiúil is rogha leis nó léi. Is moladh den scoth é bunadh oifig choimisinéar na dteangacha oifigiúla mar, gan amhras agus in ainneoin an dea-thoil atá ann don Ghaeilge, beidh gá le maoirseacht agus le monatóireacht a dhéanamh ar an Acht chun féachaint chuige go gcuirfear i bhfeidhm é go forleathan san earnáil phoiblí.

This is a well crafted and balanced Bill which will fill the legislative void that has existed in relation to our languages since the enactment of our Constitution. Therefore, to coin a phrase, it is a far better thing we do than we have ever done before. Molaim an Bille don Teach.

I am a slightly unusual contributor to this debate in that I do not feel confident enough to proceed in conversational Irish but I was anxious to speak for a number of reasons which I will outline. I compliment the Minister as someone who clearly has the Irish language at heart and who genuinely wants more people to speak it and to see it at the centre of what it is to be Irish. As was said by the last speaker, this is the first legislation since the enactment of the Constitution to legally recognise and enforce equality of language among the two official languages recognised in the Constitution. The first official language is Irish, or Gaeilge, and the second is English, or Béarla

In relation to official languages in the Constitution, I would like to put down a marker by saying I believe there should be a third language, that is, Irish sign language, a topic to which I will come back towards the end of my contribution. Clearly, the main element which I wish to support in relation to this legislation is the promotion of the Irish language. The establishment of the Office of Language Commissioner is necessary and I welcome the fact that the commissioner will be appointed by the President and not the Minister. That is a sensible, non-political step, particularly when it comes to enforcing elements of the Constitution which is a presidential role. The definition of two official languages receives legal recognition which is welcome. The Bill provides that we, in the Oireachtas, lead by example in that the use of Gaeilge or Béarla is officially recognised and acceptable. Money will be spent on the necessary practicalities surrounding that. The publication of Acts and Bills will receive the same treatment which is welcome.

If we are to preach about use and the promotion of the Irish language, we must lead by example and that seems to be happening in an effective way in this legislation. The legislation extends outside this House to other public bodies, and I will come back to some successful schemes in county council areas which the Minister should support.

There are no Gaeltacht areas in my constituency but there is a number of gaelscoileanna. The gaelscoileanna movement, which is a genuine one, is evidence of the fact that even people who do not speak Irish at any level or who, like me, would not be confident enough to put into practice their leaving certificate Irish, send their children to gaelscoileanna for their education. As the Minister outlined in his speech – I was glad to hear it – it is proof of the fact that even for people who do not speak Irish, the Irish language means a lot to them as Irish people because it is seen as part of our culture in the same way as Irish music and other traditional aspects of Irish life are, but the Irish language is even more important than those other elements. As someone who does not have fluent Irish, I recognise that. If, or when, I have children in the future, I will consider sending them to a gaelscoil so I hope they would not be in a similar position to that which I am in now in terms of wanting to contribute as Gaeilge but not having the confidence to do so.

While I am on the topic of education, if we are serious about the promotion of the Irish language for the masses, we must re-evaluate how Irish is taught in schools. It is extraordinary that although Irish is compulsory and is taught in primary and secondary schools, many people who study French for the leaving certificate and who may only start to study it in third or fourth year find that their conversational French is of a higher standard than their conversational Irish when they leave school. Although Irish is compulsory and is taught at both primary and secondary school, it is extraordinary that many people who study French for the leaving certificate, who may only have started studying it in third or fourth year, find that their conversational French is of a higher standard than their conversational Irish. We should be encouraging people to use Irish for conversation rather than perfecting grammar. We need to re-evaluate the way in which Irish is taught. I feel strongly about that and am supportive of keeping Irish as a compulsory part of education. However, we should debate it and people should not be accused of being unpatriotic if they have a different opinion, which, unfortunately, sometimes occurs.

We need to examine how to get rid of the embarrassment factor. The irony is that people who believe more passionately that we should be promoting the Irish language are often the people who are terribly dismissive of people who have a small amount of conversational Irish and attempt to use it. We have made progress in this area. Eight or ten years ago, the embarrassment factor meant that people who were not fluent as Gaeilge would not even attempt to speak for fear of being cut down to size. It is important to recognise that is much less the case now and people who are living in Gaeltacht areas, those who speak as Gaeilge at home, are now far more appreciative when people make an effort to speak half and half, almost in pidgin Irish. That is something which the Minister needs to take a lead on and encourage, particularly because he has considerable credibility among the Irish-speaking population.

I, too, recognise the work Deputy O'Dowd has done, as a member of Fine Gael, in trying to reach out to Gaeltacht areas. He has spent much time in them and I know he will continue to do so. Wearing my broadcasting hat, because my responsibilities in Fine Gael concern communications, marine and natural resources, I note that there should be a continued role for TG4. Some cynics say it is a waste of time but I challenge that view. While I remain the Fine Gael spokesperson on communications and broadcasting, we will support the continued existence and funding of TG4, and the same applies to Raidio na Gaeltachta. I say this because TG4 in particular promotes the kind of conversational Irish that I can attempt to buy into as opposed to the heavy, grammatical Irish that would simply turn me off if I tried to apply myself to it.

I congratulate the Minister on the Bill, which I welcome. It will receive support from all parties but I encourage him to take it further and lead by example in respect of the points I have made, particularly in the education field. If we are making Irish compulsory in schools, which is the correct decision, children need to look forward to Irish class. Unfortunately, the opposite is the case in many schools.

I do not know of any other speaker who raised the issue of Irish sign language, about which I feel strongly. Under an official languages Bill we should be addressing this. People may dismiss it as a niche element of Irish society but I hope the figures will persuade the Minister that it is important. The number of people in Ireland with severe hearing loss, many of whom rely on Irish sign language, is 19,026. The number of profoundly deaf people, who either need to lip read or use sign language, is 4,933. Therefore, there are approximately 25,000 people concerned, which is significant when one considers the number living in Gaeltacht areas.

In Britain, British sign language has recently been recognised as an official language. We should follow that example and look at ways in which we can officially recognise Irish sign language. French, US, British and Irish sign languages are different and the latter is not connected with spoken Béarla or Gaeilge. It is a separate way of communicating, it has been in existence for many decades and deserves official recognition in the Constitution. Obviously, that is not possible in the legislation under discussion but I will attempt to table amendments that reflect my view. Will the Minister examine my proposal to see if it is possible? Irish sign language is the first language of deaf people, who are citizens just like everybody else, and, as such, they deserve to have it recognised.

Tá beagán Gaeilge agam. Táim ag déanamh cúrsa Gaeilge faoi láthair agus tá súil agam go mbeidh mé i bhfad níos fearr. Labhróidh mé as Béarla an tráthnóna seo

I welcome the opportunity to speak on this important Bill, the purpose of which is to promote equality for the Irish and English languages, the official languages of the State. Crucially, it also attempts to facilitate the language rights of a citizen in his or her dealings with the State.

Encouraging increased use of the Irish language in all areas of public life is an important development, which must be expanded and built upon. The Bill aspires to do this. There can be no argument that it is not worthwhile and it is long overdue. The Bill may represent the beginning of the end of paying lip service to the Irish language.

I welcomed the contribution of my colleague, Deputy O'Dowd. Last year, I attended an Irish conference in Dingle with the Deputy, which I found very interesting. We visited the ordinary people of the Gaeltacht and he spoke through Irish. It was there that my love for the Irish language was inspired.

As a country, we have a great history of talking about the language, raising it to an exalted status and aspiring to return it to its former glory. Unfortunately, we also have a history of doing nothing and using failed methods to drill the language into young people and failing to show a good example in its use. I am grateful that it was a Fine Gael-led Government that began to recognise the role of the Irish language in modern Ireland. When Teilifís na Gaeilge, now TG4, was set up, Fine Gael and our partners in Government, the Labour Party, were castigated by many outside the House for throwing good money after bad. It is good to see that they have now been proven wrong.

I commend my former colleague from Clare, Donal Carey, who was Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach, for his work in respect of the Irish language and the islands. However, it is sad that we are debating this Bill against the background of Government cutbacks at every level of education. There is little point in promoting the use of the language in the House and by other public agencies, when children have to learn in a poorly-funded learning environment.

That is a matter for another time but it should remain in the minds of Ministers as we give them our support this evening. I commend the Minister in his role as Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs for promoting the Irish language at every opportunity. He has been to Clare on many occasions regarding the CLÁR programme and he has promoted the Irish language at several functions which I attended. It would be useful if the Government at some stage gave a Minister of State responsibility for promoting the language.

The debate this afternoon takes place against the background of a change in the use of the language. This is highly relevant to the Bill because we increasingly see anglicised versions or abbreviations of Irish words and place names in text books, on road signs and in everyday use. For instance, in the Minister's constituency with which I am familiar, the town of Gort, which was always known as Gort Inse Guaire, is now called An Gort. The same is true of Lahinch in County Clare which used to be known as Leacht Uí Chonchúir and is now known as An Leacht. It is a mistake to change these names because by doing so we are losing our history. Even in children's text books one reads the word "zú" which should be gairdín na h-ainmhithe. We lose the meaning of the language if we modernise these words. I hope that by encouraging the use of the Irish language in an official capacity we may go some way towards ensuring that this practice does not continue. Just as the French had a battle with the creeping anglicisation of their language, so do we face an even greater challenge within the context of a multicultural society, an enlarged Europe and a globalised economy.

I would like to highlight a few points in the Bill. I welcome the fact that section 2, in defining the official languages, meets our constitutional commitments by giving primacy to the Irish language as the first official language and the national language, while recognising English as the second official language, as set out in Article 8 of the Constitution.

Section 5 provides for the use of the official language in the Houses of the Oireachtas. I encourage this development as it is fitting that these Houses, which form one of the most important institutions in the State should lead the way in the promotion of the Irish language, in recognising its importance and forming an integral part of the Irish identity. For this reason I welcome the fact that the training unit of the Oireachtas is running Irish courses for the Members. I am facilitating that and doing one of the courses. I have been to one session and enjoyed it very much. In the next few months I hope to be in a position to speak some Irish at functions and maybe in this Chamber as well.

In this regard placing on a statutory basis the publication of Acts in Irish and English sets a good precedent in the recognition and granting of a clearly defined role for the Irish language in society. I hope that this development will lead to increased use of the language in both Houses of the Oireachtas, even among those who are not as fluent as other Members. The use of the Irish language must be facilitated and encouraged among those people with the cúpla focail. One hopes that this legislation will result in the diffusion of the language into all aspects of the State services and public life, granting a person the right to communicate and receive services from a public body in either of the official languages, coupled with the right to have legal proceedings heard in his or her preferred official language, affording choice to some individuals. Clare County Council is trying to set up an oifig Gaeilge, and the SPC committee is trying to speed up that process so that business can be transacted as Gaeilge.

I welcome the Bill. Tá teanga na Gaeilge an-tábhachtach dár n-oidhreacht. I hope it expands the use of our national language and enriches us all.

Cuirim fáilte roimh an Bille. Tá áthas orm seans a fháil tacaíocht a thabhairt don Aire leis an obair atá idir láimhe aige chun na teanga Gaeilge a chothú mar theanga oifigiúil agus í a thabhairt chun cinn níos mó ná mar atá sí.

Níl aon dabht ann le blianta anuas go bhfuil ár dteanga ag dul i laige. B'fhéidir nuair a bhíonn an tír ag dul ar aghaidh agus nuair atá tuilleadh airgid ag daoine nach dtugfar an t-aitheantas céanna don teanga. Is teanga í a úsáidtear go foirmiúil i ngnóthaí oifigiúla agus seirbhísí poiblí áirithe.

Is cailliúnt mhór í d'aon tír a teanga dúchais féin a chailliúnt. Tá seanfhocal ann – tír gan teanga, tír gan anam. Tá an Ghaeilge riachtanach dár gcultúr, dár neamhspleáchas agus dár n-aitheantas. Aon tír nach bhfuil á húsáid go oifigiúil, tá an chontúirt ann go gcaillfear ar fad í. Má thugaimid ár gcúl don teanga, caillfear í. I láthair na huaire tá easpa seirbhísí trí Ghaeilge agus tá geárghá chun na faidhbe seo a leasú. Tá Bille na dTeangacha Oifigiúla 2002 chun na faidhbe seo a cheartú.

Tá roinnt rudaí an-tábhachtacha sa Bhille. Tá na seirbhísí Gaeilge i gcomhlachtaí poiblí an-tábhachtach. Beidh aitheantas ar an teanga oifigiúil, úsáid an teanga oifigiúil in Achtanna, agus an ceart ag daoine a gcás a phlé sa teanga oifigiúil is rogha leis nó léi roimh na cúirteanna. Beidh duine in ann freagra a fháil trí Ghaeilge más mian leis ó aon chomhlacht phoiblí i gcomhfhreagras a bheidh aige nó aici, is cuma an trí phost leictreonach nó litir scríofa é. Beidh comhsheasamh ag an Ghaeilge leis an Bhéarla ar fhoirmeacha, ar fhógraí agus ar chomharthaí i gcomhlachtaí poiblí agus beidh dualgasaí ar na comhlachtaí sin tuairisc bhliantúil a fhoilsiú sa dá theanga oifigiúla. Tá mise ar lorg seo leis na blianta fada mar ní raibh comhlachtaí Stáit ag cur amach doiciméid sa dá theanga. Caithfidh oifig Stáit atá ag cur doiciméid amach é a dhéanamh sa dátheanga. Beidh sé de chabhair do dhaoine iad a fhreagairt trí Ghaeilge mar tugann sé tacaíocht dóibh chun na Gaeilge a úsáid mas mian leo sin. Sin mar ba cheart dó a bheith. Sin mar a bhíodh sé. Tá a fhios agam go bhfuil an tAire, Éamon Ó Cuív, ag déanamh a dhícheall chun an teanga a chur chun cinn ó tháinig sé isteach. Tá sé soléir, ón tslí ina bhfuil sé ag obair ins an Roinn, go bhfuil sé ag déanamh dul chun cinn maith ann. Tá aithne agam air leis na blianta anuas agus ar a thuismitheoirí agus tá a fhios agam go bhfuil sé díograiseach leis an teanga Gaoluinne a spreagadh, agus tá dul chun cinn maith á dhéanamh aige, mar a dúirt.

Nuair a rabhas ar scoil, ní raibh focal Béarla le cloisint timpeall an chlóis ag na leanaí, agus dá mbeadh féin, ní tharlódh sé ró-mhinic mar Gaoluinn ar fad a bhí á labhairt ann, agus aon chlann a tháinig isteach ins na scoileanna a raibh Béarla ag na tuismitheoirí, ní rabhadar i bhfad in aon chor ag foghlaim na Gaoluinne. Samhlaím féin go mb'fhéidir go bhfuil daoine ag taisteal, go bhfuil mórán bualadh le chéile ag tuismitheoirí agus daoine ag teacht isteach ón ngalltacht go dtí na Gaeltachtaí. B'fhéidir gur sin an fáth a bhfuil sé ag tarlú.

Molaim an obair atá déanta ag an Aire ó ceapadh é, agus níl aon dabht ar domhan ach go mbeidh sé ag tabhairt na Gaoluinne chun cinn annso.

Cathal Ó Conchúir as Tamhlacht anseo. I wish I could say more than that. I remember when I came to the Dáil a year ago, I said that one of my ambitions was to address it as Gaeilge. That is important, and I always admire Deputies who can do that.

During the week I was remembering back a little about my schooldays, which were a long time ago. Strangely enough, I went to school locally in Clarendon Street, then in the convent on Crumlin Road and then the Christian Brothers' school in Synge Street and Drimnagh Castle. My reports, some of which have survived in my sister's home, state that I was apparently very good at Irish and coped with it very well. It upsets me that I did not persist with it, and one of the things that I have done, with other Deputies, is sign on for Irish classes. It is important that we do so. I welcome the Bill. It is important to acknowledge that such occasions – I know that there is controversy about these late or extended sittings – give us an opportunity to deal with important legislation, and that is what we are doing this evening.

In reflecting on the business before us, something occurred to me. I live in St Mark's parish in Springfield in Tallaght, and the presence of Deputy Dinny McGinley reminds me that our parish priest, Fr. Frank Herron, is currently resting in Donegal. I mention him because when he came to our parish a short time ago, he discovered, as I have recently, that there are 50 different nationalities living there, which is an amazing statistic. He told us at Mass one morning that some of them had met him and apologised because English was not their first language. He told them that that was no problem, since it was not his either.

That set me thinking. We all use English in our business. The presence of so many foreign nationals in our communities – we watch and are impressed by the manner in which they are not afraid to promote their own culture and language – reminds us of our obligation. Though I am sorry that I cannot do so as Gaeilge, I have no hesitation in saying that it is important that we work on that ideal. We must understand that in this new century, it is still our responsibility to promote Irish, Irish culture and all things Irish – for that, by the way, is what we are. Just like our foreign friends, we should be proud of our traditions and heritage.

I am glad that my admiration for the Minister is universal, being shared by the Opposition too. Not only does he do a good job and reach out to our communities – coming to Tallaght as often as to Clare and everywhere else, something of which I am very glad – but he works at the language. He is the perfect example of a family and community man who is prepared to promote the Irish language, Irish culture and everything Irish. We can follow that example, and I am very happy to do so. Some Members will know that Tamhlacht, or Tallaght, has a huge tradition of Irish culture. We have two all-Irish first level schools, Scoil Chaitlín Maude in Killinarden and Scoil Santain in Avonmore Road, where one of my sons went to school. There are another two schools, one from Knocklyon and Scoil Mológa in Inchicore, which feed into the 250-pupil 18-teacher school, Coláiste de hÍde, which in recent years has moved from Old Bawn Road, where it was for some years, to a brand new, excellent facility in Tymon Park.

The work of the school in promoting the language among families, not only the families of those attending the school, but also in the general community, is something of which I am very proud. Deputy McGinley will know that one of the vice-principals in that school is, while one of my constituents, originally from his constituency.

Your gain is my loss. Give her a postal vote.

I should not claim that anybody would vote for me so I had better not name her. I am making the serious point that the all-Irish schools in Tallaght, both the second level school and the two primary schools, do a tremendous amount of work and promote Irish language and culture. That is something which we all desire.

I am also happy to say that South Dublin County Council, which was established by the Government under the Local Government Act 1994, has been active in promoting the language. However, as with every other authority, Members must keep them on their toes as far as that is concerned. I have strong views about the local authority's role. I believe that it has a big part to play, and at that level we have tried to ensure that when people call to the modern offices in Tallaght, if they so wish, their business can be transacted as Gaeilge. We have also adopted a policy on bilingual signs, attempting to ensure that developers use both versions. It is very important that we do so.

I am certainly very proud of what has been done in my town and the other population centres represented – Firhouse, Greenhills and Templeogue – where there is support for Irish language and culture. We should all take the opportunity to promote that ideal as much and as often as possible, and I hope that we can continue to do so. As I said, I hope, through the Irish classes that I and other Members are attending, that appreciation of the language will increase here in the House. I believe that up to 90 Members are now attending, and that is very important. The Minister would undoubtedly want to promote and acknowledge that. I am sure there will be an occasion when we can dance and sing as Gaeilge and show some example.

The Official Languages Bill, which has already been passed by our colleagues in the Seanad is now in this House. It is important to acknowledge that it is the first legislation to provide a statutory framework for the delivery of services through the Irish language and that the Bill specifies some basic general provisions of universal applicability. For example, correspondence is to be replied to in the language in which it is written and there will be bilingual publication of certain key documents and use of Irish in the courts and other bodies which are not tied to schemes.

Among the principal provisions of the Bill are measures to provide for the publication of Acts simultaneously in both languages and the use of the official language in legal proceedings. A person will have a right to be heard in the official language of his or her choice, which is important. It will be a duty of public bodies to prepare a statutory scheme detailing the services which will be provided through the medium of Irish, English or Irish and English.

The measures to be adopted under this Bill ensure that any services not provided by the body through the medium of the Irish language will be so provided with a timeframe to be agreed, in effect, distinguishing between services to be provided in the lifetime of the current scheme and those to be addressed in a longer timeframe. I also welcome the duty of public bodies to ensure that the official language is used on stationery, signage and advertisements, in accordance with the regulations to be made by the Minister, and that certain documents of public interest, policy proposals or annual reports should be published in each of the official languages simultaneously.

Regarding the establishment of the office of the Official Languages Commissioner, the commissioner will be independent in the performance of his or her duty and will be appointed by Úachtaráin na hÉireann. The Bill assigns general responsibility to the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs in regard to ensuring the delivery of State services through Irish.

Though I lament that my knowledge of Irish is somewhat rusty, I find that when I am in the Oireachtas canteen or around the Houses, and even when I am speaking to the Minister – I am a little overawed when I do that – I am able to speak some Irish. At my age, it is about trying to drag it up. It is important that we have an interest in and not be afraid to promote the language or stand in Dáil Éireann, as other colleagues have done, to make a speech about the importance of the Irish language as Béarla. It is a good sign that Members have done that.

I draw attention to the manner in which the various foreign nationals who have now joined our communities are not prepared to allow their languages and cultures to lapse. We should be just as proud and anxious to promote our language. It would be good if colleagues around the Houses could help me and others with our use of Irish.

I told Deputy O'Dowd that I was fascinated with his breakfast time appearance on RTE television last week with Deputies Cowley and Ó Snodaigh, though I was also fascinated by the time of day of the appearance. Having that kind of conversation and interaction is of help to those of us who are anxious to bring the language back to our own vocabulary. I look forward to a day when I can stand in the House – I will try to do it in my first term – and make a speech as Gaeilge, and still mention Tallaght as many times as I must.

The Tallaght strategy.

I wish the Minister well. He knows he has my strong support. I commend the Bill to the House.

Cosúil leis na cainteoirí eile a labhair faoin Bhille seo tráthnóna inniu, cuirim fáilte leis. Tá sé tamall fada ar an bhealach ach is cinnte gur fearr go mall ná go breá, mar a deir an seanfhocal. Ní raibh mé istigh i rith an lae ag éisteacht leis an díospóireacht ach an méid ar chuala mé nuair a bhí mé ag éisteacht i m'oifig, chuir sé gliondar ar mo chroí gur chuir gach duine fáilte roimh an Bhille agus gur labhair siad i nGaeilge agus i mBéarla. Ceann de na rudaí a chuaigh i bhfeidhm go mór orm nó na daoine a labhair i mBéarla, go raibh dea-mhéin agus dea-thoil acu agus go raibh siad deimhneach fán Bhille, Ní raibh aon dhiúltachas ann agus bhí dea-mhéin ag teacht amach frid a gcuid cainte i mBéarla don teanga. Déanaim tagairt do na daoine a labhair romham – an Teachta Simon Coveney, a dúirt nach bhfuil mórán Gaeilge aige ach a chreideann go daingean i gcearta na Gaeilge, an Teachta Pat Breen, an Teachta Ó Cnochúir a labhair óna chroí agus ár n-urlarbhraí féin, an Teachta Fergus O'Dowd. Ní chainteoirí dúchais iad agus tá sé iontach go bhfuil daoine nach gcainteoirí dúchais iad agus nach raibh deis acu an Ghaeilge a fhoghlaim ón chliabhán cosúil leis an chuid eile againn ábalta teacht amach agus labhairt chomh deimhneach sin agus tacaíocht mar seo a thabhairt don Bhille.

Tá Billí den chineál seo ag tíortha eile ach is cuimhin liom cúpla bliain ó sin nuair a bhí comhchoiste na Gaeilge ar bun, thug muid cuairt ar Cheanada. Ní chuimhin liom an raibh an tAire linn, b'fhéidir gurbh é a mhol dúinn a dhul ann.

Bhí sé de phribhléid dom bheith ann.

Chuaigh muid go dtí Ceanada agus rinne muid staidéar ar chúrsaí dhátheangachais. I Quebec agus na cúigí eile chuaigh sé i bhfeidhm go mór orainn, bhí an Teachta Ó Sé linn, nuair a bhí an dá theanga le feiceáil go soiléir in achan gné den saol – duine ag plé leis an earnáil phríobháideach nó earnáil phoiblí, tá an dá theanga ansin dó – an Bearla agus an Fhraincís, gualainn ar ghualainn agus tá a fhios ag duine go bhfuil an bheirt acu ar fáil.

Is dócha go bhfuil tionchar ag an Bhille a cuireadh i bhfeidhm ansin ar chúrsaí teangan ansin anois. Tá mé cinnte nuair a bhí an Bille seo á dhréachtú ag an Aire agus ag an Roinn, go ndéarna siad staidéar speisialta ar mar atá cúrsaí i gCeanada.

Mar a dúirt an tAire féin, bhí sé de phribhléid againn bheith ina chuideachta an bhliain a thug muid cuairt ar an Bhreatain Bheag. Tá Bille cearta teangan acusan ansin chomh maith agus tá ag éirigh go maith leis. Tá súil agam go ndéarnadh staidéar ar an cheann sin, gur féidir linn foghlaim ón dul chun cinn atá déanta ansin agus foghlaim ós na botúin atá déanta acu. Tá súil agam gur mar seo an cás sa Bhille seo.

Deirtear liom go bhfuil an Bille seo ag dul a thabhairt seasamh reachtúil don teanga. Tá seasamh bunreachtúil ag an teanga ó 1937, sí an chéad teanga oifigiúil í. Is millteánach an rud é gur ghlac sé chomh fada sin seasamh reachtúil a thabhairt don Ghaeilge mar an chéad teanga oifigiúil.

Tá trí ré gur fios dom féin i saol na Gaeilge. Sa bhliain 1893 a bunaíodh Conradh na Gaeilge. Bhí sé ina ghluaiseacht mhór ar fud na tíre ag an am sin agus bhí gach aicme, dream agus creideamh páirteach ann. Tharla rud suimiúil bliain ó shin. Ní ró-mhinic a bhímse in Áras an Uachtaráin. Ní hionann sin agus an t-Aire. Is dócha gur saolaíodh ansin é, beagnach. Bhí mé in Áras an Uachtaráin ar chuireadh ón a Soilse, an t-Uachtarán. An dream go léir a bhí ann an oíche sin ba as Tuaisceart Éireann iad agus, níos íontaí ná sin, is dócha gur aontachtóiri ab ea an t-iomlán acu. Chuir mé mé féin in aithne don fhear a bhí ina shuí in aice liom agus chuir mé ceist air cad ab ainm dó. Dúirt sé "Christopher Brooke". Fuair mé amach gurb é an seanathair a bhí aige ná Lord Brookeborough. Tar éis tamaill chuir sé ceist orm, an raibh aon fhocal Gaeilge agam agus dúirt mé go raibh cupla focal Gaeilge agam. Bhí pictiúir na n-Uachtarán uilig thart ar na ballaí, agus seanathair an Aire san áireamh, agus taispeánadh dúinn pictúir de Dhubhglas de hÍde, an Chraoibhinn Aoibhinn, mac le ministéir de chuid Eaglais na hÉireann, agus an fear a chuir Conradh na Gaeilge ar bun. Chuaigh muid thart ar an chuid eile agus dúirt an t-Uasal Brooke, "Ar chuala tú iomra ariamh ar Rose Maud Younge?". Níor chuala mé, leis an fhírinne a rá, iomrá uirthi ach chuala mé iomra ar Róise Ní Ógáin, an bhean a chuir an duanaire Gaeilge le chéile. Dúirt sé liom, "Ba í sin mo shean aintín, agus tá mise i mo chonái anois ins an chaisleán a bhí aici-se, an Caisleán Geal Gorm, i gContae Aontrama, i mbaile an-Ghaelach, an Baile Meánach".

Dúirt sé liom gur tháinig Foras na Gaeilge chuige anuraidh agus dúirt gur mhaith leo an leabhar seo a chur in ath-chló agus cuireadh a thabhairt don Athair Denis Faul a theacht agus é a sheoladh. Ar ndóigh, ní raibh mórán aithne ag Christopher Brooke ar Denis Faul ach, mar sin féin, tháinig sé agus rinne sé an jab agus bhí comhrá íontach acu ina dhiaidh sin. Dúirt Christopher Brooke go raibh Denis Faul ar cheann des na cairde is fearr dá bhfuil aige anois. Is é an fáth go bhfuil mé ag insint an scéil sin go léiríonn sé níos fearr ná sampla ar bith eile an feachtas agus an comh-oibriú a bhí imeasc gach dream ins an am sin agus bhí sé sin ag dul ar aghaidh. Déanadh botún ag Ard Fheis Chonradh na Gaeilge éigin ag tús an chéid seo caite nuair a tugadh cúrsaí polaitíochta isteach i ngluaiseacht na Gaeilge agus scoilt sí. Nuair a bunaíodh ár Rialtas féin i 1922 leagadh síos polasaí na hathbheochana agus cuireadh gluais leis sin i 1937. Nuair a dhearcaimid siar deirimid linn féin, "Cad é an dul chun cinn atá déanta? An bhfuil níos mó Gaeilge á labhairt ins an tír nó ins na Gaeltachtaí inniu ná mar a bhí nuair a bunaíodh an Stát nó in 1893?". Is cinnte go bhfuil níos lú Gaeilge á labhairt ins an tír inniu ná mar a bhí in 1893, cibé fá 1922 nó 1923.

Nuair a bheidh an Bille seo reachtaithe agus an coimisinéir ceapaithe agus i mbun a dhualgaisí, cad a dhéanfaidh sé do labhairt na Gaeilge agus cur chun cinn na Gaeilge ins an tír? Tá súil agam go mbeimid uilig anseo i gceann ceithre nó cúig bliana eile agus in ann dearcadh siar ar an lá inniu agus a rá linn féin gurb fhiú é a dhéanamh. Chuireamar freagracht na hathbheochana ar an gcóras oideachais agus ar na múinteoirí. Bhíomar inár suí anseo ag déanamh na rialacha agus d'fhág muid faoi na múinteoirí agus faoin gcóras oideachais iad a chur i bhfeidhm. Ba mhór an jab é sin. Rinne na múinteoirí agus an córas oideachais go leor ar feadh na mblianta ach níl duine ar bith nach gcreideann go bhfuil athrú mór tar éis teacht ar an nGaeilge i gcúrsaí oideachais.

Tá rudaí fiúntacha tar éis tarlú. Luadh na Gaelscoileanna agus sin ceann des na comharthaí dóchais is mó atá againn. Tá na mílte buachaillí agus cailíní ar fud na tíre taobh amuigh den nGaeltacht ag déanamh a gcuid oideachais trí Ghaeilge. Beidh siadsan ina gcainteoirí líofa nuair a bhéas an scolaíocht críochnaithe acu. Bhí daoine ins an Teach a chuaigh tríd na Gaelscoileanna roimhe seo. Cuimhním ar dhaoine cosúil le Alan Dukes, a raibh Gaeilge ar a thoil aige a bhí chomh maith le cainteoir dhúchais ar bith. Níl cás na Gaeilge chomh maith ins na gnáth-bhunscoileanna. Tá titim mhór ar chaighdeán na Gaeilge ansin. Is cinnte go n-aontaíonn an t-Aire liom ar an bpointe sin. Luadh na coláistí ullmhúcháin a cuireadh ar bun ins an fichidí agus a rinne cinnte go raibh múinteoirí á gcur ar fáil, bliain i ndiaidh bliana a raibh Gaeilge líofa acu. Cuireadh deireadh leis na coláisí sin agus tá an rian sin le feiceáil ó shin ar chaighdeán Gaeilge na mbunscol.

Tá comharthaí dóchais eile ann. Deineadh tagairt don obair atá á dhéanamh ag TG4. Síleann daoine óga anois gur rud taitneamhach an Ghaeilge. Mar a dúirt an Teachta Coveney, tá súil againn go dtiocfaidh an lá go mbeidh na daltaí ins na scoltacha ag fanacht leis an rang Gaeilge in ionad eagla agus doicheall bheith orthu faoi, mar a bhí san am a chuaigh thart. Nuair a thiocfaidh an lá go mbeidh fonn ar pháistí dul isteach ins an rang Gaeilge beidh dul chun cinn mór déanta.

Tá Raidió na Gaeltachta molta dá mbeinnse i mo thost. Tá sé le fáil ar fud na tíre agus ar fud an domhain. Freastalann sé ar gach gné de shaol na Gaeltachta agus de shaol Ghaelach na tíre. Tá sin le moladh chomh maith. Tá na tréimhseacháin Gaelacha ann ar nós Foinse agus Lá, atá ar fáil go laethúil anois.

Cuirim fáilte roimh an mBille. Tá súil agam go mbeidh a thionchar le feiceáil anseo sa Dáil chomh maith le taobh amuigh. Bhí feachtas ar siúl le fada gur chóir aitheantas níos fearr a thabhairt don Ghaeilge i bPairlimint na hEorpa agus go mbeadh an Ghaeilge ina teanga oibre inti. Ba chóir duinn cinntiú a dhéanamh de go mbeadh an Ghaeilge níos feiceálaí anseo i bPairlimint na hÉireann agus go mbeifear ag baint úsáid níos mó as an Ghaeilge in obair laethúil na Dála. Tá an córas aistriúcháin comhuaineach le fáil do Theachtaí nach bhfuil Gaeilge acu agus ná bíodh leisce ar dhuine ar bith úsáid a bhaint as. Nuair a thug an t-Uachtarán Mitterand cuairt ar an dTeach seo agus nuair a labhair sé i bhFraincis bhí an siondróm céanna ag cur as dúinn go léir agus is beag duine a chuir na cluasáin air fá choinne an aistriúcháin. Rinne muid orainn go raibh an Fhraincis againn.

Beidh deis againn leasaithe a mholadh ar Chéim an Choiste. Tá mé cinnte go mbeidh an Teachta O'Dowd, atá ag dul bhfeidhm go mór ar Fhine Gael ó thaobh na Gaeilge de, ag cur leasaithe os comhair an Tí, comh maith le Teachtaí eile, agus go mbeidh deis againn iad a phlé leis an Aire. Tá mé cinnte go bhfuil an t-Aire ciallmhar go leor agus go nglacfaidh sé le leasaithe a bhfuil fiúntas leo. Tá daoine amuigh ansin atá ag fanacht leis an mBille seo agus ba mhaith leo go mbeadh sé éifeachtach nuair a bheadh sé achtaithe.

Tréaslaím leis an Aire. Ta jab maith go leor déanta aige go dtí seo. Níl ins an mBille ach tús na hoibre. Ar mhaithe leis an teanga agus ar mhaithe leis an tír tá súil agam go n-éireoidh leis.

I welcome the opportunity to say a few words on the Bill. I will not be able to distinguish myself in the same way as Deputy McGinley and all the other Members who spoke in the debate. There is nothing as nice as hearing those able to put together a few words in Irish speak the language, whether in this Chamber or at public functions. There is something special about that. Watching the Minister and Deputy O'Dowd on the monitor, I noted their great command of the Irish language. As well as being special, the Irish language is part of our heritage. The ability to speak it tells a great deal about a person and shows a great passion.

Deputy O'Connor's comments about his former parish priest reminded me of a parish priest we once had called Fr. Michael O'Dwyer who gave his sermon in Irish every St. Patrick's Day. I remember in my young days listening to him give these sermons and although I could not understand a word, I was highly impressed and the whole congregation listened.

Some of us went to Irish college for short periods. Parents from County Tipperary send their children to Irish college in Counties Clare and Kerry. It is a terrible pity there are not more Irish language summer schools as they would help promote and foster a healthier attitude among our young people. One of my sons got into a little difficulty during a by-election and we had to waste a day of the campaign lecturing him and trying to get him to do things right.

Those who have Irish will always be able to stand up and speak it. On the issue of schools, two gaelscoileanna in my constituency of Tipperary South are operating in terrible conditions. One, in Clonmel, was promised a new school on a new site three years ago which has still not been built. It operates out of an old county council building which is in a state of bad repair and the roofs are in deplorable condition. Were it not for voluntary effort, the children would not be able to attend this successful and highly rated school. If we were serious about promoting the Irish language, we would not neglect Gaelscoil buildings and would give them all necessary encouragement.

Coming from County Tipperary where people are proud of their heritage, it would be remiss of me on this occasion not to mention the late Micheál Mac Cárthaigh, a former president of Conradh na Gaeilge whose family I know extremely well. Micheál was passionate about the Irish language. When I was growing up, he often used to speak to us in Irish to try to pass on a few words of the language. People such as him were so passionate about the language they gave all their free time to promote and develop it.

I also welcome the use of Irish in council chambers. Some members of my county council are able to make a contribution in the Irish language, which always impresses me. Simple little things, even the use of the Irish and English versions of people's names in the council chamber, are also welcome.

I am glad of the opportunity to say a few words on a subject on which I feel strongly. I am disappointed that I have not been able to speak in Irish as other Members have done. I have not had time to do the course in Irish available to Members. However, I hope in future to be able to stand up in the Chamber and speak in Irish as well as the Minister.

Táim ag roinnt ama le Teachta English. Tá sé deacair labhairt i nGaeilge tar éis an Teachta Mac Fhionnlaoich – tá blas fíor-dheas aige – ach déanfaidh mé mo dhícheall.

Cuirim fáilte roimh an Bhille seo. Tá sé thar am. Bhí éileamh ar Bhille mar seo le blianta fada anuas. Tá sé geallta ag an Rialtas ó 1997. Tá sé anseo anois agus is maith an rud sin.

Agus sin ráite, tá sé beagnach do-chreidte nach raibh reachtaíocht mar seo os comhair an Oireachtais riamh. Ní raibh stádas oifigiúil ar bith ag an Ghaeilge 100 bliain ó shin. Bhí Conradh na Gaeilge in ard a réim ag an am, eagraíocht a bhí chun tosaigh sa streachailt chun Éire nua a chruthú sa 20ú aois. Bhí slanú na Gaeilge mar príomh-aidhm ag na daoine a throid do neamhspleáchas na hÉireann. "Éire ní amháin saor ach Gaelach, ní amháin Gaelach ach saor" a dúirt Pádraig MacPiarais, céad Uachtarán na Poblachta.

Tá a fhios againn uile cad a tharla. Ní saoirse a fuaireamar ach leath-saoirse do chuid amháin den tír agus daoirse fós sna Sé Chontae. Agus cé go raibh an Rialtas nua i mBaile Átha Cliath in ainm is a bheith Gaelach, lean meath na Gaeilge agus na Gaeltachta.

Cé go bhfuil stádas oifigiúil ag an Ghaeilge le fada an lá sna Sé Chontae is Fiche, ní hionann sin is a rá go bhfuil cearta teanga á chur i bhfeidhm. A mhalairt. Glacadh le Bunreacht de Valera 60 bliain ó shin agus faoin mBunreacht sin is í an Ghaeilge "an teanga náisiúnta" agus an "phríomhtheanga oifigiúil". D'ainneoin stádas na teanga sa Bhunreacht bhí gá le feachtas i ngach tréimhse ó shin chun cearta mhuintir na Gaeltachta agus cearta lucht labhartha na Gaeilge ar fud an Stáit a chosaint.

Ní ón Stát a tháinig an t-éileamh agus an spreagadh chun an dá fhorbairt is tábhachtaí i saol na Gaeilge lenár linn – na stáisiúin craolacháin Ghaeilge idir raidió agus teilifis de, agus na gaelscoileanna. Is ón bpobal a tháinig siad agus bhí ar phobal na Gaeilge dul amach ar na sráideanna chun cearta a bhaint amach. I remember well during my years in the employment of an Irish bank participating in a major protest march in Béal Átha na Sluaidhe, Condae na Gaillimhe, agus bhí mé in éineacht leis an iar-Teachta Michael Kitt, nach maireann. Bhí sé sin i lár na seachtóidí sílim. Bhíomar go léir amuigh ar na sráideanna ar son na Gaeilge ag an am sin. Tá griangrafanna agam den mhórshiúl sin go fóill agus an Teachta Kitt inár measc.

Is amhlaidh a bhí se leis an éileamh do Bhille chearta don Ghaeilge. Chuir Conradh na Gaeilge an t-éileamh seo os comhair an phobail ar dtús i 1977 agus tá sé mar éileamh ag pobal na Gaeilge ó shin. I 1998, faoi dheireadh, bhí an cuma air go raibh an Rialtas sásta guth na Gaeilge a aithint. Ag comhdháil Gaeilge ár bpáirtí, Slógadh Sinn Féin, i gCluain Eois i gContae Mhuineacháin i 1998, chuir mé fáilte roimh an plé-cháipéis maidir le hAcht teanga a d'fhoilsigh Comhdháil Náisiúnta na Gaeilge an tseachtain sin. Gan obair mar sin ag na heagraíochtái Gaeilge, an Conradh, an Comhdháil, Gael-Linn agus ar uile, ní bheadh an Bille seo os ár gcomhair. Aithním, chomh maith, an obair atá déanta ag an Aire féin. Táimid ag fanacht ró-fhada leis an reachtaíocht seo ach ní chuirim an milleán sin ar an Aire. Bhí deacrachtaí aige le Ranna Stáit, agus leis an Roinn Airgeadais ach go háirithe, agus ina pháirtí féin. Murach deacrachtaí sin bheadh Bille níos láidre os ár gcomhair anois.

Is céim thábhachtach ar aghaidh í an Bille seo. Is tús é agus ní teorainn é. Gan amhras, tá daoine ann gur mhaith leo teorainn a cur le cearta teanga agus le dualgais an Stáit i dtaobh na Gaeilge. Ba mhaith leo an Ghaeilge a fhágáil ar an imeall. Ach tá formhór mhuintir na hÉireann, agus formhór an phobail nach bhfuil an Ghaeilge acu san áireamh, báúil don Ghaeilge. Teastaíonn uainn an ceart a bheith ag gach duine a ghnó a dhéanamh trí mheán na Gaeilge, go háirithe i gcás seirbhísí poiblí agus gach gné den saol i gceantracha Gaeltachta ach go háirithe.

Sa chomhthéacs sin is céim chun tosaigh í an Bille ach tá laigí bunúsacha ann. Ní leor an méid atá sa Bhille chun cearta na nGaeilgeoirí a chur i bhfeidhm agus ní leor an Bille chun an Ghaeilge a shlánu agus a chur ar ais i mbéal an phobail. Tá gá le straiséis teanga agus pleanáil teanga chun é sin a dhéanamh. Ba mhaith liom dhá laige a lua. Níl sé cinntithe sa Bhille go mbeidh seirbhís i nGaeilge le fáil do phobal na Gaeltachta ó chomhluchtaí poiblí gan cheist. Agus níl sé in-ghlactha go mbeidh mír sa Bhille a chuireann bac ar an saoránach dul chun na cúirte sa chás nach bhfuil na nithe atá á ngeallúint faoin mBille á gcur ar fáil dó nó di. Beidh Sinn Féin ag moladh leasaithe maidir leis na nithe seo agus le nithe eile sa reachtaíocht. Tá súil agam go nglacfaidh an t-Aire le leasaithe an Fhreasúra. Is maith an rud gur ghlac sé le leasaithe tábhachtacha sa Seanad.

Tugann fás an oideachais lán Ghaeilge dóchas duinn uile. Tá trí Ghaeilscoil i mo chontae féin, i mbaile Mhuineacháin féin tá Gaelscoil Ultan, i gCarraig Mhachaire Rois tá Gaelscoil Rois agus i gCluain Eois tá Scoil Rois. Tá géarghá anois le meánscoil Ghaeilge don chontae. Tá pobal ann chun freastal air agus tá pleananna chun meánscoil a chur ar bun i mbliana, má's féidir. Ach tá gá le ceadúnas agus tacaíocht ón Aire Oideachais agus Eolaíochta agus tá súil agam go dtiocfaidh sin go luath. B'fhearr liom go mbeadh meánscoil Ghaelach tras-teorainn againn freisin. It is not just the prospect of looking at the three bunscoil i gContae Mhuineacháin, ach tá sruth lán Ghaeilge i gcathair Árd Mhacha, áit nach bhfuil i bhfad ó bhaile Mhuineacháin. Níl Carraig Mhachaire Rois ach 30 míle ó bhaile Mhuineacháin. D'fhéadfaí meanscoil tras-teorainn a thógáil i mbaile Mhuineacháin atá i gceartlár na mbailte sin.

Uaireanta bíonn cuid des na meáin cumarsáide ag iarraidh a chur in iúl go bhfuil Sinn Féin ag baint mí-úsáid pholaitiúil as an dteanga. Ní fíor sin. Ní le Sinn Féin, le náisiúnaithe nó le hÉireannaigh amháin, fiú, an teanga. Is leis an cine daonna an teanga Ghaeilge. Dá gcaillfí an Ghaeilge chaillfí cuid de shaibhreas agus oidhreacht chultúrtha an domhain. Mar sin, tá an Ghaeilge mar chúram agus mar cheart againn. Tabhair dúinn ár gcearta agus beidh ár dteanga slán go deo.

I wonder how long this legislation has been in the pipeline. It looks like it could have been brought before the House any time since the foundation of the State. Why was this time chosen to introduce it?

Because I am the Minister.

I will come back to that. What is the Government trying to hide or to achieve? Time has taught me that there is always a method to the Government's madness and I wonder what that is. While I do not have a problem agreeing to the content of the legislation, it will be a hard sell as far as the people are concerned, particularly when the country is suffering savage cutbacks as a result of the mismanagement of the Minister's party and the previous Government.

I wish the Minister well in his task. He has done a good job in introducing and defending the Bill today. The Minister must answer for what happened over the past five or six years. He must explain why the Bill was not introduced during the good times.

It is called consultation.

How long did that take?

The Bill was published last April. I got the last submissions—

I am not blaming the Minister.

I want to explain how long these things take. I got the last submissions from various language organisations, including Foras na Gaeilge, two days before Christmas. It took them that long to look at it and to come back to me. Legislation takes a long time to prepare. The Wildlife Act took 14 years and God knows how many Ministers were involved.

I do not want a lecture on Bills.

That is the way it works.

The Freedom of Information Act passed through the House in one week and consultation was not required.

We will pass the Bill quickly.

Many people in our community have a strong love of the Irish language. I participate in Irish classes and I have a long way to go, although I used to be good at it. We must set an example. However, the people would be more impressed if the money proposed for the Bill was spent on the restoration of the home help service rather than on another office of the Civil Service to administer the Irish language. Somebody on a hospital waiting list does not care what language is written on his or her appointment card as long as it arrives before he or she dies. That is what the people will say when the Minister is forced to defend the introduction of the Bill. I want him to know what he will face. The Minister should try to explain the need for this Bill. Protesting students might appreciate this Bill if they were not busy trying to fight for a third level education devoid of fees.

As soon as the Government introduces legislation which the country needs and is crying out for, I will salute it. I am talking about the Government allaying people's fears about walking on the streets and finding solutions to our housing and health crises. That would be more relevant. This is a good Bill, but I question its timing. While we all have a job to do, I hope the Government decides in the near future what the job of governing Ireland means. Is it to find solutions to our many problems or to complicate our lives and make them more difficult at every opportunity? Again, I refer to the Freedom of Information Act. The reason I ask how long this Bill has been in the pipeline is that it does not seem to reflect the needs of a modern Ireland. I welcome it but modern Ireland does and should reflect and pose the challenges of a multicultural society as people from all over the world seek out Ireland as a home. Any Bill which deals with official languages should reflect this.

Debate adjourned.