As the Deputy is aware, the progression of Irish-medium third level education is included as a cross-cutting issue in my Department's Strategy Statement 2003 — 2005. Although this is a matter that comes primarily within the remit of my colleague, the Minister for Education and Science, my Department continues to co-operate with his Department on this issue.
A high-level interdepartmental group, chaired by the Department of Education and Science and including representatives from my Department, the Higher Education Authority and Údarás na Gaeltachta, was established to examine a plan prepared by certain third level institutions for the development of third level education in theGaeltacht. This group has had a number of meetings, as well as seeking submissions from various interested parties, and is preparing itsreport.
My Department continues to fund a number of third level initiatives in the Gaeltacht. The Deputy may also be aware that I recently sanctioned funding in excess of €1 million for the National University of Ireland, Galway, to facilitate the establishment of Acadamh na hOllscolaíochta Gaeilge. This funding, aimed ultimately at assisting the university in further developing the comprehensive provision of courses through the medium of Irish, will in practical terms be used to assist the Acadamh, in which the university's Gaeltacht centres play an integral part in meeting staffing costs associated with the provision of such services.
As Minister with responsibility for the Gaeltacht and the Irish language, I believe that the provision of third level courses through Irish, which serve the needs of the Gaeltacht community and those who wish to pursue their education through the language, is central to the maintenance of the Irish language in the Gaeltacht and on a national level. Addressing these needs will play no small part in empowering Gaeltacht communities and in supporting the survival of the language within these communities.