Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Irish Language.

Dáil Éireann Debate, Wednesday - 5 December 2007

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Ceisteanna (12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20)

Eamon Gilmore


54 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the new initiatives regarding the Gaeltacht and the Irish language he intends putting in place in 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32616/07]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Enda Kenny


57 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the amount that has been spent of the €300,000 set aside to cover costs related to the preparation of the strategy to help the Irish language in the next two years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32480/07]

Amharc ar fhreagra

John Perry


59 Deputy John Perry asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if the strategy to help the Irish language, which promises to support parents wishing to raise their children through the medium of Irish, is in conflict with the Department of Education and Science announcement against immersion education for gaelscoileanna; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32485/07]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Paul Kehoe


71 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if, in view of the promised dedicated civil servant to work on a day-to-day basis to prepare a strategy within two years to help the Irish language, that person has been appointed and if this person sought the views of the public on this strategy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32479/07]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Michael Ring


92 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs when Fóram na Gaeilge last met; when it will meet again; the advice he has received from them to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32476/07]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Pádraic McCormack


94 Deputy Pádraic McCormack asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if the deadline for preparation of the strategy to help the Irish language will be met; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32483/07]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Ulick Burke


98 Deputy Ulick Burke asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs about the experts on the strategy to help the Irish language that have been employed on a contract basis to advise his Department and the Government; the advice they have given; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32481/07]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Jan O'Sullivan


99 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he will give a firm date for the publication of the 20 year strategy for the Irish language; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32614/07]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Brian O'Shea


189 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the new initiatives regarding the Gaeltacht and the Irish language he will put in place in 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32763/07]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí ó Béal (47 píosaí cainte) (Ceist ar Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 54, 57, 59, 71, 92, 94, 98, 99 and 189 together.

We have already discussed issues regarding the development of the 20 year strategy on the Irish language in my reply to Question No. 52. It was envisaged at the time of the publication of the Government statement that it would take up to two years for the strategy to be prepared. I am confident this target will be achieved and that the strategy will be completed by December 2008.

A report was published recently on the linguistic study on the use of Irish in the Gaeltacht. This report was presented to the Government and a decision was made to establish a Cabinet committee to consider matters arising from the analysis and recommendations of the report, and to agree an integrated action plan to secure the future of Irish as the community language in the Gaeltacht. It will be my intention to ensure that these processes will proceed in tandem. In the interim, my Department will continue to operate a range of schemes and initiatives, in conjunction with Foras na Gaeilge and Údarás na Gaeltachta, to support the Irish language in the Gaeltacht and in the wider community.

Fóram na Gaeilge continues to have an role in advising me on the proposed strategy. At a meeting that I had with the fóram on 5 March 2007, it was agreed to establish a sub-committee of the fóram to function as a link with my Department in the preparation of the strategy. This sub-committee met in May 2007 and again in early November. A further meeting has been scheduled for later this month. Among the matters considered was the appointment of consultants to assist my Department in preparing the strategy. I expect that a person will, in the near future, be assigned in my Department to assist in this work on a dedicated basis. During the course of 2007, my Department has been engaged in a public procurement process for the appointment of consultants to advise on the strategy. This process is nearing completion and I expect that consultants will be appointed by the end of this year. It is intended that the public will be consulted during preparation of the strategy, as public support for the process will be vital. With regard to the sum of €300,000 that has been earmarked to cover costs associated with the strategy's preparation, those costs will occur mainly in 2008.

The Government remains fully committed to providing every support to parents who wish to raise their children through the medium of Irish. The issue of the national curriculum and immersion education for Gaelscoileanna is one for my colleague, the Minister for Education and Science.

I thought the Coiste Comhairleach and Fóram na Gaeilge had been amalgamated. Can the Minister clarify that? This all seems to be about postponing the issue. I know the Cabinet committee has been set up, but there are issues pertaining to the Gaeltacht that the Minister could proceed with himself. He does not need to wait for what emerges from discussions. He should consult with other Ministers about what their Departments could do to make Irish a strong community language in the Gaeltacht.

I welcome the Minister's commitment to seek public support. I have long said that, as the Irish language belongs to everyone, the more people who engage with the language, the more momentum and strength it will gain. Can the Minister proceed in implementing the recommendations of the linguistic study as it pertains to his Department?

The best thing is to let the Cabinet committee deal with the linguistic study. Since 1997, many things have been done to promote the Irish language in the Gaeltacht. Údarás na Gaeltachta now commits a fixed percentage of its capital to language based industries. It was also given much funding for the promotion of the Irish language, especially for youth clubs and so on. We have invested a huge amount of money in facilities in the Gaeltacht, which are very important for activities there and for the Irish colleges. We set up the campaí samhradh trí Ghaeilge. With the cúntóirí teanga, we put native Irish speakers into schools to assist children whose Irish is not fluent. The cuairteoirí baile scheme is operating on a pilot basis and the idea is to support parents in language issues from the time their children are born. We operate a scheme to coach children in sports through Irish. The growth of language-based industry in the Gaeltacht was well highlighted by Údarás na Gaeltachta in the awards ceremony on TG4 last Sunday. Many things are happening and we will do more next year, pending the work of the Cabinet sub-committee.

We are already involved in language planning in a number of communities, which is a big part of the linguistic study of the Gaeltacht.

Can the Minister elaborate on that?

Not just now. I want to allow other Deputies.

Has the Minister had discussions with the Minister for Education and Science on immersion education for gaelscoileanna? If he has not, why not? This is a big issue for gaelscoileanna. The Minister for Education and Science has taken one view, but this Minister has another view.

We were promised a dedicated civil servant to work in the Department daily to prepare the strategy. Has that civil servant been appointed? When will he be appointed? Has any meeting taken place with Fóram na Gaeilge? A number of people have also approached me who want their court cases dealt through the medium of Irish. Has the Minister made any approach to the Courts Service on this issue?

That last issue is clearly laid down in the Official Languages Act 2003, so they have a right to have court cases heard in Irish, be they in the Gaeltacht or elsewhere.

Regarding gaelscoileanna, responsibility for education is a matter for the Minister for Education and Science. She made a decision on this matter, and as a member of the Cabinet, I support that decision.

On the appointment of civil servants, as I said in my first answer, that has not happened. It will have to happen as soon as we finalise the procurement process because we will need somebody to back them up. Until we have the consultants in place, it is not greatly important, although later it will be critical. The procurement process is drawn out and that is why last year I said it would take two years instead of one. I foresaw that these issues would take longer.

As I said in my reply, the last clear research by Fóram na Gaeilge was last March, but it set up a fochoiste on the strategic plan, which has met twice and will meet again this month. When I set up Fóram na Gaeilge the question was not what Deputy O'Shea said. It was not asked to advise on establishing such a strategy, but to advise on the advisability of having such a strategy. When we discussed it, we decided to have a two-step process. We decided to publish a clear and understandable Government statement on the headlines of Government policy on the Irish language. This was the first time it had happened since the 1960s. To publish a detailed strategy before we had all the headlines in place and publicly known would not have been right. They agreed with that approach and it is worth the extra time to do it this way. Ráiteas i Leith na Gaeilge is a clear statement.

In my area there are three or four Gaelscoileanna and a Gaelcholáiste. The parents are finding it difficult to match the education system and advance it through Irish. Is there a short-term solution, for example, grants to allow local communities to work through the education system to have Irish classes? In my area, successful Irish classes have been started in a small rural hall. We will lose momentum if we wait until December 2008. We will lose parents because they will become disillusioned about trying to apply the education system through Irish and feel they are getting lost. Are children losing out because of this? That is the most significant problem.

Deputy Wall has asked a valid question. One of the challenges we have faced in the past five years is the fact that Foras was on care and maintenance. There is a link between the funding we provide and the funding in Northern Ireland. It did not allow them to expand the programmes as I would have liked. We need the coalface programmes, whether RAPID, CLÁR or Irish language, that get to the people who need the services. I have always said the Gaelscoileanna should not be just a school but a community. We must particularly support parents. Even if they do not require fluency in the language, they should have enough to assist their children. With the limited funds on the Coiste na Gaeilge, we have managed to increase those funds in recent years but there is a high demand.

We provided much more money this year to Bord na Leabhar Gaeilge and they are producing books in Irish that are much higher quality and more attractive and that is important. I also established an Irish language DVD scheme for children because while children can get English language DVDs of suitable children's programmes off the shelf, one cannot get the books and DVDs in Irish. One of the advantages of modern technology is children probably learn as much language from the television as they do from their parents, and if the television is talking in Irish, children will absorb this quickly. We are trying to be innovative. The way Deputy Wall suggests we go is correct and I will work with Foras subject to resources to move in that direction.

Tá dhá cheist ghairide agam. Maidir leis an ghaelscolaíocht agus an tumoideachas, an bhféadfadh an t-Aire a chur in iúil dúinn an bhfuil aon dearcadh, aon bharúil nó aon tuairim aige maidir leis an cheist chonspóideach seo?

Rinne an t-Aire tagairt do choistí agus fochoistí maidir leis an Ghaeilge. An bhféadfadh an t-Aire a chur in iúil cé mhéad cruinniú a bhí ag an chomhchoiste den Chomh-Aireacht a cuireadh ar bun chun plean na Gaeilge a chur chun cinn? An raibh aon chruinniú acu, an raibh cupla cruinniú acu nó cé mhéad cruinniú a bhí acu?

Maidir leis an tumoideachas, is ceist don Aire Oideachais——

An bhfuil tuairim ag an Aire? Caithfidh go bhfuil tuairim ar bith ag an Aire. Caithfidh go bhfuil dearcadh aige.

Go bunreachtúil, tá gach uile Aire ceangailte——

Aontaím féin gur chóir an tumoideachas a dhéanamh, mar cruthaíonn sé go n-éiríonn leis na daltaí an Ghaeilge a fhoghlaim ins na gaelscoileanna. The success is there for all to see.

D'fhreagair mé an cheist seo cheana agus níl mé chun níos mó a rá faoi. Tá sé soiléir céard é seasamh an Rialtais.

Tá an tír ag éisteacht leis an Aire.

Tá, agus tá sé soiléir.

Maidir leis an dara cheist a bhí ag an Teachta faoi——

Ach níor thug an t-Aire freagra ar an chéad cheist. Cad é a bharúil ar an tumoideachas?

Tá mé ag iarraidh freagra a thabhairt don Teachta.

Tá an t-Aire Stáit ag gáirí agus tuigim cén fáth go bhfuil sé ag gáirí.

Níl aon tuairim aige.

Níl aon tuairim ag an Aire. Mirabile dictu. Seo an chéad uair ariamh nach raibh tuairim ag an Aire.

Cérbh é an dara cheist a bhí ag an Teachta?

An bhfuil sé ag iarraidh go bhfreagróinn é?

Tá mé ag éisteacht.

Tabhair seans don Aire freagra a thabhairt, a Theachta.

Chuir sé as mo chloigeann é. Céard é an dara cheist a bhí aige?

An aontaíonn ant-Aire leis an tumoideachas nó nach n-aontaíonn?

D'fhreagair mé é sin ar ball. Dúirt mé go n-aontaím.

Tá an t-Aire á chur ar an mhéar fhada.

Dúirt mé go n-aontaím.

Maidir leis an bhfochoiste Rialtais, ní raibh aon chruinniú aige.

Ní raibh aon chruinniú go fóill?

Tá an fochoiste curtha le chéile agus beidh an t-Aire Airgeadais ag déanamh cathaoirleachta air. Mar a thuigeas an Teachta——

Tá an t-Aire an-ghnóthach.

——bhí sé an-ghnóthach le cupla seachtain.

Tumoideachas? Ná suíodh an t-Aire síos.

Tá sé soléir nach bhfuil aon tuairim ag an Aire ar an tumoideachas. Last week, I launched an anthology of French and Canadian poetry in Waterford. It included 22 poets in the Irish language, which is encouraging. While creative writing is emerging from a language, that is a sign of the kind of energy——

Tá súil agam go bhfuil ceist ag teacht.

Tá sé ag teacht. Could the Minister enlighten us? He has taken the linguistic study and will examine it for 12 months but we do not know what he supports and does not support in it. He was tight-lipped when asked that question. What does he support in that report, or is it like the tumoideachas, on which he has no opinion?

I have tried to explain to Deputy McGinley that all Ministers are bound by the Constitution to a common position. There is collective Cabinet responsibility in Government.

We are not asking the Minister to divulge anything; we just seek his personal views.

Under the Constitution a person acting in a ministerial capacity cannot have a personal view but must abide by the collective Cabinet decision. A decision by any Minister binds all Ministers.

Would Deputy Ó Cúiv's personal view be stronger than her personal view?

I have explained it three times.

We still do not understand.