Dáil debates

Thursday, 30 March 2006

1:00 pm

Photo of Jimmy DeenihanJimmy Deenihan (Kerry North, Fine Gael)

Ba mhaith liom cúpla focal a rá ins an díospóireacht seo. Cosúil leis na Teachtaí eile tá meas mór agam don teanga ach níl mé cleachtúil inti, anois.

Like other speakers I want to say a few words in this debate. At one stage I was relatively fluent in the language, but I just do not have the practice. That is the position with many Members of the House and it begs the question why all of us, as decision makers, are not using the Irish language more in our daily lives. People look to this House for example and for leadership, but very little Irish is spoken here. That is an indictment on all of us. We must all share some responsibility for that.

There are some fine speakers of Irish on this side of the House. One is Deputy McGinley, whom the late Mr. Bryan McMahon once told me was one of the finest speakers of the language he had every heard. Our leader, Deputy Kenny is a fluent Irish speaker, with a great grá for the language. I admire the approach Deputy Kenny has taken on the Irish language. Because of hishonesty, at least we are having a debate on the language, and it is about time. I am sure the Minister will accept that Deputy Kenny, as much as Deputy Ó Cuív, has a real deep respect and love of the language. I have heard him use it in several different forums. He has a nice blend of Connemara and Munster Irish and is one of the role models in the House for the language. Few party leaders in this House have used the language enough since the foundation of the State, including our Taoisigh over the years.

I am convinced that Deputy Kenny, when he is Taoiseach, will ensure that a realistic approach is taken towards ensuring that Irish again becomes the language of many of the people. I will refer briefly to some of the proposals he has suggested for the language.

I listened to Deputy Deasy's contribution while I was in my room. He said that the minute Fine Gael Deputies mentioned the Irish language, they were attacked viciously by the Minister for Education and Science, Deputy Hanafin. She is very good at attacking. I will not use the type of language that Deputy McDowell, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, might use. He was labelled by one journalist as a form of animal, but I will not use that term about Deputy Hanafin. Nonetheless, I saw her attacking trenchantly on television and in fairness to the Minister, Deputy Ó Cuív, I am glad he did not follow that line, today. He was magnanimous in acknowledging what Deputy Kenny had to say about the Irish language, while disagreeing with him.

As regards the leaving certificate, people do not seem to realise that Irish is not a compulsory subject. It is compulsory for youngsters to attend classes for Irish lessons. People who are not interested can, at times, be disruptive, though not always. They can make it problematic for the Irish teacher, to really teach the language properly, to the children in the class, and that is a fact. Young people do not do Irish for the leaving certificate because they do not have to. The general impression is that everyone has to sit Irish in the leaving certificate. That is not the position. One can get the leaving certificate without doing the Irish exam. It is only compulsory to attend classes in Irish. A student may go to sleep during Irish class or not pay attention but that is not the right approach. If Irish was compulsory, it would be compulsory in the exam as well, if we were honest about it.

The Minister mentioned earlier that Irish was the only subject that all students must take at the leaving certificate. It is not. A student need not take other subjects either. No subject is compulsory. The Minister mentioned that other subjects are compulsory. I have just had this matter clarified. Under the Rules and Programme for Secondary Schools, referred to as the bible for secondary schools it is stated that: "In the case of the established Leaving Certificate the approved course for recognised senior pupils must include not less than five of the subjects specified in paragraph (2)(b) of this rule, of which one shall be Irish."


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