Thursday, 30 March 2006
Irish Language: Statements.
Éamon Ó Cuív (Minister, Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs; Galway West, Fianna Fail)
He did not say that.
Fine Gael may believe the Act should be amended. I am open to discussion of the matter and there may be provisions in the Act which need to be examined. I invite Fine Gael to suggest amendments and they can be debated in the House.
If valid points are made, I am willing to take them on board. I was always willing to consider amendments even as in the case of An Daingean and the other placenames which came back to haunt me because I listened to people such as a certain Senator who now criticises me, who wanted every sign and notice in the Gaeltacht to be in Irish only. I rejected that proposal but decided to make a small change regarding placenames and the rest is history. The same Senator now attacks me for doing something small.
I wish to lay a few lies about An Daingean — Dingle. It is amazing that until Easter Monday last year the only official form of any placename in the Gaeltacht was the English language form; An Blascaod did not exist officially and neither did Baile an Fheirtéaraigh, Dún Chaoin nor An Daingean. It is a subtlety in the law that the English language only was the official language but the Irish authorised version such as An Daingean or An Blascaod, could be used for every public and private purpose as if it was an official form even though it was not official.
This situation was an insult to the people of the Gaeltacht as well as being an anomaly. It was decided to make the Irish language form the official form but to allow the authoritative English language form to be used without hindrance for every public, private or official purpose. In the case of An Daingean, this is Dingle. There is nothing to stop the shopkeepers of An Daingean or Dingle, using Dingle in their planning applications or with Fáilte Éireann or in any other way. They are in the Gaeltacht and if they did not have a problem with the status of An Daingean before, I find it very strange why they are suddenly becoming so excited about Dingle being where An Daingean was and An Daingean being where Dingle was.
It was decided that there were two occasions when the State would be required to use the Irish form of the name: in Acts of the Oireachtas and statutory instruments. If An Daingean or An Blascaod is referred to in an Act of the Oireachtas, it must be in the Irish form.
The Irish language form is required to be used on the very large Ordnance Survey maps, such as those used by the Land Registry. It has nothing to do with road maps. The third requirement was that it had to be used on road signs erected by the local authority.
I considered the matter from a tourist's perspective. The options were quite simple. We could put both names — An Daingean and Dingle, Baile an Fheirtéaraigh and Ballyferriter, Dun Chaoin and Dunquin, An Cheathrú Rua and Carraroe, An Spideál and Spiddal — on all of road signs. It is nonsense to suggest — this is where this debate has lost its marbles — that it is sensible for tourists to find a sign for An Spideál and Spiddal outside the Seapoint ballroom in Salthill but that when one reaches Knocknacarra, the border of the official Gaeltacht, the law would then state, as it has stated for 30 years, that there should only be signs for An Spideál while the map would only refer to Spiddal. Any rational person will agree that would be a bizarre way of trying to serve tourists.
I had to decide whether to have bilingual naming inside and outside the Gaeltacht or to have Gaeltacht placenames in Irish only, inside and outside the Gaeltacht. When I considered the option of having bilingual names inside and outside the Gaeltacht, I felt that the people of the Gaeltacht would not find it acceptable that suddenly, after 30 years, we would take down a sign for An Cheathrú Rua and replace it with a sign for Carraroe and An Cheathrú Rua. In most of the Gaeltacht that would be seen as regressive and a step back into the past.
I considered the conundrum in every way. The solution was to put one form on all the signs as the tourist will not know when he or she crosses the border. However, so that tourists do not get lost, we will make road maps bilingual — the ordinary maps that are bought in a shop. All of the road map companies have agreed to facilitate this. Therefore, the maps will show An Spideál and Spiddal and the sign will show An Spideál. As the man said, we will all find our way around the world.
Those who argue for the status quo or that it is logical to have An Spideál only in Irish on the maps and a sign for Spiddal and An Spideál outside the Seapoint ballroom were not tourists. I bet that if one asked a tourist whether the old or the new system was more rational, the tourist would choose the new one. A new signpost for An Spideál, with no mention of Spiddal, has been erected outside the Seapoint ballroom in Salthill in all its glory. I found no-one at the signpost scratching his or her head. Everybody has worked it out.