Dáil debates

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Straitéis 20 Bliain Don Ghaeilge: Ráitis


1:00 pm

Photo of Frank FeighanFrank Feighan (Roscommon-South Leitrim, Fine Gael)

Nuair a bhí mé ar scoil, buachaill dána ab ea mé. Is buachaill maith mé inniu, maybe. I will refer to the strategy, which aims to increase the numbers of daily speakers of Irish from 83,000 to 250,000, which I welcome. I thank the Minister for his support for the strategy over the past few months and we should look at the retention of Irish as a compulsory subject from primary to leaving certificate level. We have views on that in Fine Gael but we will work together within the strategy to achieve a common good with all involved agencies.

I have visited gaelscoileanna and met with various organisations. We must develop an all-Irish education at secondary level to meet demand. We must support preschool education in Irish and there should be support for the Gaeltacht summer colleges. They have carried out significant work over the years and if we can open up such areas, we could get different people to attend those colleges. Support for those colleges must remain. There should also be support for the Gaeltacht and Irish courses abroad, which have been popular.

I enjoyed meeting with representatives from various organisations, I have gone to Clare Island and I have also met a group from Carrigaholt in Kilrush. Those people are very anxious for their position to be recognised. It was wonderful to meet such people, with some returning from the United States, England and Poland, learning our national language. That is the way forward.

My brief as spokesperson for community, equality and Gaeltacht affairs is varied but I am pleased that it includes responsibility for the Irish language and the Gaeltacht. I see it as an opportunity to represent the views of residents of the Gaeltacht, the Irish-speaking population and equally those who like myself, who would like to use the language daily but sadly do not have the confidence in our ability to do so as yet.

We can consider that only 4% of Irish speakers, or roughly 72,000 people, use the language daily outside the classroom; we undoubtedly have a problem in the way we perceive Irish, and the engagement with the spoken language should be increased. The Irish language is not just the realm or property of those who speak it on a daily basis and my role is not simply to represent those who speak it fluently. My role is to try to bring about a renewed interest in the language and to do my utmost to put forward proposals which I believe will bring about that revival. If we are to truly embrace a renewed interest and use of the language, the first step must be to accept that a small proportion of Irish people can speak the language fluently and those who cannot speak it should not be criticised or ridiculed.


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