Thursday, 21 May 2020
Covid-19 (Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht): Statements
Éamon Ó Cuív (Galway West, Fianna Fail)
The Minister has responsibility for the Gaeltacht. There are 15 Ministers in the Cabinet under the Constitution and she has ministerial responsibility for the Gaeltacht.
As I stated, the Irish language is a particularly important part of our heritage. It is one of the oldest written languages in Europe and it is still a vernacular. Of course, the Gaeltacht is the place that is a living well from which the language keeps springing anew. Since 1904, Gaeltacht courses have been held every year and they have created a significant connection between people all over the island, North and South, in the Gaeltacht communities. It is nearly unique and I do not believe it is replicated anywhere else in the world.
For the first time in 116 years, ní bheidh aon choláiste Gaeilge ann i mbliana; there shall be no Irish college this year. This is a massive economic blow to the Gaeltacht. The reality is there is money in the Gaeltacht Vote that was set aside to pay the grants to the mná tí this year for keeping students. We should remember that the mná tí were not working in March because people do not go to the Gaeltacht to learn Irish in the middle of March, so they are not entitled to the Covid-19 payment. My question to the Minister is what will she do, like her action with Galway 2020, to support the colleges, the mná tí and the halls and facilities funded by the Department and which rely on income from the Irish colleges to pay for things like insurance.
I also ask the Minister if she will consider creating a new grant this year as I understand tourism will be allowed in August, although it would not be suitable to put four or five children from different backgrounds in a room together. It may be possible to encourage families to stay in a house in the Gaeltacht during that period or five days, for example. Some of the money already in the Vote could be used constructively, particularly for parents with children in Gaelscoileanna, to encourage people to come to the Gaeltacht for five days. This could happen over three or four weeks in August on a rolling basis. Would the Minister consider introducing a scheme like that to retrieve some of the season for the mná tí? It would also give a unique opportunity to families to learn the Irish language together in a programme.