Dáil debates

Thursday, 30 March 2006

11:00 am

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Minister, Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs; Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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Tááthas orm go bhfuil deis agam páirt a glacadh sa díospóireacht tábhachtach seo. Caithfimid breathnú go fírinneach cá bhfuil ár dtriall ó thaobh na Gaeilge de. Tuigimid go bhfuil bá forleathan don Ghaeilge. Níl sé sin fíor i ngach cás, ach tá sé forleathan go maith. Ag an am céanna, bíonn dúshlán ag daoine a bhíonn ag iarraidh Gaeilge a labhairt go laethúil.

Nuair a bunaíodh fóram don Ghaeilge, bhí caint go réiteoidh plean 20 bliain. Ardaíodh an cheist an fiú plean 20 bliain a réitigh don Ghaeilge. Ag an am sin, deineadh scrúdú ar an cheist agus go m'fhéidir gur cheart tosnú le céard é bun-pholasaí agus an aidhm i leith na Gaeilge ó thaobh na Stáit agus é a leagan síos go soiléir.

Photo of Brian O'SheaBrian O'Shea (Waterford, Labour)
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An bhfuil script ag an Aire?

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Minister, Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs; Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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No, tá nótaí agam. Má táimid chun caint sa Teach le script, tá sé chomh maith againn script a chuir chuig na hoifigí agus gan teacht anseo. Tá sé beagán áiféiseach teacht anseo agus script a thabhairt do chuile dhuine, agus script a fháil ar ais. Más rud é gurb é sin an chaoi a bhfuil an Dáil chun feidhmiú is fearr dúinn an rud ar fad a chur ar an Idirlíon agus fanacht inár oifigí.

Photo of Brian O'SheaBrian O'Shea (Waterford, Labour)
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Níl script agat mar sin.

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Minister, Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs; Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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Nó, tá nótaí cainte agam. Ní fiú scripts. B'fhéidir ar cheist chasta dlí gur fiú script, focal ar fhocal, ach níl fhios agam faoin tseafóid atá ar bun anseo le fada — tá sé in am athchóiriú iomlán a dhéanamh ar fheidhmiú Tithe an Oireachtais. Níl fhios agam i bParlaimint na Gearmáine gur féidir script a chur ar an Idirlíon agus dearmad a dhéanamh air. Níl aon mhaith ansin. Ba cheart an cheist a phlé.

Caithfimid oibriú amach céard atá romhainn, céard atáimid ag iarraidh a dhéanamh agus, ar an gcéad dul síos, an bhfuil tábhacht ag baint leis an Ghaeilge. Tá tábhacht ag baint leis an Ghaeilge mar tá tábhacht ag baint le chúrsaí cultúrtha. Muna gcreideann duine i gcultúr nó i luach an chultúir, is féidir argóint an-láidir a dhéanamh nach bhfuil luach ar bith ag baint leis an Ghaeilge. Sílim gur fíor-bheagán daoine a deireann nach bhfuil tábhacht le luach na cultúrtha, le heolas ar a stair, le leanúnachas an phobail, le cultúr a bheadh á fhorbairt agus féiniúlacht agus daoine ag aithint rudaí.

I dtaobh na Gaeilge tá ceist eile ann freisin. Ní teanga domhanda í. Is íÉire an tír amháin ar domhan ina bhfuil an Gaeilge á labhairt. Má fhaigheann an Ghaeilge bás in Éirinn mar theanga pobail, bheadh sé básaithe mar theanga pobail ar fud an domhain. Mar sin, ní amháin gur luach cultúr tábhachtach í don tír seo, ach tarlaíonn gur againne, mar atá mar shampla Brú na Bóinne agus Caiseal, an teanga seo, an teanga is faide agus is sinne-liteartha san Eoraip, agus gur muid caomhnóirí oidhreacht domhanda. Ba mhaith liom é a fheiceáil sa gcomhthéacs stairiúil mar go bhfuil fíor-thábhacht agus go mbeidh tábhacht níos mó ná riamh ag baint le féiniúlacht cultúrtha sa saoil nua atá amach romhainn. Tá sé sin le feiceáil ní amháin sa tír seo, ach i dtíortha eile. Tá tuiscint ag daoine anois go dteastaíonn ó dhaoine go mbeadh ceangal acu leis an áit arb as iad.

Nuair a bhunaíodh an Stát, is dóigh liom gur tuairim coitianta é go dtiocfadh an Ghaeilge in áit an Bhéarla. Bhí brionglóid ag daoine go dtarlódh sé sin. Ní fheicim sin ar chur ar bith agus mar sin creidim go bhunúsach sa dá theangachas. B'iontach an rud é trí nó ceithre theanga a bheith againn, ach sa tír seo, ba cheart go mbeadh sé mar sprioc againn an dátheangachas a chur chun cinn. Is é sin a rá, labhairt ar son na Gaeilge agus nach ionann é sin is a rá go mba cheart laghdú ar bith a dhéanamh ar an gcumas atá ag daoine ó thaobh an Bhéarla. Tá an Béarla thar a bheith úsáideach, go háirithe gurb í an teanga idirnáisiúnta is mó a úsáidtear i gcumarsáid domhanda. Tá sé soiléir ón méid sin nach bhfuil aon duine ag iarraidh an Béarla a chur ar leataobh, ach gur eisceachtaí muidne a chreidimid gur stad nádúrtha gan a bheith ach teanga amhain ag daoine.

An fís atá agam ná go mbeadh an oiread daoine agus is féidir sa tír seo dátheangach agus go bhféadfadh siad bheith ar a gcompord cuma teanga a bheidís ag caint. Tá an tuairim sin ag teacht go láidir leis an leagan amach atá sa mBunreacht. Deireann an Bunreacht gur bhfuil dhá theanga oifigiúil anseo, an Ghaeilge agus an Bhéarla.

Céard a bheadh praiticiúil le baint amach? An fheidhm a bheadh agamsa go náisiúnta ná go gcuirfeadh, ar an gcéad dul síos, le líon na ndaoine go bhfuil an Ghaeilge agus an Béarla acu. Tá sé sin ag fás de réir a chéile. Bliain i ndiaidh bliana, feicimid fás i líon na saoránaigh mar céatadán agus mar iomlán a bheadh in ann an dá theanga a labhairt. Ní bhainfeadh sé sin leo siúd amháin a raibh a sinsir as Éirinn; bhainfeadh sé, fiú, leis na pobail nua atá tagtha isteach sa tír agus a bheas ag dul tríd an gcóras oideachais freisin. Is é an dara aidhm a bheadh agam ná go méadófaí líon na ngasúr a thógfaí le Gaeilge sa mbaile. Is é sin le rá go mbeadh níos mó teaghlach ann ina mbeadh an Ghaeilge mar ghnáth-theanga taobh istigh agus taobh amuigh den Ghaeltacht.

Ba mhaith liom béim a chur go bhfeictear dom go mbaineann an Ghaeilge leis an tír iomlán. Mar sin, caithfear tábhacht na Gaeltachta a fheiceáil i gcomhthéacs na tíre iomláine agus ní mar cheantar ann féin a bhfuil tábhacht léi inti féin gan teagmháil aici leis an gcuid eile den tír. Ar ndóigh, tá tábhacht an-mhór leis an nGaeltacht, mar sin í an áit a labhraítear an teanga mar theanga pobail. Sin í an áit ar féidir na pobail a úsáideann an Ghaeilge i rith an lae a fháil. Ar an ábhar sin, tá fíor-thábhacht leis an nGaeltacht, ní scoilte amach, mar a bheadh daoine áirithe á rá, ó lucht na Gaeilge ar fud na tíre, ach mar intinn nó mar thobar do lucht na Gaeilge agus mar phobal a bheadh ag fás inti féin agus a bheadh ag cothú pobal Gaeilge taobh amuigh den Ghaeltacht.

Go hiondúil, nuair a phléimid an cheist seo, cloisimid go leor daoine á rá go bhfuil sé iontach go bhfuil líon na ngaelscoileanna ag méadú, rud atá dearfach. Ba mhaith liom dhá rud a rá faoi sin. Tiocfaidh formhór na ngasúr a thiocfas as scoil sa tír seo ó scoileanna a bheas ag múineadh trí Bhéarla, agus mar sin, ní leithscéal ar bith é go bhfuil an Ghaeilge á múineadh go maith ar scoileanna lán-Ghaelacha agus gan bheith á múineadh go foirfe agus go cumasach sna scoileanna Béarla.

Ba mhaith liom an méid seo a rá i bhfábhar an Teachta Kenny. Dhúisigh sé díospóireacht, rud nach bhfuil fadhb ar bith agam leis, i dtaobh mhúineadh agus mhodhanna múinte na Gaeilge. B'fhéidir nach n-aontóinn leis ar dhá cheist, áfach. Is í an chéad cheist nach n-aontóinn leis fúithi ná go gcreidim go bunúsach go mba cheart go mbeadh an Ghaeilge agus an Béarla, mar theangacha oifigiúla — agus, go deimhin féin, an mhatamaitic — mar bhunábhair ag gach mac léinn scoile suas go dtí leibhéal na hardteiste. Ní bheinn i bhfábhar go n-éireodh daoine as Béarla a dhéanamh go dtí leibhéal na hardteiste ach oiread. Ba cheart go mbeadh an Ghaeilge ansin. Má tá fadhbanna le múineadh na Gaeilge, réiteoidh muid iad, ach ná bímis ag baint na bunchloiche den chórais oideachais go múintear dhá theanga oifigiúil sa tír agus bunrudaí ar nós na matamaitice do chuile ghasúr scoile muna bhfuil eisceacht faoi leith i gceist.

Is é an dara rud nach n-aontaím leis faoi ná gur eisceacht í an Ghaeilge ó thaobh an chumais atá ag an gcóras oideachais rud a bhuanú i gcloiginn gasúr. Is é sin le rá, níl sé féaráilte comparáid a dhéanamh idir cumas na ndaoine a chuaigh ar scoil agus a rinne Gaeilge ar feadh na mblianta agus an méid Fraincise nó teanga Eorpach eile a fhoghlaimíonn siad tar éis chúig bliana sna meánscoileanna. Go deimhin féin, nuair a d'fhág mise an scoil, ní raibh mé agus ní bheinn in ann comhrá a dhéanamh as Laidin, Fraincis nó in aon cheann eile acu, ach bhí méábalta comhrá a dhéanamh i nGaeilge.

Mar sin de, dá mbeinn ag lochtú mhúineadh na dteangacha ar scoil — cé nach bhfuilim á dhéanamh sin — is mó i bhfad a chaithfinn ar mhúineadh na Fraincise agus na Laidine a lochtú ná ar mhúineadh na Gaeilge. D'éirigh leo, ní amháin i mo chás féin ach i gcás na ndaoine ar fad a bhí i mo rang, an cumas a mhúineadh an Ghaeilge a labhairt mar theanga.

Is í an fhadhb eile a bhí ag éirí faoin sean-réimeas ná, nuair a chríochnódh daoine an scoil, chaillfidís an teagmháil leis an teanga. Is léir ó na figiúirí sa daonáireamh, má scrúdaítear iad, go mbíonn uasphointe thart ar 18 do dhaoine in aon aoisghrúpa a bhfuil Gaeilge acu. De réir mar a théann an aoisghrúpa sin in aois, titeann an figiúr sin. Ní mór dúinne é sin a scrúdú agus féachaint cén chaoi is féidir an acmhainn a thugann siad leo as scoil a úsáid, cé go bhfuil lochtach ar bhealaí. Tá plé macánta ar bun maidir le modhanna múinte agus teagaisc. Ag an am gcéanna, ce go bhfuil se lochtach, fós féin, is líonmhaire na daoine a deireann go bhfuil an dá theanga acu ag aois 18, 19 agus 20. Tá a fhios againn cad a tharlaíonn, áfach. Ní bhíonn aon bhaint ná ceangal acu leis an teanga, agus tarlaíonn an rud ceanna a tharla domsa leis an bhFraincis. Cibé Fraincis a bhí agam agus mé ag fágáil na scoile, níl blas ar bith fágtha agam anois, mar ní bhíonn aon teagmháil agam léi.

Sin an áit a bhfuil tábhacht faoi leith ag TG4. Bunaíodh TG4, agus tá creidiúint ag dul do go leor Airí as sin, an Teachta Mícheál D. Ó hUiginn ina measc. Nuair a bunaíodh TG4, don chéad uair, bhí glúin daoine ag fágáil na scoile a bhí gach seans acu bheith i dteagmháil leis an nGaeilge go laethúil ar bhealach nach raibh aon ghlúin rompu. Beidh sé spéisiúil a fheiceáil nuair a thiocfas an chéad daonáireamh eile amach an mbeidh athrú ar an meath sin a bhí ag teacht ar eolas ar an nGaeilge de réir aoise mar go bhfuil daoine ag coinneáil i dteagmháil leis an nGaeilge agus go bhfuil deis acu é sin a dhéanamh ar bhealach taitneamhach sa seomra suite sa mbaile.

Taispeánann na figiúirí féachana go bhfuil an pobal i bhfad níos mó i dteagmháil leis an nGaeilge ná mar a bhí cheana. Má tá an ceart agam go bhfuil éirithe le daoine níos mó Gaeilge a choinneáil mar go bhfuil teagmháil acu leis an nGaeilge ar bhealach nach raibh ann roimhe seo, treisíonn sé sin na hargóintí go mba cheart cur leis na hacmhainní atáá gcaitheamh ar leithéidí nua-theicneolaíochta trí Ghaeilge agus na roghanna sin atá ann.

Rinne BCI suirbhé dúinn, agus tá a fhios againn go bhfuil go leor daoine a fheiceann, mar shampla, cluichí ar TG4 nó cláir fhaisnéise nó nuachta mar rogha ceart. Is é sin le rá, má tá 20 bealach teilifíse ag duine sa mbaile agus má tá clár a bhfuil an-spéis aige ann ar TG4 a tharlaíonn a bheith i nGaeilge, ní hé nach bhfeiceann séé nó go gceapann sé nár cheart dó breathnú air mar go bhfuil sé i nGaeilge. Déanann sé a rogha, agus ní hé cúrsaí teanga a chuireann ann nó as dó.

Ba mhaith liom díriú air chur chuige an Rialtais. Bhí daoine á rá nach bhfuil plean againn. B'fhéidir nach mbeadh plean scríofa againn, agus beimid ag díriú air sin amach anseo. Tá plean againn, áfach, agus tá an rud atá ar bun againn thar a bheith soiléir. Ar an gcéad dul síos, ó thaobh reachtaíochta de, tá sraith reachtaíochta bhunúsach tagtha i bhfeidhm faoi chúram an Rialtais seo a bhfuil gné láidir teanga ag baint léi. Is é an ceann is bunúsaí ar fad ná Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla. Den chéad uair ariamh, tá córas ionas go mbeidh daoine in ann seirbhísí trí Ghaeilge a aimsiú. Tá go leor plé déanta ar an Acht teanga, ach ar a laghad tá córas ann agus tá cearta ag an saoránach faoin gcóras.

Nuair a bhí plé ar bun sna meáin Bhéarla, go mórmhór faoin Acht teanga, is minic nach rabhadar in ann idirdhealú a dhéanamh idir an pointe an-tábhachtach a rinne an Breitheamh Hardiman sa gcúirt ó thaobh dhualgais an Stáit de agus cearta an tsaoránaigh. Go bunúsach, is é an argóint a bhí ag an mBreitheamh Hardiman, má thuigim i gceart í, ná go mbíonn——

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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Tá an t-am caite.

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Minister, Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs; Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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Ba mhaith liom an pointe seo a chríochnú. Beidh mé ag éisteacht go cúramach lena mbeidh le rá ag na Teachtaí eile. Is dóigh liom go bhfuil cearta ag saoránach seirbhísí a fháil i dteanga oifigiúil an Stáit de réir an Achta. Má chuireann sé sin dua ar an Státchóras agus a bhfuil ag obair ann na cearta sin a chomhlíonadh, sin mar atá sé. Nuair a théimid ag obair sa tseirbhís phoiblí, agus nuair a thógann an Stát dualgas air féin, ní mór dúinn an dualgas sin a chomhlíonadh, is cuma cén dua a gcaithfimis a chur orainn féin.

Gabhaim buíochas leis an gCeann Comhairle as ucht an deis cainte a fháil. Beidh mé ag éisteacht go cúramach lena mbeidh le rá ag mo chomhghleacaithe. Tá súil agam gur díospóireacht oscailte a bheas ann agus go nochtfar tuairimí go fírinneach, go hiomlán agus go hoscailte. Éistfimid leis, agus tá súil agam go mbeidh deis agam ag an deireadh díriú ar na ceisteanna agus freagraí a thabhairt orthu.

Photo of Fergus O'DowdFergus O'Dowd (Louth, Fine Gael)
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Is díospóireacht é seo a bhíonn againn sa Teach go rialta, b'fhéidir uair amháin sa bhliain ar a laghad. Tá sé an-tábhachtach go mbeimis ag díriú ar labhairt na Ghaeilge agus na fadhbanna a bhaineann leis an Ghaeltacht agus le caint na Ghaeilge taobh amuigh den Ghaeltacht.

Má fhéachaimid ar na daonáirimh a tógadh ar feadh níos mó ná 100 bliain anuas, tá sé an-soiléir go bhfuil laghdú an-mhór tagtha ar imeall na Gaeltachta agus labhairt na Ghaeilge mar ghnáth-theanga sa Ghaeltacht. Tá na milliúin euro caite ó bunaíodh an Stáit, ach go háirithe, chun an Ghaeilge a chuir chun cinn agus an Ghaeltacht a shárú agus a leathnú. Tá sé an-soiléir go bhfuil teipthe ar na polasaithe sin agus go bhfuil dainséar an-mhór ann go gcaillfear an Ghaeltacht ar fad taobh istigh de 50 nó 100 bliain. Má fhéachaimid ar an daonáireamh a tógadh i 2002, tá sé an-soiléir go bhfuil laghdú tagtha ar an méid daoine sa Ghaeltacht a labhraíonn an Ghaeilge mar ghnáth-theanga. Tá sé fíor nach labhraítear an Ghaeilge ar chor ar bith i mbeagnach trian den Ghaeltacht. Caithfimid díriú ar sin freisin.

Dúirt mé leis an Aire cúpla bliain ó shin, nuair a bhí mé mar urlabhraí Fhine Ghael ar an ábhar seo, gur chóir go mbeadh athrú déanta ar imill na Gaeltachta, go mórmhór i gcomhthéacs toghcháin Údarás na Gaeltachta. Dúirt me chomh maith nach raibh sé sásúil ar chor ar bith go raibh vótaíá thabhairt do dhaoine sa Ghaeltacht nach raibh ag labhairt an Ghaeilge i ndáiríre. Is rud bunúsach é sin. Tá sé soiléir go bhfuil teipthe ar na polasaithe.

Tá an-suim ag na Teachtaí ar an taobh seo den Teach, na Teachta Kenny agus McGinley go háirithe, sa Ghaeilge agus an Ghaeltacht a leathnú. Molaimid na rudaí maithe atá déanta ar son na Gaeilge. Táimid ag cuidiú leis an Aire ó thaobh an méid a dúirt sé faoi TG4. Tá TG4 an-tábhachtach; tá sé ag déanamh an-jab ar fad don Ghaeltacht agus don Ghaeilge. Is dócha gurb é an rud is tábhachtaí ná go bhfuil daoine óga ar TG4 i gcónaí. Is stáisiún óg agus bríomhar é a bhfuil neart agus fuinneamh ann. Is rud an-mhaith é sin.

Molaim an obair atá déanta ag na heagraíochtaí Gaelacha, go mórmhór Conradh na Gaeilge. Ba mhaith liom beocht na heagraíochtaíéagsúla inniu a chuir i gcomparáid le 20 nó 30 bliain o shin. Níl aon dabht go bhfuil an Stát ag tabhairt i bhfad níos mó airgead dos na heagraíochtaí Gaelacha. The campaigning arm of the Irish language movement has become less lively. It is important that Irish language organisations are supported by the State but, to some extent, this support has sapped the campaigning strength of organisations.

I remember Cearta Sibhialta na Gaeltachta and the marches in Conamara and Dublin on behalf of Irish language ideas. The only march I have seen since then was the one in response to Deputy Kenny's famous speech on the Irish language. Bhí an-áthas orm ar an lá sin nuair a bhuail mé le 500 daltaí idir an Teach seo agus áras Fhine Ghael leath-míle ón áit seo. Bhí mé ag caint le daoine óga bríomhara a bhfuil suim acu sa Ghaeilge agus sa díospóireacht. Bhí siad ar na sráideanna ag caint agus ag comhrá. Tá an bríomhaireacht sin imithe le fada an lá, ach caithfidh sé teacht thar n-ais sa díospóireacht seo má táimid chun na polasaithe a chur chun cinn. Muna bhfuil sé ann, ní bheidh an Ghaeilge ann. Is rud bunúsach é sin.

Níl mé ag gearán faoin airgead atá tugtha ag an Rialtas, ach tá mé a rá go bhfuil cuid mhaith daoine soporific — tá siad imithe ina gcodladh — mar go bhfuil go leor airgead ar fáil. Nuair a bhí mé mar bhall de ceardchumann, nuair nach raibh deductions at source ann, bhíodh troid ag gach cruinniú den cheardchumann. Deireadh daoine "Cad atá sibh ag déanamh faoi seo nó faoi siúd" ach ní raibh suim ag éinne sna polasaithe áirithe chomh luath is a tháinig deductions at source isteach. Téann an fuinneamh as nuair nach mbíonn an t-ocras ann. Without energy, there is nothing. People have to be hungry for change and ready to fight on the streets if that energy is to be restored. If we are ever to make progress in Irish, we must address those issues. Otherwise, the language will become sterile and rarely spoken and I do not want that to happen. The view of Fine Gael is that we must change fundamentally the way in which we deal with this issue and our education system lies at the heart of this task.

Through nobody's fault, the use of Irish is decreasing in the Gaeltacht. By comparing maps from the 1860s with those of today, it can be seen that the Gaeltacht has become smaller. However, the growth in gaelscoileanna is to be welcomed.

The reality is that our young people continue to leave school without a reasonable command of the language. Only three in every ten leaving certificate students of Irish attempt the honours paper. That ratio is much lower than is the case for any of the other languages taught to this level. Leaving certificate students perform better at French, even though it is studied for only five years compared with the 13 or 14 years spent on Irish. Each year, thousands of leaving certificate students avoid sitting the Irish exam and many others leave the exam hall as soon as regulations allow.

Taking account of the current situation, the Irish language commissioner's inaugural report called for a comprehensive and impartial review of every aspect of the learning and teaching of Irish in the education system. In the speech Deputy Kenny gave to a recent conference, Irish in the 21st century, he made important points on the language.

We must acknowledge that compulsion has failed as a political engine to revive the Irish language. It is a blunt tool and forcing students to take the Irish language option at leaving certificate level——

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Minister, Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs; Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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What about English? Is the Deputy in favour of requiring people to study English for the leaving certificate?

Photo of Fergus O'DowdFergus O'Dowd (Louth, Fine Gael)
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English is used throughout the world.

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Minister, Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs; Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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Therefore, the Deputy has no problem with compulsory English.

Photo of Fergus O'DowdFergus O'Dowd (Louth, Fine Gael)
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I have no problem with that. I must recognise reality.

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Minister, Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs; Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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Why not say that both official languages should be core subjects?

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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Permit Deputy O'Dowd to speak.

Photo of Fergus O'DowdFergus O'Dowd (Louth, Fine Gael)
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I am happy to debate this important issue. I accept that English is the language of commerce and trade throughout the world.

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Minister, Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs; Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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How is the Irish language hurt by making it a core subject?

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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I ask the Minister to allow Deputy O'Dowd to speak without interruption, as his time to speak is limited.

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Minister, Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs; Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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Why not require both official languages as core subjects?

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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The Minister will have an opportunity to reply later in the debate.

Photo of Fergus O'DowdFergus O'Dowd (Louth, Fine Gael)
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That situation has obtained for many years.

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Minister, Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs; Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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It has not. We never had English as a core subject.

Photo of Fergus O'DowdFergus O'Dowd (Louth, Fine Gael)
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I accept that the rules of the House must be applied but would be happy to debate this issue in another forum. Irish, English and mathematics have been compulsory subjects at leaving certificate level, but the reality is that Irish has suffered because people do not take it. Many young people in my constituency cannot read or write English, never mind Irish. People should want to study Irish, yet fewer students take Irish at senior level than any other language. Irish classes to leaving certificate level should be populated with students who would choose to learn Irish and are committed to the language. They should be in such classes because they want to be, not because they must be.

At primary level, the most constant trait for new and practising teachers is meant to be immersion in the Irish language. The reality, whether we like it or not, is that many teachers do not understand and cannot teach Irish, even in primary school. Not alone can these teachers not do that, at secondary level the textbooks do not exist for the subject. The issue of unavailable resources is significant. The reality of the debate must take priority.

We must use the best available modern technology and teaching methods for the Irish language and develop a specialist language support corps to help individual primary schools which are having problems. There must be reform at second level, and the curriculum must be loaded with topics that are modern, relevant and useful. This would be the precise opposite of the current curriculum. A new syllabus and teaching method must be developed using the best available linguistic expertise. There should be an oral component at junior certificate level which should be introduced immediately. More emphasis should be put on the spoken word rather than the written word and the gramadach.

Textbooks and educational resources, particularly those which are computer and Internet related, must be significantly improved for all Irish and Gaeltacht schools. After the junior certificate, all students should have the choice of two Irish subjects. One would be a new subject focusing on communicating in Irish. Some 50% of the marks for this subject should be devoted to spoken Irish, with the remainder of the curriculum focusing on useful and applicable reading and writing tasks in Irish. The second Irish subject would focus on literature and heritage, and it would be aimed at those with a deeper knowledge and competence in the language.

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Minister, Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs; Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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Is the Deputy accepting my proposal?

Photo of Fergus O'DowdFergus O'Dowd (Louth, Fine Gael)
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We need a new national strategy for the Irish language which would make a clear and honest assessment of where we are, what the Government wishes to achieve, what it can do and what people in society are expected to do in supporting the language. A national strategy will ensure that all bodies and initiatives working for the Irish language have a clearly defined role and a clear sense of purpose.

This debate is important but it must be based on reality and new modern thinking, especially where young people, the choices they make, the television programmes they watch and the lives they lead are concerned. The language must be part of this and, unfortunately, it is not. The challenge lies therein for all of us. The Minister's policy of compulsory Irish, the old policy, has failed. The Gaeltachtaí are disappearing and we should try to save them.

12:00 pm

Photo of Brian O'SheaBrian O'Shea (Waterford, Labour)
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Fáiltím roimh an díospóireacht seo. Tá sé tábhachtach go mbíonn díospóireachtaí ar an nGaeilge sa Teach seo go minic.

Tá díomá orm mar gheall ar an óráid a thug an tAire. Bhí mise ag súil le ráiteas físe uaidh; ní sin a bhí ann. Ní raibh aon rud nua ins an méid a dúirt sé. Bhí mise ag súil le ráiteas físe, go dtiocfadh polasaí agus clár oibre amach ó shin go luath agus go dtarlódh rud mór tábhachtach as chun an Ghaeilge a chaomhnú agus chun úsáid na Gaeilge a fhorbairt. Tá díomá orm.

Dúirt an tAire go nglacann sé nach féidir an Gaeilge a chuir ar ais mar ghnáth-theanga pobail na tíre. Labhair sé mar gheall ar an dátheangachas. Aontaím le sin ach cad díreach atá i gceist ag an Aire nuair a deireann sé go gcaithimid an dátheangachas a chur i bhfeidhm? Léigh mé leabhar, I dTreo Teanga Nua, ascríobh Maolmhaodhóg Ó Ruairc. Glacaim nachn-aontaíonn formhór na scolairí Gaeilge leis an méid atáá rá ag an Uasal Ó Ruairc, sé sin, nuair a fhéachann duine ar leanaí ag foghlaim Gaeilge, tá deacrachtaí faoi leith leis an Ghaeilge, mar shampla, an tuiseal ginideach, na foirmeacha éagsúla den ainmfhocal, an t-urú, an séimhiú agus na litreacha H, T agus N a chuirtear ar tús fhocal a thosaíonn le guta. Cuireann na h-athraithe sin meascáin mearaí ar na leanaí.

Ní bhaineann sé seo díreach le Roinn an Aire dár ndóigh, agus sin deacracht eile. Tá cúram na Gaeilge scaipithe ar fud Ranna éagsúla. Tá cúram na Gaeltachta ag an Aire, an Teachta Ó Cuív, agus tá cúram an chóras oideachais agus múineadh na Gaeilge ag an Aire Oideachais agus Eolaíochta. Tá cúram ag an Aire Cumarsáide, Mara agus Acmhainní Nádúrtha i gcúrsaí craolacháin agus mar sin de. Tá cúram éigin faoi leith ag beagnach gach Roinn Stáit. An rud a goilleann ormsa ná nach bhfuil có-ordú cheart ann ó thaobh polasaithe de. Dár ndóigh, níl aon polasaí scríofa ann agus cuireann sé sin díomá orm. Ní raibh aon fócas ins an méid a dúirt ant-Aire inniu.

Ba mhaith liomsa go ndéanfaí plé agus go bhféachfadh an Rialtas ar féidir, agus an mbeadh sé torthúil, Aire amháin a chuir i mbun cúrsaí Gaeilge agus Gaeltachta ar fad. Glacaim leis go mbeadh sé sin deacair ach más mian linn an luach is fearr a fháil ón airgead atá an Stáit ag cur isteach i seirbhísí ar mhaithe leis an nGaeilge, ba cheart go mbeadh an comh-ordú is mó agus is fearr ann chun go mbeadh an toradh is fearr ag teacht as. Ba mhaith liom tuairim an Aire a chloisteáil i dtaobh sin nuair a bheidh sé ag freagairt ag deireadh na díospóireachta seo.

Is cuimhin liom nuair a bhí mé ag dul ar scoil go ndúirt manach ann liom — is dóigh liom go bhfuil sé ann go fóill: "Tá an Ghaeilge agat; labhair í." Tá sé sin simplí, ach thar a bheith tábhachtach.

Bhíos ag léamh óráide a thug an tAire le tuismitheoirí Gaeltachta thart ar bliain ó shin ina ndúirt sé go bhfaigheadh an Ghaeilge bás muna labhair tuismitheoirí an Ghaeilge le páistí. Ceapaim go bhfuil sé sin fíor sa Ghaeltacht agus sa Ghalltacht.

Rud a ghoilleann ormsa ná go bhfuil Gaeilge ag an gnáth-phobail. Dá ndéanfaidís scrúdú air, chuirfeadh sé ionadh ar daoine líon na bhfocal Gaeilge atá acu agus nach úsáideann siad. Táim ag filleadh ar an dátheangachas anois. D'fhoghlaim mé píosa eolais ó bheith i mbun oibre ar pháipéir seasamh don Ghaeilge do Pháirtí an Lucht Oibre. Tá chuid mhaith léite agam agus tá roinnt mhaith agallamh déanta agam faoin am seo dá bharr. Cheap mise i gcónaí gur teanga ar a ndearnadar athbheochan air is ea an Eabhrais — Hebrew — san Iosrael ach fuair mé amach nach mar sin a tharla. Is teanga nua é an Eabhrais Iosraelach, teanga atá forbartha ó b'fhéidir tús na h-aoise seo chaite. Cheap mise go dtí sin gur tharla gach rud san Iosrael ó 1947-8 i leith, ach ní mar sin atá an scéal. Tháinig daoine go dtí Iosrael ó thíortha ar fud an domhain, agus bhí an t-éileamh ann go mbeadh teanga ann go bhféadfaidís labhairt le chéile. Bhí an Eabhrais ann mar bhunús. Bhí Eabhrais scríofa acu i gcónaí. Is leagan simplíé seo den scéal, ach tháinig teanga nua ó na teangacha go léir a bhí ann.

Nuair a bunaíodh an Stáit bhí 250,000 daoine a bhí an Ghaeilge acu mar theanga dúchais. De réir na meastacháin anois, b'fhéidir go bhfuil 20,000 daoine go bhfuil an Ghaeilge acu mar ghnáth-theanga agus a úsáideann an Ghaeilge gach lá. Ní raibh aon fhorbairt cheart ar an ghramadach le fada mar ní raibh an Ghaeilge á labhairt go forleathan. Ní raibh forbairt ach oiread ar an bhfoclóir. Tháinig foclóir nua don teicneolaíocht ón barr. Tá focail nua ann agus tá mé an-tugtha leis an foclóir leictreonaic atáá ullmhú ag Foras na Gaeilge. Tá sé sin an-tábhachtach, agus nuair a ghlactar le focal nua is féidir é a chur isteach ann díreach gan bheith ag fanacht le thart ar 40 bliain go dtí go mbeadh foclóir nua ar fáil.

Ó thaobh an Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta, an mbeadh sé tairbheach don Ghaeilge agus don phobal na rudaí a luaigh mé i leith ghramadach a dhéanamh agus páistí a mhealladh chun na Gaeilge a labhairt ó thús báire? Glacann gach duine gur cheart i bhfad níos mó béime a bheith ar labhairt na Gaeilge san chóras oideachais. Tá daoine ann a cheapann nár cheart béim a chur ar léamh na Gaeilge go dtí i bhfad níos déanaí i saol an leanbh sa bhunscoil.

Rud a ghoileann orm i gcónaí ná an tarraingt na gcos atá ag baint le daoine áirithe i ngluaiseacht na Gaeilge. Ba mhaith liom go dtabharfadh gach tacaíocht agus mealladh do dhaoine an Ghaeilge atá acu a úsáid, rud atá thar a bheith tábhachtach. Mar a dúirt an tAire, tá daoine á rá go gcaithimid é seo a dhéanamh agus b'fhéidir go bhfuil an focus anois ar an ghlúin atá ag teacht. Is le gach saoránach an Ghaeilge, agus tá sé de dhualgas orainn, más rud é go bhfuilimid i ndáiríre mar gheall ar chaomhnú agus forbairt na Gaeilge sa Ghaeltacht agus sa Ghalltacht, an méid Gaeilge agus is féidir a mhealladh ar gach slí. Is iontach an rud é go bhfuil daoine ann atá toilteanach an Ghaeilge atá acu a úsáid, meascaithe le Béarla, agus is ceart dúinn gach rud a dhéanamh chun é sin a mhealladh. Tá sé tábhachtach nach mbeadh daoine ann ag ceartú daoine eile ó thaobh gramadach de. Níl fhios agam conas a n-éiríodh le sin, ach tá mé cinnte má thosnaíonn an momentum tiocfaidh tairbhe as.

Ní cheart an tuarascáil seo a dhiúltú gan staidéar a dhéanamh ar cad go díreach atáá rá ag an údar, agus féachaint ar stad na Gaeilge agus an bhfuil rudaí ann a mbeadh tairbheach don Ghaeilge. Tháinig an tuarascáil ón choimisinéir inné. Cáineadh amháin atá agamsa don Aire agus don choimisiún i leith polasaí— ní theastaíonn uaim cáineadh pearsanta a dhéanamh — ná go bhfuil béim ró-mhór á leagadh acu ar chúrsaí dlí. Is féidir an dlí a athrú muna mbíonn sé oiriúnach. Tarlaíonn sé sin anseo. An rud is tábhachtaí ná grá a chothú don teanga. Aontaím leis an méid a dúirt an tAire——

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Minister, Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs; Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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Is teoiric an-spéisiúil é sin. Leag an Teachta dualgas ar an gcoimisinéir feidhmiú de réir an dlí. Níl aon rogha aige.

Photo of Brian O'SheaBrian O'Shea (Waterford, Labour)
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Ní raibh an tAire ag éisteacht liom. Déarfaidh méé arís ar slí níos simplí. Má bhíonn dlí ann gan tairbhe — cur i gcás, tá chuid mhaith cáineadh sna nuachtáin agus ó gnáth saoránaigh go bhfuil iachall ar Roinne cáipéisí a aistriú go Gaeilge gan an leagan Béarla á léamh ach ag fíor-bheagán daoine. I gContae an Chlár, mar shampla, déanadh aistriú ar an bplean forbartha, ach níor cheannaíodh oiread agus cóip amháin——

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Minister, Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs; Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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Mar——

Photo of Brian O'SheaBrian O'Shea (Waterford, Labour)
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Fan nóiméad——

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Minister, Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs; Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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Féach ar na fíricí. Mhínigh méé sin sa Teach. An fáth nár cheannaigh éinne é ná go raibh sé ar fáil saor in aisce ar an idirlín.

Photo of Brian O'SheaBrian O'Shea (Waterford, Labour)
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Tóg go bog é.

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Minister, Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs; Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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Tá sé sin seafóideach.

Photo of Brian O'SheaBrian O'Shea (Waterford, Labour)
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Ceannaíodh cóipeanna den leagan Béarla, ach níor ceannaíodh cóip den leagan Gaeilge.

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Minister, Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs; Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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Bhí sé ar fáil i mBéarla ar an idirlíon.

Photo of Brian O'SheaBrian O'Shea (Waterford, Labour)
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Tá mo chuid ama thart, ach ba mhaith liom níos mó ama i gcóir agallaimh mar gheall ar na rudaí sin. Táim ag súil le freagraíón Aire.

Photo of Joe HigginsJoe Higgins (Dublin West, Socialist Party)
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Tá mé ag roinnt mo chuid ama leis na Teachtaí, Boyle agus Ó Snodaigh.

Le cúpla lá anuas tá tuarascáil bliantúil 2005 ón gCoimisinéir Teanga idir lámha agam. Deireann sé go dteastaíonn druidim ón imeall go hionad lárnach an Ghaeilge agus go neartófar an tuiscint in intinn an phobal gur gné tábhachtach agus luachmhar d'ár saol í an Ghaeilge. Aontaím go mór leis an gcoimisinéir ins an méad sin.

Ní bheidh an Ghaeilge riamh mar teanga labhartha maidir le tromlach mór na tíre seo. Tá meáchan na staire agus meáchan cúrsaí eacnamaíochta domhanda agus a leithéid in aghaidh san. Tá dhá theanga sa tír, an Béarla agus an Ghaeilge. Tá gach ceann díobh comh luachmhar lena chéile agus comh saibhir ó thaobh litríochta, staire agus a leithéid. Ba cheart go mbeadh rogha ceart ann ag gach duine an Ghaeilge a fhoghlaim agus a labhairt más rud é go dteastaíonn sé sin uathu. Ciallaíonn sé sin gur cheart go mbeadh áiseanna agus córas ceart ann chun go bhféadfaíé sin a dhéanamh, go mór mhór san gcóras oideachais. Caithfear féachaint chuige sin. Tá sé dochreidte i ndáiríre go mbeadh leanaí agus daoine óga ag baint leis an gcóras oideachais ar feadh na blianta fada agus ag teacht i ndiaidh san uile gan aon mór smacht acu ar labhairt na Gaeilge.

Aontaím leis an gcoimisinéir gur acmhainn í an Ghaeilge atá luachmhar ó thaobh staire, ó thaobh chultúir agus eile. Tá daonra nua inimircigh ag teacht go dtí an tír anois agus tugann sé dúshlán nua don Stáit agus dóibh siúd gur luachmhar dóibh an Ghaeilge. Níl aon dul as ach gur foghlaim an Bhéarla, an chéad rud dóibh siúd atá ag teacht isteach nach bhfuil an Béarla acu cheana féin. Tá sé sin ceart mar is fíor gurb é an Béarla príomh teanga chaidrimh na tíre. Ba cheart go mbeadh áiseanna ann do inimircigh an Ghaeilge a labhairt, go mór mhór do na leanaí, más rud é go dteastaíonn sé sin uathu. Léirím mar shampla don eagraíocht iMeasc a bhunaigh inimircigh. Chuala mé daoine ón Astráil agus ón Ollainn ag labhairt Ghaeilge líofa. Tugann sé le fios dúinn cad is féidir a dhéanamh nuair atá an toil agus na h-áiseanna ann. Caithfimid tabhairt faoi cheisteanna don sort seo agus an dhá-theangachas a chothú go mór mhór.

Ba mhaith liom tagairt do seafóid an bliain seo chaite maidir leis an chonspóid mar gheall ar mo bhaile dhúchais a bheith ainmnithe ar léarscáil agus ar fógraí bóthair mar Daingean nó Dingle. Tarraingíonn sé sin droch-cháil ar pholasaí chun a Ghaeilge a chothú. Is é an dhá theangachas an tslí ar aghaidh and caillaíonn sé sin Daingean Uí Chúis agus Dingle. Is é sin an slí cheart chun déileáil le seo.

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Minister, Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs; Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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An é An Daingean nó Daingean Uí Chúis?

Photo of Joe HigginsJoe Higgins (Dublin West, Socialist Party)
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Tá Daingean Uí Chúis níos stairiúil fós, d'fhéadfá a rá. Tugann sé blas do stair na h-áite, ach is cuma.

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Minister, Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs; Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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Nach aisteach gurb é An Seabhac a bhí mar chathaoirleach nuair a moladh An Daingean. Is sean rud é An Daingean.

Photo of Joe HigginsJoe Higgins (Dublin West, Socialist Party)
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Níl mórán ama agam, is cuma liom, Daingean, Daingean Uí Chúis, Dingle. An pointe atá agam gur é an dhá theangachas an tslí ar aghaidh.

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Minister, Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs; Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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Is aisteach go bhfuil tú ag cur in aghaidh údar comh cáiliúil leis An Seabhac.

Photo of Joe HigginsJoe Higgins (Dublin West, Socialist Party)
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Ba cheart don tAire éist go cruinn. Níl aon áit sa tír seo ina mbaineann oidhreacht na Ghaeilge comh mór leis ná na Blascaodaí agus an Blascaod Mór, agus an litríocht iontach Ghaeilge a tháinig ón t-oileán sin. Impím ar an Aire páirc náisiúnta oidhreachta a dhéanamh as an mBlascaod Mór a chur ar ais ar an mbóthar. Sin a theastaíonn ó na daoine díograiseach a chur faoi seo na blianta fada ó shin. Seoid luachmhar is ea an Blascaod Mór agus ba cheart go mbeadh sé oscailte do gach duine le riarachán chaoi ar ndóigh. Tá sé scannalach faoi mar atá lucht áirithe gnó i láthair na h-uaire ag iarraidh smacht ar an oileán dóibh fhéin chun brabús príobháideach a dhéanamh. Nuair a dúirt Tomás Ó Criomhthain "ní bheidh ár leithéidí arís ann", ar ndóigh bhí an cheart amach is amach aige. An chreidfeadh sé ríomh go mbeadh báillí ar an mBlascaod Mór ag caitheamh daoine amach as an oileán sa bhliain 2005 mar a tharla an samhradh seo caite? Cuireadh báillí isteach ann ag fear gnó príobháideach agus níor thugadh cead do dhaoine dul thart faoi na fobhóthair ar an Bhlascaod Mór, áit a raibh fáilte agus fiche ríomh roimh an strainséir agus roimh éinne a tháinig chuig muintir an Bhlascaoid san sean am. Impím ar an tAire an togra seo a chur ar ais. Tóg ant-oileán isteach i seilbh poiblí agus ná tabhair ceart do dhuine amháin, do lucht ghnó amháin, smacht a fháil ar an oileán sa treo seo.

Tá sé scannalach ó thaobh an plean bainistíochta. Tá siad ag tabhairt ceart do fear ghnó amháin báid farantóireachta a sheoladh ón Daingean go dtí an Blascaod Mór. Cén fáth? Deireann an Rialtais seo linn gur coimhlint idir ghnó an slí ar aghaidh. Nuair a labhrann an tAire ag deireadh na díospóireachta seo, ba cheart dó a rá go gcuirfidh sé an togra seo ar an mbóthar arís. Baineann an scéal seo le oidhreacht na tíre agus na Ghaeilge. Níl aon áit an domhain comh mór leis an mBlascaod a bhaineann leis seo.

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Minister, Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs; Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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Níl éinne ag labhairt Ghaeilge ar na mBlascaodaí. Bheadh sé i bhfad níos fearr an t-airgead a dhíriú ar Árainn, áit a bhfuil daoine fós ag labhairt Gaeilge. Seafóid é sin.

Photo of Joe HigginsJoe Higgins (Dublin West, Socialist Party)
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Sin é an fadhb nach bhfuil aon suim ag an tAire an Blascaod Mór a dhéanamh ina pháirc náisiúnta stairiúil.

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Minister, Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs; Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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Sin ceist eile. Sin ceist oidhreachta. Ní cheist na Gaeilge soiléir——

Photo of Joe HigginsJoe Higgins (Dublin West, Socialist Party)
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Baineann sé le oidhreacht na Ghaeilge.

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Minister, Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs; Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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Cuir ceist ar an Aire Comhshaoil, Oidhreachta agus Rialtais Áitiúil faoi.

Photo of Joe HigginsJoe Higgins (Dublin West, Socialist Party)
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Joined-up Government a deireann siad i mBéarla.

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Minister, Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs; Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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Sea, ach ag plé na Gaeilge atáimid inniu. Nílimid ag plé na n-oileán.

Photo of Dan BoyleDan Boyle (Cork South Central, Green Party)
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Dúirt mé mo scéal san Teach i díospóireacht eile. Bhí mo athair as Gaeltacht na Rosann, as Oileán Arainn Mhór. Fíor-Gaelach a bhí sé. Tá mo mháthair as cathair Chorcaí ach rinne sí an scrúdú ardteistiméireachta trí Gaeilge. Rugadh mé sna Stáit Aontaithe agus bhí mé 18 nuair a tháinig mé agus mo chlann ar ais go dtí an tír seo. Sin é an scéal agus níl mé ábalta Gaeilge a labhairt i ceart.

I believe my story is similar to that of hundreds of thousands of people in this country. Outside the annual debate in this House, we must ask why Irish is taught as a language in our education system for 13 years yet not taught as a spoken language. Linguists know the ability to learn a language depends on living it in everyday situations. Our emphasis on grammar and strict diction has alienated many people in our society from their heritage and birthright. People would be more inclined to use Irish if greater encouragement was given and less compulsion existed.

Mythology is another factor that influences the state of the Irish language. Irish is associated with a certain way of life, a culture and a history. Those who have attempted to breathe life into the Irish language in recent years — TG4 must be especially acknowledged — have done so by bringing the use of Irish into a modern idiom to identify with young people in the way they live their everyday lives. Despite the success of TG4, that balance has not yet been achieved. There is still a feeling that the Irish language is associated with an identifiable person who is fíor Ghaelach in too many ways that are far from fíor and far from Gaelach.

As legislators we have particular problems in engaging in an annual debate mostly through the medium of Irish, but failing to have more regular debates. Constitutionally Irish is the pre-eminent language. I have to take a Private Members' Bill to the Bills office, having checked its veracity. As every Member of this House knows, the Bill is written in English and Irish. I could have taken it to people in the Green Party to check the Irish translation, but given the busy nature of most Deputies' lives, I am taking it on trust that the Bills Office got it right. If it went through a normal parliamentary procedure, which Private Members' Bills rarely do, I would hope that any errors might be corrected on Committee or Report Stage. It is to our loss as legislators that we are not able to communicate better in both languages so that we can debate more freely in the Irish language, understand our prime responsibility as legislators and identify any loopholes coming through the Irish text of each Bill we pass.

On those grounds the Oireachtas has tried several measures over recent years, none of which has been successful despite good intentions. Irish language classes are held fitfully each Dáil term but tend to break down after a number of weeks because Members do not have regular schedules that allow them to attend regularly. The Minister and his Department with the Ceann Comhairle, as head of the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission, might consider that in the supposed downtime when the House is not sitting, efforts be made to get Members to immerse themselves in an everyday living situation with the language. I am thinking of June to September when our work as legislators would be immeasurably helped if we spent one, two or three weeks in Gaeltacht areas improving our ability to speak as Gaeilge.

I apologise again for my inability to fully converse as Gaeilge. I am working on it and I thank TG4 journalists for their patience in recognising my inability to perform interviews live but giving me the opportunity to think of what I want to say and then say it, which they offer to many people in this House. Perhaps when this debate is held next year it will not be an annual event but part of the ongoing activity of the House, possibly in the 30th Dáil.

Photo of Aengus Ó SnodaighAengus Ó Snodaigh (Dublin South Central, Sinn Fein)
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Tá sé go hiontach go bhfuil an deis againn arís labhairt ar cheist na Gaeilge. Is í an fhadhb atá agam, mar a dúirt mé dhá uair roimhe seo nuair a bhí an sórt céanna díospóireachta ann, ná nach fiú díreach ráitis a dhéanamh. Ba chóir go mbeadh díospóireacht cheart againn le rún os ár gcomhair a mbeimis in ann a chíoradh agus a phlé. B'fhéidir go dtarlódh sé sin amach anseo. Tá me in ainm is a bheith ag cruinniú eile faoi láthair maidir le lá na hEorpa atáá phleanáil anseo i mí Bealtaine. Is é atá i gceist ná go mbeadh gach uile rud gafa le ceist an Aontais Eorpaigh an lá sin. Ba mhaith liom go mbeimis in ann teacht anseo an bhliain seo chugainn agus go mbeadh seachtain againn nuair a bheadh gach uile théama sa Teach seo gafa le ceist na Gaeilge agus á phlé as Gaeilge. Bheadh na coistí agus gach rud i gceist. Déanfaidh mé iarracht é sin a bhrú chun cinn tríd na hAoirí agus a gcoiste.

Fós, níl an staid sroichte againn sa Teach seo gur féidir liom mo ghnó a dhéanamh trí Ghaeilge. Luaigh méé sin nuair a bhí mé ag déileáil leis an Bhille um Ollscoil na hÉireann, Gaillimh. Ní raibh mé in ann leasuithe a chur síos i nGaeilge. Bhí orm iad a aistriú go Béarla ionas go mbeidís ar an chlár oibre. Beidh stádas níos mó ag an nGaeilge san Aontas Eorpach agus sa Pharlaimint ansin ná mar atá ar fáil anseo, agus tá súil agam go leanfaimid ar aghaidh ag impí ar na státseirbhísigh agus ar an Státchóras amach anseo.

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Minister, Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs; Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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Dá mbeadh an Bille foilsithe sa dá theanga, bheadh an Teachta in ann leasuithe a chur síos.

Photo of Aengus Ó SnodaighAengus Ó Snodaigh (Dublin South Central, Sinn Fein)
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Dá mbeadh, ach ní raibh sé.

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Minister, Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs; Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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Go díreach an——

Photo of Aengus Ó SnodaighAengus Ó Snodaigh (Dublin South Central, Sinn Fein)
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Sin í an fhadhb. Ba chóir go mbeadh gach uile Bhille foilsithe i nGaeilge.

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Minister, Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs; Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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Nuair a bheas an reachtaíocht déanta i dtosach báire, na hAchtanna atá achtaithe——

Photo of Aengus Ó SnodaighAengus Ó Snodaigh (Dublin South Central, Sinn Fein)
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Aontaím leis an Aire, agus tá méá rá gur chóir go mbeadh sé dátheangach ó thús. Ansin, bheinn in ann mo ghnó a dhéanamh go hiomlán i nGaeilge. Táimid tar éis céim chun tosaigh a ghlacadh. Admhaím é sin, agus tá súil agam go leanfaidh sé sin ar aghaidh.

Chomh maith leis sin, áfach, ní gá ach féachaint ar an tuarascáil a bhí ag an gCoimisinéir Teanga inné. Tá ceannlíne sa nuachtán , "Tuarascáil na Teipe". Tagann dhá cheist as a méid a bhí le rá aige. Dhírigh mise ar cheann amháin acu, an cheist maidir le marcanna breise a bhronnadh as inniúlacht sa Ghaeilge i gcomórtais inmheánacha ardú céime sa Státchóras. Is trua é go raibh an cheist sin le tógaint, ach measaim gur léiriú é ar mheon na Státseirbhíse ina iomláine i leith na Gaeilge. Tá daoine maithe ann, ach ina hiomláine níl an Státseirbhís báúil don Ghaeilge. Caithfidh an tAire fáil amach an bhfuil na marcanna breise ar fáil i ngach uile Roinn agus comórtas inmheánach ar siúl. Ceist eile ná——

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Minister, Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs; Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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An gceapann an Teachta gur córas maith é?

Photo of Aengus Ó SnodaighAengus Ó Snodaigh (Dublin South Central, Sinn Fein)
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Measaim féin gur córas maith é, toisc nach bhfuil Gaeilge éigeantach ann dóibh siúd sa Státseirbhís.

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Minister, Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs; Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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Ceapaim gur droch-chóras é.

Photo of Aengus Ó SnodaighAengus Ó Snodaigh (Dublin South Central, Sinn Fein)
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Rachaimid ar ais go dtí an córas éigeantach agus an Ghaeilge a bheith éigeantach sa Státchóras.

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Minister, Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs; Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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Ní bheinn i bhfábhar sin ach oiread.

Photo of Aengus Ó SnodaighAengus Ó Snodaigh (Dublin South Central, Sinn Fein)
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Ar aon chaoi, tá ceist eile maidir le hÚdarás na Gaeltachta. Bhí toghchán againn, agus bhí daoine sna bothanna toghcháin nach raibh Gaeilge líofa acu. Tá sé sin scannalach má táimid ag déileáil le ceist chomh mór sin. Is maith an rud é a chloisint ón Teachta O'Dowd de chuid Fhine Gael go raibh siad ag lorg go mbeadh gníomhairí teanga agus iad siúd atá báúil don Ghaeilge sásta teacht amach ar na sráideanna. Tá súil agam go mbeidh an pobal sásta teacht ar na sráideanna chun caiteachas ceart ar an Ghaeilge lasmuigh den chóras oideachais a lorg. Tá céimeanna chun tosaigh glactha, ach níl go leor á chaitheamh ar an dteanga. Tá níos móá chaitheamh ar na capaill agus na cúnna ná ar an Ghaeilge lasmuigh den chóras oideachais.

Ba mhaith liom pointe gairid eile a dhéanamh. Impím ar an Aire iarraidh ar an Taoiseach ceist Acht teanga don Ghaeilge sna Sé Chontae a bhrú ar Tony Blair agus iad ag bualadh le chéile an tseachtain seo chugainn.

Photo of Pat CareyPat Carey (Dublin North West, Fianna Fail)
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Fáiltím roimh an deis roinnt smaointe a nochtadh mar gheall ar cheist na teanga Ghaelach. Is annamh a bhíonn seans agam tacaíocht a thabhairt don mhéid a bhí le rá ag an Teachta Joe Higgins mar gheall ar an Bhlascaod Mór. Is áit stairiúil, iargúlta, ársa, spioradálta é an t-oileán sin, agus ba cheart go mbeadh sé i seilbh an phobail. Má tá seans ag an Aire luí ar a chomhghleacaithe sa Rialtas é sin a dhéanamh, chuirfinn fáilte roimhe.

Bhí alt ag Pól Ó Muirí in eagrán The Irish Times inné mar gheall ar an mhéid a bhí le rá ag David McWilliams ag Tóstal na Gaeilge i nGaillimh tamall ó shin. Dúirt sé roinnt rudaí atá suimiúil, agus ceapaim go bhfuil siad tábhachtach. Labhair McWilliams don chuid is mó do mheánaicme Bhaile Átha Cliath agus ar an athrú meoin atá tagtha anois i dtaobh na teanga de. Tá siad toilteanach cluas éisteachta a thabhairt don soiscéal Gaelach. Bhí sé dóchasach go raibh deis anois ann iad a mhealladh i dtreo na teanga agus go labhróidís í anois agus arís. Thuigfeá as caint McWilliams go raibh earra na teanga faiseanta faoi láthair. Is é an cheist a chuirfeá ort féin faoina léargas na cén fhad a mhairfidh an faisean agus, ar bhonn fealsúnachta, an féidir le lucht na teanga caidreamh a bhunú le meánaicme an Bhéarla a mhairfeadh agus a bheadh éifeachtach?

Éilíonn teanga umhlaíocht ar chainteoir, is é sin, ní féidir le duine ar bith teanga a cheannach. Ní féidir le cainteoir seilbh a bheith aige uirthi mar a bhíonn aige ar teach saoire sa Phortaingéil nó ar bhallraíocht den K Club.

Is dócha gurb é an deá-scéal ná conas na sléibhte a bhaint amach, conas ceann a chur ar an turas agus an chéad ghlúin eile a chur ar bhealach a leasa agus a labhartha. In ainneoin phríomhaíocht bhunreachtúil na Gaeilge mar an phríomhtheanga oifigiúil, mar is eol do Theachtaí, tá staid agus todhchaí na Gaeilge mar theanga labhartha faoi fíor-bhagairt, fiú amháin sna ceantair Ghaeltachta. Roimh achtú Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla, ní raibh aon reachtaíocht ann chun a chinntiú go gcuirfí seirbhísí ar fáil sa Ghaeilge. Mar thoradh ar an easpa reachtaíochta sin, bhí sé deacair a chur ina luí ar chomhlachtaí Stáit go raibh cearta ag saoránaigh i dtaca le soláthar seirbhísí trí Gaeilge. Seachas cothrom na féinne a chur ar fáil do chainteoirí Gaeilge, más ón nGaeltacht nó lasmuigh dóibh, bhí meon ann go forleathan gur leor seirbhísí a chur ar fail i mBéarla amháin.

D'ullmhaigh Bord na Gaeilge, mar a bhí ag an am sin, treoirlínte i 1993 maidir le seirbhísí Stáit a chur ar fáil i nGaeilge, ach níl aon dabht nár tugadh mórán aird orthu sin go forleathan ar aon chuma. Bhí sé soiléir nach n-éireodh go maith le tionscnamh deonach ar bith, is cuma cé chomh deá-rúnach is a bhí sé, gan creat pleanála ar leith a bheith ag gabhail leis a bhí bunaithe ar riachtanais theangeolaíochta éagsúla.

Is é an tAcht seo an chéad reachtaíocht ina leagtar síos próiseas pleanála reachtúil chun a chinntiú go gcuirfidh comhlachtaí poiblí níos mó seirbhísí ar fail i nGaeilge agus ar chaighdeán níos airde. An cur chuige atá roghnaithe san Acht ná meicníocht a chur i bhfeidhm chun go mbainfear amach an cuspóir seo ar bhealach réasúnach agus ar bhonn céimnithe, comhpháirtíochta. Is ar chomhaontú a bhaint amach atá an bhéim, bunaithe ar mhodh pragmatach, atá deartha chun fíor-fheabhsuithe a bhaint amach go gearrthéarmach, agus chun tógáil ar an gclár oibre ionas go gcinnteofar tuilleadh feabhsuithe de réir a chéile i rith na meán-tréimhse agus na fad-tréimhse. Go bunúsach, is é atá i gceist san Acht ná modh pleanáilte agus straitéiseach lena gcuirfear, ar thaobh amháin, na h-acmhainní comhlachta maidir le scileanna Ghaeilge agus go dtabhairfear aitheantas, ar an dtaobh eile, do riachtanais daoine a dteastaíonn uathu an Ghaeilge a úsáid agus iad ag plé leis an comhlacht sin.

Mar is eol dúinn go léir, bainfear bun-chuspóir an Achta amach go príomha trí na scéimeanna teanga atá le hullmhú ag comhlachtaí poiblí, ar iarratas ón Aire agus atá le daingniú aige chomh maith. Trí ná scéimeanna comhaontaithe seo, tá sé i gceist go mbeidh seirbhísí poiblí ar chaighdeán níos airde ar fáil do chainteoirí Gaeilge. Tá imní orm mar gheall ar sin agus ní dóigh liom go bhfuil an plean sin ag dul i gcrích tapaidh go leor. Táthar ag feidhmiú na seirbhísí seo de réir a chéile ar bhealach comhleanúnach, pleanáilte agus aontaithe.

Feidhmíonn Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla ar dhá bhealach. I dtaca leis na scéimeanna de, ní miste a lua go bhfuil os cionn 20 scéim daingnithe go dáta agus go léiríonn na scéimeanna teanga sin go bhfuil cur chuige réadúil agus praiticiúil glactha ag comhlachtaí poiblí maidir le soláthar níos fearr de sheirbhísí trí Ghaeilge a sheachadadh, ag tógáil san áireamh cumas na n-eagras sin ó thaobh na n-acmhainní daonna agus airgeadais atá ar fáil dóibh. Leagtar béim ar leith sna scéimeanna ar a thábhachtaí is atá sé cumas Gaeilge na mball foirne a fheabhsú trí oiliúint agus sainchúrsaí cuí a chur ar fáil dóibh.

Sá chomhthéacs seo, tá Roinn na Gaeltachta ag obair go dlúth le Foras na Gaeilge, Gaeleagras na seirbhíse poiblí, an Foras Riaracháin agus institiúidí tríú leibhéal chun a chinntiú go gcuirfear leis an soláthar sainchúrsaí atá dírithe ar riachtanais na hearnála poiblí i ndáil le cur i bhfeidhm an Achta, ar a n-airítear córas dearbhúchain do cháilíochtaí i seirbhísí aistriúcháin, córas creidiúnaithe d'oiliúint Ghaeilge, sainchúrsaí oiliúna Gaeilge agus bunachar sonraí leictreonach de chomharthaí caighdeánacha. An bhfuil fhois ag an Aire cathain a bheidh an post i bhForas na Gaeilge líonta? Ba cheart go líonfar é go luath agus tá seo riachtanach Tá fhois agam go mbeidh an tUasal Mac Donnacha sa phost sin ar feadh cúpla mí eile.

Ag tabhairt airde ar a h-áit mar an chéad teanga oifigiúil, is é an sprioc ná a chinntiú go bhféachtar ar sheirbhísí i nGaeilge a chuireann comhlachtaí poiblí ar fáil mar ghnáth-rud atá riachtanach chun cloí le híos-chaighdeáin seirbhísí chustaiméara agus rialú corparáideach agus nach díreach seirbhís roghnach sa bhreis atá ann. An méid sin ráite, is gnó do na comhlachtaí poiblí féin, ar ndóigh, a chinntiú go gcomhlíonfar na dualgais a thiteann orthu faoin Acht sa chaoi chéanna agus a chomhlíontar dualgais faoi aon reachtaíocht eile, is cuma cé Béarla nó Gaeilge é.

Tá daoine ann a deireann gur airgead amú caiteachas an Stáit ar an Acht seo agus gur fearr go mór an caiteachas sin a dhíriú, mar shampla, ar théacsanna Gaeilge a chur ar fáil don córas oideachais. Chuala mé an Aire ag rá go minic, de réir Bunreacht na hÉireann, is í an Ghaeilge céad teanga oifigiúil an Stáit. Ní féidir aon athrú a dhéanamh ar an stádas seo ach amháin trí chinneadh ag muintir na hÉireann i reifreann. Tá sé de dhualgas ag an Stát mar sin tacú leis an Ghaeilge a fhad is go bhfuil an stádas bhunreachtúil seo aige. Tá súil agam go leanfaidh an stádas sin le fada an lá.

Déanadh Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla 2003 a dhréachtadh de réir chomhairle an Ard-Aighne le feidhm a thabhairt do stádas bunreachtúil na teanga. I 2004, bhí feachtas láidir ann ag cuardach stádas oifigiúil agus oibre don teanga Ghaeilge san Aontas Eorpach, feachtas a fuair tacaíocht ó gach aon páirtí ins an dTeach seo. Tá stádas oifigiúil teanga agus oibre faighte ag an nGaeilge san Aontas Eorpach a thiocfaidh i bhfeidhm i 2007. Nach ait go bhfuil eadarsan ann a thacaigh leis an bhfeachtas maidir le stádas na Gaeilge san Aontas Eorpach in aghaidh caiteachais ar an teanga sa bhaile anseo? D'fhéadfaí a rá go bhfuileadar seo féin-bhréagnaitheach. Bheadh sé aisteach tar éis stádas oifigiúil teanga a chuardach muna mbeadh polasaithe cuimsitheacha ag an Stát in Éirinn a thacódh leis an teanga mar chéad teanga oifigiúil an Stáit seo de réir soláthair bunreachtúil na Gaeilge agus de réir an bhreith maidir leis an stádas sin a thug an Cúirt Uachtarach i gcás Uí Bheoláin.

Leagann an Acht teanga amach go sonrach na cearta atá ag lucht labhartha na Gaeilge agus acu san gur mian leo Gaeilge a labhairt, ach leagann sé amach chomh maith socruithe praiticiúla leis an éileamh ar sheirbhísí i nGaeilge a shásamh ar bhonn phraiticiúil. Sin an méid. Leagfaidh gach scéim a shocraítear le chomhlacht phoiblí amach go cruinn sonraithe na cearta atá ag saoránaigh maidir le seirbhísí trí Ghaeilge a bheith á chomhlíonadh ag an gcomhlacht sin i rith tréimhse trí bliana ar leith.

Cuirim fáilte roimh an deis atá againn anseo. Mar a dúirt an Teachta Ó Snodaigh, bheadh sé níos fearr dá bhféadfaimis úsáid a bhaint as an Ghaeilge níos minice agus gnáth-rudaí a phlé as Gaeilge. B'fhéidir go dtarlóidh sé sin amach anseo. Tá súil agam go mbeimid go léir anseo chun é sin a dhéanamh.

Photo of John DeasyJohn Deasy (Waterford, Fine Gael)
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I am afraid my Irish is not good enough to make a speech. On the issue of translation costs as they pertain in particular to local authorities and other State bodies, I got involved in the matter because a senior council official brought to my attention the amount of money it spent on translation costs for the county development plan approximately 18 months ago. He could not believe the delays and the costs, which came to €30,000 or €40,000.

At the time I was given the opportunity by The Irish Times to write a column about the issue. This was after the former headmaster of my secondary school had approached me. He could not understand why people were spending money on translation costs when the secondary school I attended was located beside a Gaelscoil. It had a stream in the secondary school that brought students up to second year, after which it got no funding and was forced to discontinue the course. After second year the Department of Education and Science would not fund the stream. People who wanted to complete their leaving certificate through Irish were prevented from doing so. He asked a fair question. Why, in God's name, are we spending money on translating into Irish documents that nobody ever reads in English and at the same time a student who wants to complete his leaving certificate through Irish cannot do so?

It is true that Fine Gael voted for the Official Languages Act. However, it is about time the Minister and others admitted they made some mistakes. Some of the provisions in the Act are not helping the Irish language and are rather detracting from it and doing it no favours. Interestingly I met representatives of Dungarvan Town Council a few weeks ago and the same thing happened. They are preparing the town development plan and are badly delayed because of translation issues. This is happening two years after the fact. While we were promised that translation would be streamlined and these delays would not occur, it is not the case. The Minister can check with the local authority. The translation issue has not been addressed and it is still causing major delays in a document that is essentially the most important planning document that a town council handles every five years.

I tabled a question that was disallowed by the Ceann Comhairle today. I wanted the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government to outline how much money each local authority spends on translation. The question was disallowed, as the Minister does not have remit in these areas. If the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government does not have remit over local authorities, I do not know who does.

We were told that only major documents would need to be translated. However, this is not the case. Local authorities are interpreting the requirement differently. Two or three weeks ago I got a letter regarding bin charges from Waterford County Council. It was printed in English on one side and Irish on the other. I contacted a representative of the council, who felt that, because the Government had lost the plot, the council was obliged to translate such items. It is not just major documents such as the draft development plan and the development plan. The council is translating much more than that. It is costing it money and causing delays.

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Minister, Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs; Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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Was this a letter that went to everybody in the county?

Photo of John DeasyJohn Deasy (Waterford, Fine Gael)
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I am just outlining the situation. It is somewhat disingenuous with regard to——

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Minister, Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs; Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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Did it go to everybody in the county?

Photo of John DeasyJohn Deasy (Waterford, Fine Gael)
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Yes.

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Minister, Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs; Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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Did it go to Ring for example?

Photo of John DeasyJohn Deasy (Waterford, Fine Gael)
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Yes. The people who have complained most to me about this issue are those from the Gaeltacht of Ring — the Gaeltacht I represent. They believe the money should be put into different areas to support the Irish language. They do not believe it is well spent. They feel it is giving the Irish language a bad name. People are ridiculing the Irish language with regard——

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Minister, Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs; Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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They want——

Photo of John DeasyJohn Deasy (Waterford, Fine Gael)
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The Minister should let me finish. They are the people who are saying this money is being badly spent in the area of the Irish language. They are uncomfortable about what is happening in Waterford County Council. Previously if somebody wanted to do business such as planning through Irish, the service was provided. I asked whether anybody had ever complained about the provision of services through Irish in Waterford County Council. I was told it had received no complaints. While some people in the Gaeltacht like the provisions in the Act, many others understand the money would be better invested in other areas of the Irish language.

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Minister, Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs; Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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Could the Deputy give an example of how the county council could spend money differently? He need not tell me that the council could hand the money to the Department of Education and Science as that is nonsense.

Photo of John DeasyJohn Deasy (Waterford, Fine Gael)
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I premised my argument at the start. Why can a student not continue to study for the leaving certificate through Irish after second year? If funds are not available to support such students, that is a perfect example.

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Minister, Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs; Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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Is the Deputy——

Photo of John DeasyJohn Deasy (Waterford, Fine Gael)
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I am not going to be interrupted every time I speak.

Photo of Cecilia KeaveneyCecilia Keaveney (Donegal North East, Fianna Fail)
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Aire——

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Minister, Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs; Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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I ask the Deputy to clarify a point for me. I am very interested.

Photo of John DeasyJohn Deasy (Waterford, Fine Gael)
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Let me finish.

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Minister, Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs; Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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Is the Deputy saying for argument's sake——

Photo of John DeasyJohn Deasy (Waterford, Fine Gael)
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The Minister has been shouting us down on this issue for long enough. When my party leader mentioned compulsory Irish we were branded as Irish haters. The Minister for Education and Science, Deputy Hanafin, said if it was up to Fine Gael we would not have an Irish language. Every time we raise these issues, we are branded as being instinctively against the Irish language.

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Minister, Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs; Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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I am asking for clarification.

Photo of Cecilia KeaveneyCecilia Keaveney (Donegal North East, Fianna Fail)
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Hold on, Aire.

Photo of John DeasyJohn Deasy (Waterford, Fine Gael)
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That is the case.

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Minister, Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs; Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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The Deputy should not be so defensive.

Photo of John DeasyJohn Deasy (Waterford, Fine Gael)
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We can have an honest difference of opinion regarding how money should be spent with regard to the Irish language.

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Minister, Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs; Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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I am trying to elucidate——

Photo of John DeasyJohn Deasy (Waterford, Fine Gael)
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The Minister should do us a favour. We are shown real disrespect when we are immediately branded as being against the Irish language.

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Minister, Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs; Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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I did not say a word about them.

Photo of John DeasyJohn Deasy (Waterford, Fine Gael)
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After Deputy Kenny made his comment, we heard two or three——

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Minister, Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs; Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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Did I say anything about Deputy Kenny? I praised him here today. I praised him for raising the debate.

Photo of John DeasyJohn Deasy (Waterford, Fine Gael)
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Fair enough.

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Minister, Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs; Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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I said it was a very wholesome debate.

Photo of John DeasyJohn Deasy (Waterford, Fine Gael)
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There were plenty of people on the Government benches, who used it as an opportunity to have a go at us as being against the Irish language, as the Minister knows.

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Minister, Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs; Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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I have praised the Deputy's leader for having the debate, which I welcome.

Photo of John DeasyJohn Deasy (Waterford, Fine Gael)
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I asked every Department——

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Minister, Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs; Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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The Deputy is off the wall in this regard.

Photo of John DeasyJohn Deasy (Waterford, Fine Gael)
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Let me finish. I asked every Department how it implemented the Official Languages Act, particularly as it pertains to Government reports. It was just amazing. Some of the Departments——

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Minister, Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs; Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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The Deputy should give the facts.

Photo of John DeasyJohn Deasy (Waterford, Fine Gael)
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I have the facts.

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Minister, Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs; Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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What are the facts?

Photo of John DeasyJohn Deasy (Waterford, Fine Gael)
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Some of the Departments——

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Minister, Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs; Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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How much did it cost?

Photo of Cecilia KeaveneyCecilia Keaveney (Donegal North East, Fianna Fail)
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Deputy Deasy has only ten minutes to speak, of which only two minutes remain.

Photo of John DeasyJohn Deasy (Waterford, Fine Gael)
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I do not mind interaction, but if the Minister is just trying to interrupt me for the sake of it——

Photo of Cecilia KeaveneyCecilia Keaveney (Donegal North East, Fianna Fail)
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The Deputy has the right to make his speech.

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Minister, Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs; Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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What are the facts?

Photo of Cecilia KeaveneyCecilia Keaveney (Donegal North East, Fianna Fail)
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The Minister may respond at the end.

Photo of John DeasyJohn Deasy (Waterford, Fine Gael)
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Thank you. Implementation of the Act is all over the shop. Some Departments are spending €200,000 or €300,000 to implement the Act and some are spending €3. In many cases they have decided to comply with the legislation and in other cases people have a difference of opinion. People are confused. The amounts involved in some Departments run to hundreds of thousands and in others it is less than €10. I have the figures, which I requested from each Department.

The Opposition needs to make it clear that if we are in Government after the next general election, aspects of the Official Languages Act should be repealed. We should not be afraid to say so. We made a mistake in voting in favour of some provisions in the Act and the Government did also. I am man enough to stand up and say so and the Minister should acknowledge that he made a mistake regarding spending on Irish translation.

If measures are shoved down people's throats, they will react badly. I get that impression from officials who provide a very good service in the Irish language. People feel resentment as a result of the Act, which does not do the Irish language any favours. In some cases, officials have more important matters to attend to than catering to the Minister's whims, of which this measure is an example and which is not working.

1:00 pm

Photo of Jan O'SullivanJan O'Sullivan (Limerick East, Labour)
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Tá rudaí le rá agam sa díospóireacht seo, ach tá mé níos compordaí ag labhairt i mBéarla. Mar sin leanfaidh mé ar aghaidh sa teanga sin. I welcome the fact that this debate is taking place today and hope I will not attract too much of the Minister's ire. I will chiefly address issues relating to education and the Irish language and the difficulties presented by the current system. I do not detect an urgency in addressing the serious problems in respect of the decline of the Irish language as one which people in this country are comfortable speaking, which has been referred to by previous speakers.

Having been educated in the system, having a great love of the Irish language and having attended various Irish classes as an adult, I have a reasonable knowledge of the language. Like Deputy Boyle, I have been assisted by representatives of TG4 and Radio na Gaeltachta when I have attempted to make points in Irish. I will continue to express myself using the amount of Irish I possess whenever the opportunity arises. I believe I am representative of a broad section of the community which is very anxious to develop the use of the Irish language among citizens, be they children at school or adults. My attitude to the Irish language is very positive and I wish to see more urgency on the part of the Government in respect of this issue and greater communication between Departments. I am not sure how much co-operation exists between the Departments of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs and Education and Science in respect of making progress on this issue.

My colleague, Deputy O'Shea, has referred to the lack of a vision statement or Green Paper on the subject or an invitation from the Government to discuss proposals. There have been many speeches and acknowledgements from the Minister that a problem exists. He has suggested that parents must speak more Irish to ensure their children speak more Irish. However, it is not good enough simply to tell parents that it is their responsibility. We need proactive Government measures that will treat this issue with the urgency it requires.

For example, if one reads the Staid Reatha na Scoileanna Gaeltachta, Study of Gaeltacht Schools 2004, one can see that there is real concern about the decline in Irish in the Gaeltacht and Gaeltacht schools. According to the study, "A significant number of Gaeltacht schools have already conceded defeat in the face of the difficulties and have switched to teaching through the medium of English". It states: "It would appear that schools have not been given the support, advice and resources that would allow them to develop such policies". Yet, one also witnesses the significant growth in naonraí, gaelscoileanna and gaelcoláistí, which is a very positive development. There is a clear decline in proficiency in Irish in regular schools. The three strands are attempting to fit into a curriculum that puts them all in one straitjacket and, as many people have argued, does not place sufficient emphasis on the spoken language.

We need a properly thought-out approach to these issues. It is not possible to progress while the three different groups, which have different levels of proficiency at different stages in the system, try to fit into the same curriculum and examination structure. The system is not working and must be immediately addressed. In that context, I will quote from a paper entitled The Future of Languages in Irish Education: Policy, Curriculum and Pedagogy, which was produced for the Royal Irish Academy on 31 May 2005. The paper includes observations on how language is learned, which we must grasp before we deal with the issue. The paper addresses common problems with language curricula. It states:

They are rarely if ever based on a coherent model of gradually developing communicative proficiency, in which the different language skills are related to one another in a clear progression. Educational systems typically set their sights unrealistically high. As a result, learners are too often expected to be able to perform communicative tasks without having developed the underlying linguistic competence on which successful spontaneous performance depends.

The paper goes on to discuss how people learn to speak a language first and learn to read in a language before they learn to write it and the need to progress in this way.

We expect children in regular schools who do not hear Irish spoken at home to progress too quickly in our system in terms of writing and grammatical skills. On the other hand, children who grow up in a Gaeltacht home where Irish is spoken can move much faster and have internalised the language so that it is natural for them to express themselves in Irish. This area must be worked on before progress can be achieved. If we do not do so, we will simply be talking in circles and trying to make everyone fit into the same box.

I will refer briefly to the difficulties experienced by teachers in schools in the Gaeltacht. These teachers do not have the appropriate resources. The Oireachtas Joint Committee on Education and Science heard a presentation that dealt with this issue. These teachers are struggling with the resources and supports available to them. I will quote from an e-mail I received from an individual who deals with teachers in the Gaeltacht. According to the e-mail:

They were constantly telling us that a French or German teacher can come into class with a plethora of extremely well packaged and interesting aids, whereas they are depending on literature which belongs to another era. This is really where we need to begin.

The Minister is on record as having spoken about the decline in the use of Irish in Gaeltacht schools. Until we give them the appropriate resources and teaching aids and let them compete properly with French and German in Gaeltacht schools and schools in other areas, we will get nowhere.

A considerable amount of material in the curriculum is probably more suited to a specialist section or subject in the leaving certificate specifically designed for people who are fluent, native Irish speakers. Such a section or subject could include Irish literature. In respect of people who are non-native speakers, such material should be reserved for third level study. We should aim to ensure that people can speak fluently and write relatively fluently.

In that context, very little emphasis is placed on oral examinations. If it is not done in the examination, people will not do it in the schools. If marks for oral proficiency are not given at both junior and leaving certificate level, people will concentrate on written work because that is where they will pick up marks and, knowing grammar, as Deputy O'Shea noted, will be their focus. The focus should be positive rather than negative. At the moment, people lose marks if they make mistakes in the tuiseal ginideach in their essays when the focus should be placed on what they do well.

I see no evidence that the Government is taking any of this on board. There has been much talk about it, which has not been reflected in what is happening in the curriculum and examination structure. I am aware that reform is taking place within language curricula in general and that the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment is examining the area. We need a sense of urgency with regard to the Irish language.

I will now address measures that are working well. I have spoken about naonraí, gaelscoileanna and gaelcoláistí. TG4 is another example of how the mass media can help people feel comfortable again with the Irish language. I am unaware of the statistics but I estimate that a very large section of the Irish population watches TG4 on a relatively regular basis. These people do not regard themselves as being particularly proficient in Irish but can follow what is going on in the programmes. Whether it is "Rugbaí Beo" or whatever, people will watch because they have an interest in a particular area. The programme is very imaginative and original on TG4. I pay tribute to my colleague, Deputy Michael D. Higgins, for everything he did when he was Minister in that regard.

To sum up, I feel passionately about the fact that Irish is being failed at school level. There is still much goodwill towards the language. There will be more calls for the ending of the obligatory element of Irish participation in the schools unless the changes are now made to make it a language that people want to learn and to speak.

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

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Minister, Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs; Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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Just to clarify, I am of the view that English should be in the same situation as Irish. These are the two official languages, the core subjects, and I strongly believe every student should have to do English up to leaving certificate. I accept that what the Deputy is saying is factually correct. However, I believe we should go further and make English a core subject for the leaving certificate.

Photo of Jimmy DeenihanJimmy Deenihan (Kerry North, Fine Gael)
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I am glad the Minister has clarified that. I repeat, there is no compulsory requirement to take English or mathematics. The Minister for Education and Science, while speaking on this topic before Christmas, attempted to mislead the public by pretending that there were three compulsory subjects for the leaving certificate. I do not recall precisely whether it was in this House or on "Questions and Answers", and she was corrected by the Fine Gael spokesperson on education.

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Minister, Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs; Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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The Deputy is absolutely correct. However, I did not say that. I said I believed there should be two, if not three, core subjects for the leaving certificate for all students.

Photo of Jimmy DeenihanJimmy Deenihan (Kerry North, Fine Gael)
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As regards the Irish language, some years ago when interest in Irish dance and culture generally was on the wane, Riverdance emerged. The Irish language needs something like Riverdance. It needs a major revival. It needs to become topical and fashionable with young people, and that can be done. I sincerely believe that one of the great advantages of Deputy Kenny becoming Taoiseach would be that he could do that. I am not saying that in a political sense. Deputy Kenny, because of his fluency in the language, when he is Taoiseach, will engender a great revival in Irish. I would encourage him to use it at every opportunity.

The number of people now speaking English in Gaeltacht areas is quite alarming. I go to Dingle once a year. I am amazed at how few people now speak Irish there around the bars. Formerly, if one spent the day in Krugers in Dunquin, one would leave, speaking Irish. Perhaps that was because of the few drinks one might have imbibed, but from speaking to the old people there especially, one would leave the pub talking Irish. It would come back to any of us in one day. That does not happen anymore, however. I am not singling out Krugers, but I have had the experience of coming out of that pub and speaking the language after just a few hours talking Irish to the local people. In other bars, hostelries and meeting places in the Gaeltacht areas, however, less Irish is being spoken. That is confirmed by recent research and it is quite worrying.

I am pleased to have had an opportunity to speak in this welcome debate. We should have more meaningful discussions on the Irish language and take it much more seriously. Every country in Europe has its own language. People in these countries speak their own languages and are identified by them. We in the Republic of Ireland are the exception. For the sake of the future identity of this country we must encourage more people to speak Irish.

The type of attack on Fine Gael from some quarters reminded me very much of what happened in the Mansion House when John B. Keane launched the language freedom movement back in the early 1960s. Gay Byrne chaired that meeting. John B. Keane was attacked and assaulted for just speaking about freeing up the language, making it more accessible and removing its compulsory status. He wrote books in Irish, including the great book, Dan Paddy Andy. He loved the language and spoke it but he wanted to remove the compulsory teaching of it. When we mentioned compulsion in leaving certificate Irish, we were attacked immediately. That is wrong. Those people who singled out Deputy Kenny — one of the finest speakers in this House — are wronging him. They should give him the opportunity to do something positive for the Irish language.

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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Cuirim fáilte roimh an deis seo chun na Gaeilge a phlé sa Dáil. Tá séíorónta go bhfuil an t-ábhar seo á phlé inniu, díreach tar éis fhoilsiú thuarascáil an Choimisinéara Teanga. Is tábhachtach an tuarascáil sin, agus molaim an Coimisinéir Teanga, Seán Ó Cuirreáin, aisti. Tá scéal uafásach nochtaithe aige, scéal náireach don Státseirbhís. Is scannal é go bhfuil stádas na Gaeilge chomh híseal sin sa Státchóras anois go bhfuil an coimisinéir á rá gur cosúil go bhfuil Béarla éigeantach i bhfeidhm in áit na Gaeilge éigeantaí a bhíodh ann.

Tá Ranna ag diúltiú córas marcála a chur i bhfeidhm a thabharfadh marcanna breise d'iarrthóiri le cumas sa nGaeilge, agus níl sé sin inghlactha. Tá sé scannalach chomh maith nach bhfuil ach 3% den bhfoireann sa Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta in ann gnó a dhéanamh trí mheán na Gaeilge.

The report of the language commissioner is a damning indictment of the State's failure to vindicate the position of the Irish language within the Civil Service. The Department of Education and Science should be a lead Department in the promotion of the Irish language, yet we find that only 3% of staff are capable of doing business through the medium of Irish. That is not acceptable. The system which replaced the Irish language requirement in the Civil Service is not working. Departments are not awarding bonus marks to candidates for promotion on the basis of their ability to do business in both official languages. This is equally unacceptable and must change.

That said, we should look at the commissioner's report as an opportunity to put things right. There has been far too much negativity about the Irish language. Many Members, especially when based in Dublin during the course of the week, have free Dublin newspapers forced upon them at different points, either in traffic or as they make their way on foot to this institution. I could not credit the headline in today's Metro, the free Dublin news-sheet, which I subsequently noticed is published by an English company. While the paper reports the language commissioner's report reasonably accurately, it uses the alarming headline in bold type on the front page: "Irish does you no good at all." There must be an answer to that.

I want to put on record Sinn Féin's belief that the Irish language must remain at the core of the education system. For that reason and despite the arguments presented by my colleague, Deputy Deenihan, we are opposed to the Fine Gael proposal to remove our national language as a core subject for State exams. That is the road to further decline and marginalisation of Irish. What we certainly need at all levels of the education system is a further shift in emphasis towards Irish as a spoken language, a living language of the people, in the classroom, the schoolyard, the playing field, the home and workplace.

Speaking as a parent whose fifth child is now going through the gaelscoileanna experience, the transformation from my experience of going to school to my children's experience is stark, apparent and obvious. My children play with their young friends in a very natural way that is almost a rejoicing in their extra language skills. This is a far cry from the reality I knew myself. Part of the problem in implementing such reform is the over-reliance of our education system on written exams and on the points system which is a rat race dictated by the number of places available in third level colleges.

The tremendous energy and vibrancy of the Irish language community is seen in the gaelscoileanna movement — I speak of the Irish language community throughout the island of Ireland — in the language organisations and in the Irish language media from TG4 to to Foinse to local media. I pay tribute to local radio stations and the print media which accommodate and encourage the reportage of events and community-style noticing as Gaeilge. That energy and vibrancy needs to be matched in the public service, the business community, and the trade union and community sectors.

Only the Government can co-ordinate a national effort to create a bilingual society. There is no denying it is a huge task but there is a tremendous foundation of goodwill among the majority of our people, regardless of the regular trundling out of their position by the begrudgers and those of the west Briton view in regard to our language who continually attempt to denigrate Irish. I cite this morning's freebie as yet another example of that.

We have been talking about the Irish language community, which is distinct from the Gaeltacht and its communities. We should have a special debate on the Gaeltacht. There are significant issues to be addressed about the future of the Gaeltacht which cannot be adequately addressed in the context of short statements such as this on the overall language issue. Many issues need to be addressed and I urge an early debate as a follow-up to this one. Perhaps the Minister would facilitate this and ensure it takes place shortly.

I seek the Minister's and the Government's ongoing support for the rights of Irish language speakers and the growing Irish language speaking community north of the Border. We need to rachet that support up a little from the current level.

A legislative deficit exists on the matter of the Irish language north of the Border. So long as the current reality of two jurisdictions remains, we need to impress on the British Government the importance of ensuring legislative protection.

The Minister shows great goodwill, support and encouragement for the language. I encourage him to look beyond this jurisdiction and to exercise as much influence as he can and with his colleagues in Government in an effort to ensure that the British Government properly recognises and facilitates the growing development of the Irish language north of the Border.

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Minister, Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs; Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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It would be very useful if the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, were to hold an interactive question and answer-type debate on the Irish language, rather than Members making long statements. In the ten minutes allotted for my reply, I cannot address all the issues raised. We have listened to a number of very good contributions today. Deputy Deasy is very forthright in his view and I will address some issues raised by him.

He referred to the translation of documents. Section 10 of the Act is very clear on what material must be translated. The number of documents requiring to be translated is very limited and these are major policy documents.

I am purposely speaking in English because there is no way of getting the English language media to listen if one speaks in Irish. All these matters were debated in detail in Irish but when the Act was passed there were complaints that they had not been told anything. English translations were provided but nobody bothered with them.

For the information of Deputy Deasy, I made inquiries as to the cost in 2005 to Departments, the Revenue Commissioners and the Office of Public Works of compliance with section 10 of the Act. The cost was approximately €300,000 to €350,000, between all the Departments. The total expenditure of those Departments is approximately €50 billion and the cost of compliance should be put in that context.

A study of the figures showed there are ways of reducing costs and one of the simplest is to look at the costs and time-wasting expended in producing documents that are far too big for anyone to read. The first step should be to look at the English language costs of those documents. The biggest cost is in compiling the documents as they are often voluminous. It would be more cost effective in any language to reduce the size of the documents by giving the relevant information and cutting out the many pages which are not read in either English or Irish. When they were produced in English, nobody ever read them and it never worried anyone that they were growing bigger.

Every week I receive many documents and I have a wastepaper basket. I plead with bodies such as all the county enterprise boards to stop sending me their annual reports in hard copy. I would prefer if they sent me notification that their annual reports are available to read on the Internet. I put all hard copies into the wastepaper basket. I doubt if other Members read them either.

This House agreed that people had a fundamental right to receive versions of documents in both official languages. It was argued that the cost of translating documents such as county plans and so on, could be devoted to education. I challenge any local authority that claims it expended €30,000 on section 10 compliance last year — which I doubt. Development plans are made every five years so the costs would be divided over five years. I do not believe any local authority is offering that if it did not have to comply with section 10, it would hand up that money and transfer it to the local vocational education committee for textbooks written in Irish. The reason for the introduction of the Act was that the local authorities were trying to access the Irish funds which should be used for paying for teaching through Irish and Irish language textbooks to fulfil their fundamental duty to produce the documents in Irish. The reason for the Act was to stop funds designated for the Irish language being sucked out to be used to produce fundamental documents in the Irish language.

If this is the policy of Waterford County Council, why did it not give that €30,000 or €40,000 to the Irish language in the county? A bilingual leaflet was distributed to every house in County Waterford because Waterford County Council voluntarily agreed to do so in a plan which was submitted to my Department for approval. It was not a question of compulsion. The council proposed the plan and it is not forced to undertake it. It is ridiculous for the Deputy to blame me for something which the council voluntarily agreed to do and it makes a mockery of the undertaking.

Deputy Deasy expressed the view that the Act should be amended. I do not know whether the Deputy was speaking for Deputy Deasy or speaking officially for the Fine Gael Party.

Photo of Jimmy DeenihanJimmy Deenihan (Kerry North, Fine Gael)
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He was speaking for Deputy Deasy.

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Minister, Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs; Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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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.

Photo of Jimmy DeenihanJimmy Deenihan (Kerry North, Fine Gael)
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"Spiddal" and "Spideál" are similar words.

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Minister, Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs; Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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That point was made to me. What about An Fhairche and Clonbur, or An Clochán Liath and Dungloe?

Photo of Jimmy DeenihanJimmy Deenihan (Kerry North, Fine Gael)
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It is different in west Kerry.

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Minister, Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs; Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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Connemara must be getting the intelligent tourists.