Thursday, 10 April 2014
Straitéis 20 Bliain don Ghaeilge
10. To ask the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform cad iad na pleananna atá aige chun líon na státseirbhíseach atá cumasach lena ngnó a dhéanamh trí Ghaeilge a mhéadú; cén scrúdú atá déanta aige ar an gcur chuige i ndlínsí eile ina bhfuil dhá theanga oifigiúla; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina thaobh. [16616/14]
22. To ask the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will report on the implementation of the 20 year strategy for the Irish language by his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16816/14]
Mar is eol don Aire, ní féidir seirbhísí trí Ghaeilge a chur ar fáil mura mbeidh daoine ann a bhfuil eolas acu ar an teanga. Tá mo cheist ag iarraidh a fháil amach céard iad na pleananna atá ag an Aire le déanamh cinnte go mbeidh daoine le Gaeilge ann. Freisin, cén staidéar atá déanta ar an gcur chuige i ndlínsí eile ina bhfuil dhá theanga oifigiúla le déanamh cinnte go mbeidh daoine in ann seirbhís a chur ar fáil sa dá theanga oifigiúla sna tíortha sin?
Gabhaim buíochas leis an Teachta as an cheist sin a ardú. As the Deputy is aware, the Government approved the introduction of a new approach to ensure that there is a sufficient number of civil servants who are able to perform their duties through Irish. These new arrangements were put in place in the context of replacing the policy of awarding bonus marks for Irish language proficiency in Civil Service recruitment and promotion competitions which was not meeting the Government's or this House's objective of having bilingualism in the public service.
Under the new approach measures are being introduced to increase the cohort of functional bilinguals in the Civil Service in order to reflect a more competency-based approach to recruitment and, where appropriate, promotion. In future, in the context of workforce planning frameworks, Departments will be required to identify the posts or areas of work requiring functional bilinguals and to include those in their workforce action plans. Having regard to the implementation of the Gaeltacht Act 2012, Departments will be asked to pay particular attention to posts that are located in, or that are serving, Gaeltacht areas. The process will be central to ensuring that future recruitment and interdepartmental promotion competitions run by the Public Appointments Service, PAS, make sufficient provision for appointments to posts requiring functional bilinguals. In the case of departmental recruitment and promotion competitions, an assessment will be made of the requirement for functional bilinguals and, where necessary and appropriate, a sub-panel of functional bilinguals will be put in place.
The new arrangements replace the scheme of bonus marks for Irish, introduced nearly 40 years ago following the abolition of compulsory Irish for entry to the Civil Service. Under the new arrangements, where a post in a Department is identified as requiring proficiency in Irish, the intention is that it should be filled by someone who demonstrably is functionally bilingual.
As a first step, the arrangements will be piloted in the upcoming executive officer, EO, recruitment competition, which it is planned will take place shortly. It is proposed that a sub-panel of Irish language functional bilinguals comprising up to 6% of the overall EO panel size, will be created. The timing of the EO competition is under consideration in the context of an overall approach to recruitment.
My officials have written to Departments notifying them of the new arrangements. Departments have been requested to review the workforce planning frameworks previously submitted and to identify specific posts or areas of work under their remit which require functional bilingualism and to include those in a revised workforce action plan.
In developing this new, innovative and positive approach, my officials took account of the supports and incentives applied in other jurisdictions such as, for example, the Basque Autonomous Community and Canada. The model now being adopted for the Civil Service draws on lessons learned in those jurisdictions and others, as well as our national experience and has the objective of increasing the cohort of functional bilinguals in the Civil Service. It is based on good practice by reflecting a more competency-based approach and assigning responsibility to Departments in identifying posts where functional bilingual skills are required. The new model will be tested on a pilot basis, as described, and revised as necessary in the context of the experience with its implementation. I would very much welcome the input of Members of the House and committees of the House on those matters.
I welcome the idea of identifying the posts but the Minister must accept that functional bilinguals will not necessarily take posts where Irish is a requirement. There is a career path in the Civil Service.
Does the Minister accept that not every functional bilingual will be in a job identified by the Department as requiring such language proficiency? Will he accept that in other jurisdictions there is outside independent verification that the person concerned has the language competency to carry out his or her duties within the specified languages, in this case Irish and English?
The Minister mentioned that a panel of bilinguals comprising up to 6% of the EO panel would be established. Working on the basis of full replacement of staff in the Civil Service, would he accept that approximately 3% of the total number of civil servants are recruited each year? Would he agree that 0.18% of the increase - minus those who leave the service in any given year - would consist of functional bilinguals? Would he accept that currently, approximately 2% of the public service are functional bilinguals? After ten years of this policy, we would be lucky to have 3.5% functional bilinguals in the system. Does the Minister consider 3.5% adequate to provide services for people across a wide range of areas?
The Deputy asked three distinct questions. In regard to his first question, I agree with the Deputy that there will be functional bilinguals who have absolute proficiency in Irish and English working in areas other than the defined posts or geographical areas that would require it and are designated. I hope there will be a much broader spread of people who are proficient to handle any case in either Irish or English. Most people in the public service - that is, anybody who has gone through the Irish education system - will have a reasonable grasp of Irish, but that has been the problem. In the past we had the notion that we would get an extra few marks for being able to perform as Gaeilge on a particular day. We need to move away from that. If we consider what is happening in Canada and in other areas, we need to put in place provision for real proficiency in Irish for people to be able to deal in a comprehensive way with citizens who want to transact all their business as Gaeilge, as is their constitutional right.
I will briefly deal with the Deputy's two other questions. First, independent verification is something that I can look at. Second, I do not agree with the Deputy's mathematical formula. He is right in terms of the 6% figure in that we could pick a number, but let us see how this particular policy works. I am absolutely open to any inputs the Deputy might want to make in regard to it but I think it is an innovation that is worth trying.
Allowing that the average period a person spends in the public service is 30 years, the replacement percentage would be approximately 3% if every person leaving was to be replaced, which is not the case at present, and 6% of 3% is 0.18%, but we must allow for the fact that some of the people leaving will be functional bilinguals. Therefore, the incremental increase will be very small. Where are the mathematics wrong in that? The Minister would have to say it was probably wrong, because it is way too generous compared to the increase we are going to get.
Has the Minister any idea of the number of functional bilinguals up to the standard he mentioned, which is the only correct standard - that is, people who do their business, as I do, in Irish or English, according to the customer's needs, with equal facility? Will the Minister agree that the number is approximately 2% and in some Departments it is less? Therefore, will he not agree that his policy would leave less than 3% capable of fulfilling these positions in the foreseeable future? What proportion of the public service should be sufficiently competent in Irish to provide a wide range of front-line services to the public in that language? What percentage does the Minister think reasonable?
The reason I disagree with the Deputy's mathematics is that it is too sterile an approach. The issue is whether we are going to recruit to try to change and transform the Civil Service immediately.
I do not believe that the current policy, which we have all stood over - particularly Deputy Ó Cuív, who was in government for much of the last decade - has worked, so we need a change. We need to say that we will have a change. I am saying we need functional bilinguals. We have to set a reasonable number for that. Is the Deputy suggesting that everybody we recruit when are recruiting 3% should be a functional bilingual?
That would not be fair.
The Deputy asked two other questions. I cannot answer one of them now but I will ask whether we have any data on the number of functional bilinguals that are currently employed.
A related and relevant point is how many people seek to do their business with State agencies trí Ghaeilge. That would be an interesting number. There is no point, as we have done in the past, in providing Irish translations of documentation and so on that nobody asks for. We need to match the demand with the provisions.
Is é seo an rud is bunúsaí. Nuair a theastaíonn ó mhuintir na Gaeltachta, nó lucht labhartha na Gaeilge in aon áit sa tír, a gcuid gnó a dhéanamh leis an tseirbhís phoiblí trí Ghaeilge, ba cheart go mbeadh duine éigin ann chun labhairt leo ar an bpointe. Ní chóir go mbeidís ag feitheamh le duine éigin glaoch a chur orthu an lá ina dhiaidh sin. Is é sin an rud is tábhachtaí agus is praiticiúla. An bhfuil go leor daoine sa Roinn Caiteachais Phoiblí agus Athchóirithe i láthair na huaire chun labhairt - ar an bpointe - leo siúd a chuireann glaoch ar an Roinn agus a theastaíonn uathu a gcuid gnó a dhéanamh as Gaeilge? An bhfuil an cheist sin soiléir?
Tá. Aontaím leis an Teachta. Ba chóir go mbeadh sé ar chumas saoránach ar bith a gnó nó a ghnó a dhéanamh trí Ghaeilge más mian leis nó léi, cibé Roinn atá i gceist. Tá mé sásta go bhfuil sé ar chumas muintir mo Roinne a gcuid gnó a dhéanamh as Gaeilge más gá.