Dáil debates

Thursday, 8 October 2020

Bille na dTeangacha Oifigiúla (Leasú), 2019: An Dara Céim - Official Languages (Amendment) Bill 2019: Second Stage

 

1:45 pm

Photo of Catherine MartinCatherine Martin (Dublin Rathdown, Green Party)
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Tairgim: "Go léifear an Bille an Dara hUair anois."

Is cúis áthais dom tús a chur leis an díospóireacht maidir le Bille na dTeangacha Oifigiúla (Leasú) 2019. Táim anseo in éineacht leis an Aire Stáit, an Teachta Chambers, chun tábhacht an Bhille seo a léiriú do phobal na tíre i gcoitinne agus do phobal na Gaeilge agus na Gaeltachta ach go háirithe.

Mar Aire ar a bhfuil freagracht as an turasóireacht, an cultúr, an ealaín, an Ghaeltacht, an spóirt agus na meáin, fáiltím roimh an deis seo labhairt leis an Dáil faoin mBille. Is onóir as cuimse domsa a bheith ceaptha mar Aire le freagracht as an nGaeltacht agus leanfaidh mé ag troid ar son na Gaeilge gach aon lá ag bord an Rialtais i dteannta leis an Aire Stáit, an Teachta Chambers.

Táim fíordhílis dár dteanga agus bródúil as a hoidhreacht shaibhir. Mar is eol don Teach, mar Theachta Dála le ceithre bliana anuas, déanaim iarracht i gcónaí solas a lasadh ar an nGaeilge leis an méid a deirim ar urlár na Dála agus leis an méid a dhéanaim sa saol poiblí.

Bhí sé an-tábhachtach dom, mar sin, agus mé i mbun cainteanna rialtais go mbeadh gealltanais dhearfacha maidir leis an nGaeilge sa chlár Rialtais. Tá sé luaite go sonrach go bhfuil sé mar fhís againn mar Rialtas go ndéanfar an Ghaeilge a chothú agus a chur chun cinn. Tuigeann muid an tábhacht a bhaineann leis an teanga mar chéad teanga oifigiúil an Stáit, mar chuid luachmhar d'oidhreacht an oileáin seo agus, níos tábhachtaí fós, mar theanga bheo i measc pobail ar fud na tíre agus sa Ghaeltacht ach go háirithe. Tá sé mar sprioc againn cur le húsáid na teanga gach aon lá.

Ar na geallúintí eile atá sa chlár Rialtais i dtaobh na Gaeilge, tá an méid seo a leanas: déanfar an Ghaeltacht, tobar na teanga, a chaomhnú agus a chosaint; cabhróimid leis an nGaeilge a chur chun cinn lasmuigh den Ghaeltacht agus i measc an aosa óig trí ardáin a fhorbairt dóibh ar TG4, Raidió na Gaeltachta, RTÉ agus Raidió Rí-Rá; cuirfimid an Ghaeilge chun cinn in áiteanna oibre agus sóisialta le cúnamh Chonradh na Gaeilge agus eagraíochtaí eile agus cuirfimid feachtas náisiúnta ar bun sna meáin mar chuid den obair seo; tacófar le TG4, Raidió na Gaeltachta agus ardáin eile le déanamh cinnte de go dtabharfar aitheantas cuí do ról na Gaeilge; agus déanfar an scéim "Teanga Tí", scéim de chuid Ghlór na nGael, a leathnú agus bhreathnófaí ar scéimeanna eile dá leithéid a thabhairt isteach. Tá sé i gceist againn freisin ionaid Ghaeilge a fhorbairt i mBaile Átha Cliath agus ar fud na tíre. Déanfar líon na ndaltaí a bhfuil oideachas lán-Ghaeilge á chur orthu a dhúbailt laistigh de dheich mbliana, cuirfear Gaelscoileanna agus Gaelcholáistí ar fáil san áit a bhfuil éileamh láidir ar a leithéid agus bunófar ciste barr feabhais don oideachas Gaeilge. Tabharfar isteach polasaí cuimsitheach don oideachas Gaeilge ón réamhscoil go dtí na coláistí oiliúna agus cuirfear tacaíocht bhreise ar fáil don Chomhairle um Oideachas Gaeltachta agus Gaelscolaíochta.

Maidir le hÚdarás na Gaeltachta, gheall muid go gcuirfeadh muid tacaíocht ar fáil do chruthú fostaíochta agus don phróiseas pleanála teanga trí dhóthain maoinithe a chur ar fáil don údarás. Tuigim go maith an tábhacht a bhaineann leis an obair atá ar bun ag an údarás ar son na Gaeltachta ar bhonn leanúnach. De bharr na hoibre seo, tá deiseanna fostaíochta agus fiontraíochta cothaithe agus cruthaithe i gceantair nach bhfaigheadh na deiseanna sin murach gur ann don eagraíocht. Cheana féin, tá ciste breise caipitil ar fiú €8 milliún é curtha ar fáil ag an Rialtas nua don údarás mar chuid de phacáiste spreagtha an Rialtais a fógraíodh i mí Iúil. Sílim go léiríonn sé seo cheana féin chomh tiomanta is atáimid do bhuiséid an údaráis a mhéadú agus gan an Rialtas nua seo ach cúpla mí ar an bhfód.

Tá muid tiomanta mar Rialtas do chur i bhfeidhm an Straitéis 20 Bliain don Ghaeilge 2010-2030. Tá an próiseas pleanála teanga ag teacht faoi bhláth sa Ghaeltacht anois agus tá plean gníomhaíochta cúig-bliana don Ghaeilge á chur i bhfeidhm faoi láthair. Amárach, tá súil againn an chéad tuarascáil bhliantúil ar an bplean gníomhaíochta a fhoilsiú, rud a thabharfaidh léargas ar dul chun cinn na straitéise. Feicfidh daoine an méid atá á dhéanamh faoi scáth na straitéise.

Tugann sé seo mé go dtí an Bille teanga. Tá áthas orm go bhfuil muid anseo ag plé an Bhille seo. Cé gur fáiltíodh roimh fhoilsiú an Bhille anuraidh, bhí roinnt mhaith ag maíomh gur theastaigh Bille níos láidre, an Coimisinéir Teanga agus Conradh na Gaeilge ina measc. D'aithin an Rialtas é seo agus gealladh sa chlár Rialtais go dtabharfaí Bille níos láidre chun cinn agus go mbeadh sé achtaithe roimh dheireadh na bliana. Tá tacaíocht an Rialtais faighte anois roinnt leasuithe a mholadh a láidreoidh an Bille agus beidh an tAire Stáit, an Teachta Chambers, in ann na leasuithe sin a chur i láthair níos déanaí.

Mar a dúirt mé cheana, is onóir mhór domsa a bheith ceaptha mar Aire a bhfuil freagracht as an nGaeltacht agam agus ba mhian liom ár dteanga dhúchais a chur chun cinn, a neartú agus a fhás ní hamháin sa Ghaeltacht, ach ar fud ár n-oileáin. Chun é seo a dhéanamh, ní mór tacaíocht oifigiúil an Stáit a bheith taobh thiar di. Tuigeann muid ar fad go bhfuil stádas ar leith ag an nGaeilge i mBunreacht na hÉireann mar chéad teanga oifigiúil an Stáit. Is tríd an reachtaíocht a thugtar feidhm don stádas sin agus sin é an fáth go bhfuil an Bille seo chomh tábhachtach sin. Creidim go mbeidh muid in ann, tríd an mBille seo, timpeallacht a chruthú inar féidir feabhas a chur ar sholáthar seirbhísí trí Ghaeilge, mar is cóir, agus freastal mar is ceart ar phobal Gaeilge na tíre seo. Mar sin, molaim an Bille seo don Teach.

Photo of Jack ChambersJack Chambers (Dublin West, Fianna Fail)
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Nuair a aontaíodh an clár Rialtais i mí an Mheithimh seo caite, tugadh gealltanais i leith na Gaeilge agus gealladh go sonrach go n-achtófar Bille na dTeangacha Oifigiúla (Leasú) 2019 roimh dheireadh na bliana seo. Mar Phríomh-Aoire an Rialtais agus Aire Stáit ar a bhfuil freagracht as an nGaeltacht, cuirim fáilte mhór roimh an deis seo labhairt sa Dáil agus an Bille a chur i láthair.

Thug mé cuairt ar Ghaeltacht agus cathair na Gaillimhe le déanaí. Le linn na cuairte sin, chas mé leis an gCoimisinéir Teanga agus phléigh muid an gá le seirbhísí poiblí i nGaeilge a chur ar fáil do phobal na Gaeilge agus na Gaeltachta. Le linn mo chuairte, chas mé le roinnt cumainn spóirt sa chathair féin agus ar imeall na cathrach, Cumann Peile Bhearna agus Cumann Lúthchleas Gael Bhaile Chláir san áireamh. Pléadh na hiarrachtaí atá ar bun sna cumainn sin chun an teanga a chur chun cinn mar chuid den phróiseas pleanála teanga. Chonaic mé an t-ionad Gaeilge nua atá á thógáil ag pobal teanga Chnoc na Cathrach le cúnamh d’os cionn €800,000 ó mo Roinn. Bhí mé an-tógtha leis an bhfuinneamh agus leis an ngrá a bhí ag na grúpaí seo don teanga.

Mar is eol don Teach, tá pobal mór Gaeilge ní amháin i nGaillimh ach ar fud na tíre, agus caithfimid, mar Rialtas, freastal ar riachtanais teanga an phobail sin. Tá súil agam go gcothóidh an Bille seo timpeallacht inar féidir leis an Stát feidhmiú mar chrann taca pobal Gaeilge na tíre seo.

Agus mé ag trácht ar Ghaillimh, ní mór dom mo bhuíochas a ghabháil leis an Seanadóir Kyne, iarAire Stáit ar a raibh freagracht as an nGaeltacht, a d’fhoilsigh an Bille seo anuraidh. Tá a fhios agam gur chuir an Seanadóir Kyne go leor oibre isteach sa Bhille seo agus ba mhaith liom aitheantas a thabhairt don obair sin. Sular dréachtaíodh an Bille seo, cuireadh tréimhse chomhairliúcháin ar bun leis na páirtithe leasmhara éagsúla.

Leagadh na ceannteidil faoi bhráid Chomhchoiste na Gaeilge, na Gaeltachta agus na nOileán agus foilsíodh tuarascáil an chomhchoiste ag eascairt as an bpróiseas seo roimh samhradh 2018. Ba mhór an chabair í tuarascáil an chomhchoiste d’oifigigh mo Roinne agus an Bille Teanga á dhréachtú acu agus gabhaim buíochas leis an gcomhchoiste as an ionchur luachmhar sin sa bpróiseas.

Mar luaigh mé, is i mí na Nollag seo caite a d’fhoilsigh an Rialtas Bille na dTeangacha Oifigiúla (Leasú) 2019. Bhí tús curtha leis an Dara Céim ag an am sin, agus thug iarAire Stáit na Gaeltachta, an Seanadóir Seán Kyne, léargas cuimsitheach ar na trí fhorálach déag atá le fáil sa Bhille don Teach ag an tráth sin. Tá iarracht déanta sa Bhille dul i ngleic le dhá mhórcheist – na scéimeanna teanga agus an earcaíocht sa tSeirbhís Phoiblí. Sílim go bhfuil sé tábhachtach agus muid ag cur tús leis an Dara Céim arís, go bhfillfeadh mé ar phríomhfhorálacha an Bhille agus iad a chur i láthair don Teach.

Tugtar téarmaíocht isteach sa Phríomh-Acht a tháinig chun cinn den chéad uair in Acht na Gaeltachta 2012 agus a úsáidtear go forleathan anois sa phróiseas pleanála teanga. San áireamh anseo tá na téarmaí seo: limistéar pleanála teanga Gaeltachta, baile seirbhíse Gaeltachta agus líonra Gaeilge. Tugtar cumhacht don Rialtas duine laistigh de chomhlacht poiblí a shainainmniú mar cheann comhlachta phoiblí chun críocha an Phríomh-Achta sa chás go mbeidh post cinn chomhlachta phoiblí folamh. Leis an bhforáil seo, déanfar cinnte de go leanfar leis na hoibleagáidí atá ar chomhlachtaí poiblí faoi réim an Phríomh-Achta a chomhlíonadh.

Is le cearta an duine an leagan Gaeilge dá ainm nó dá hainm a úsáid chomh maith le seoladh nó teideal Gaeilge a úsáid a bhaineann alt 4. Leis an alt seo, leasaítear alt 9 den Phríomh-Acht agus tugtar isteach dualgas ar chomhlachtaí poiblí forordaithe a éascú, go príomha trí choigeartú a dhéanamh ar a gcórais teicneolaíochta faisnéise, go ndéanfar ainm, seoladh nó teideal duine i nGaeilge a úsáid. Tá tábhacht ar leith ag baint leis an bhforáil seo i limistéir Ghaeltachta.

Foráiltear gur chóir foirmeacha oifigiúla a fhoilsiú i nGaeilge nó go dátheangach i nGaeilge agus i mBéarla, agus foráiltear freisin an modh ar ar chóir é sin a dhéanamh. Foráiltear gur chóir, i gcás go mbeidh lógó á athnuachan nó á athrú ag comhlacht poiblí láithreach, gur i nGaeilge nó sa dá theanga oifigiúla a bheidh an lógó nua. Déantar foráil leis freisin maidir le cothroime idir an dá theanga sna lógónna sin. Foráiltear gur i nGaeilge nó i nGaeilge agus i mBéarla araon a bheidh ainm comhlachta reachtúil nuabhunaithe. Foráiltear go mbunófar coiste reachtúil, An Coiste Comhairleach um Sheirbhísí Gaeilge, agus leagfar amach ann téarmaí maidir lena chomhaltas, lena fheidhmeanna agus lena nósanna imeachta tuairiscithe, lena n-áirítear plean náisiúnta a fhoilsiú ar mhaithe le soláthar seirbhísí poiblí trí mheán na Gaeilge a mhéadú.

Má tá an córas nua seo chun a bheith éifeachtach, beidh orainn feabhas a chur ar chúrsaí earcaíochta. Is é ceann de na príomhfhadhbanna a chuireann bac ar sheirbhísí a chur ar fáil trí Ghaeilge ná nach bhfuil na daoine leis na scileanna cuí fostaithe sna hoifigí cuí. Má tá muid chun feabhas a chur air seo, caithfidh an Stát líon na bhfostaithe Stáit atá in ann seirbhísí a chur ar fáil trí Ghaeilge a mhéadú agus a chinntiú go bhfuil Gaeilge ar a dtoil ag oifigigh Stáit atá ag feidhmiú i gceantair Ghaeltachta.

Beidh sé mar chuspóir sa Bhille go mbeidh 20% de na daoine nua a earcófar don tseirbhís phoiblí ina gcainteoirí Gaeilge, go mbeidh gach oifig phoiblí atá lonnaithe sa Ghaeltacht ag feidhmiú trí Ghaeilge agus go mbeidh na comhlachtaí in ann freastal ar an éileamh ón bpobal ar sheirbhísí trí Ghaeilge. Ar an mbealach seo tá sé i gceist againn tógáil, ar bhonn chéimiúil, ar líon na bhfostaithe le Gaeilge agus ag eascairt as sin, go mbeimid in ann feabhas a chur ar sholáthar seirbhísí trí Ghaeilge.

Baineann alt 7 den Bhille le córas caighdeán teanga – tá sé i gceist iad a thabhairt isteach in ionad chóras láithreach na scéimeanna teanga. Tá an córas sin cáinte ag an gCoimisinéir Teanga a léirigh na heasnaimh sa tuarascáil dá chuid Tráchtaireacht ar Chóras na Scéimeanna Teanga, a foilsíodh in 2017.

Faoin gcóras nua, bheadh rangú le déanamh ar chomhlachtaí poiblí, ag baint úsáide as rialacháin chun caighdeáin a leagan síos do na comhlachtaí sin. Ar an mbealach seo, beidh muid in ann a chinntiú go mbeidh na caighdeáin is airde ó thaobh úsáid na Gaeilge de bainteach leis na heagraíochtaí a bhíonn ag soláthar seirbhísí don phobal, pobal na Gaeilge agus na Gaeltachta san áireamh.

Ceadaítear sa Bhille an tagairt don Choimisiún Logainmneacha sa Phríomh-Acht a scriosadh. Is gá an leasú seo a dhéanamh i bhfianaise na breithe a thug an Rialtas deireadh a chur leis an gCoimisiún Logainmneacha sa bhliain 2012, mar chuid dá Phlean um Athchóiriú na Seirbhíse Poiblí. Cuireadh coiste saineolaithe, arna cheapadh ag an Aire ar bhonn riaracháin, in ionad an Choimisiúin Logainmneacha.

Déantar foráil sa Bhille maidir le próiseas comhchomhairliúcháin sula ndéanfaidh an tAire Ordú Logainmneacha nó sula leasaítear nó sula gcúlghairtear é. Déantar foráil maidir le fógra dátheangach a eisiúint nuair a dhéantar duine a thoghairm chun fónamh mar ghiúróir. Tá an fhoráil seo á lorg ag pobal labhartha na Gaeilge le fada.

Cé gur fáiltíodh é roimh fhoilsiú an Bhille anuraidh, bhí roinnt mhaith ag maíomh gur theastaigh Bille níos láidre, an Coimisinéir Teanga agus Conradh na Gaeilge ina measc. Tá sé seo aitheanta ag an Rialtas agus gealladh sa chlár Rialtais go dtabharfaí Bille níos láidre chun cinn agus go mbeadh sé achtaithe roimh dheireadh na bliana. Tá tacaíocht an Rialtais faighte agam féin agus ag an Aire Martin roinnt leasuithe a mholadh a láidríodh an Bille, agus tá súil agam iad sin a chur i bhur láthair níos déanaí sa phlé inniu.

Ag an bpointe seo, ba mhaith liom mo bhuíochas a chur in iúl don Teach as an tacaíocht leanúnach a thug sibh d’oifigigh mo Roinne le linn an phróisis seo. Tá an t-ádh dearg orainn go bhfuil dea-thoil i leith na Gaeilge le feiceáil sa phobal i gcoitinne. Is cuid riachtanach d’oidhreacht bheo an Stáit an Ghaeilge agus is acmhainn nádúrtha thábhachtach sa Ghaeltacht í. Teastaíonn reachtaíocht uainn a chabhraíonn linn an fhís atá léirithe sa Bhunreacht a bhaint amach agus a chuidíonn linn an Ghaeilge a chur chun chinn san aonú aois is fiche.

1:55 pm

Photo of Aengus Ó SnodaighAengus Ó Snodaigh (Dublin South Central, Sinn Fein)
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Gabhaim buíochas leis an gCathaoirleach Gníomhach agus leis an Aire as Bille na dTeangacha Oifigiúla (Leasú) 2019 a chur faoinár mbráid. Cuirim fáilte roimh an mBille agus roimh na leasuithe. Tá súil agam nach bhfuil mé róthapa nuair a deirim go gcuirfidh mé fáilte roimh na leasuithe eile a bheidh ag teacht ar Chéim an Choiste, chun a dhéanamh cinnte de nuair a bheimid críochnaithe leis an mBille seo go mbeidh an tAcht seo ar an Acht is foirfe is féidir linn a dhéanamh ag an am seo. Ar a lán bealaí is lá cinniúnach don Ghaeilge atá ann. Tá dhá shlí chun tabhairt faoi chearta a thabhairt do phobal na Gaeilge agus na Gaeltachta. Is é seo slí amháin chun déileáil le fadhbanna ó thaobh an mhaorlathais de. Tá súil agam nach bhfuilimid ag cothú nó ag cur leis an bureaucracy a bhíonn timpeall ar rudaí mar seo agus an fad a bhí ann le cearta a bhronnadh nó a thabhairt do lucht na Gaeilge, mar tá siad acu cheana féin, ach ní raibh siad in ann na cearta sin a fhail dóibh féin.

Ba chóir, ar shlí amháin, Operation Fanacht a thabhairt ar an mBille seo mar táimid tar éis a bheith ag fanacht le tamall fada de bhlianta air seo. Measaim gurbh é an t-iarAire agus t-iarTheachta Dinny McGinley in 2011 a lorg go mbeadh leasú iomlán déanta ar Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla a tháinig isteach in 2004. Is cuimhin liomsa gurbh é ceann de na chéad rudaí a bhí orm tabhairt faoi mar Theachta nua in 2002 ná an Bille sin agus cé chomh casta is a bhí sé ag an am sin.

Bhí córas nua á mholadh san Acht a bhí ann ag an am sin agus bhí the devil and all chun tarlú de thairbhe an Achta sin. Táimid fós ag an staid ina rabhamar ar mhórán bealaí nó imithe siar ó staid a bhíomar chomh fada siar le 2002. Is trua sin mar níor tharla an t-athrú poirt a bhíomar ag súil leis ag an am. Bhí muinín curtha againn sa státchóras, muinín nach raibh tuillte aige ag an am agus nach bhfuil tuillte fós ina iomlán. Tá súil agam go bhfuilim mícheart agus go bhfuil athrú poirt tagtha orthu siúd atá i gceannas na Ranna Stáit ar fad atá tar éis loiceadh ar an nGaeilge agus ar chearta Gaeilgeoirí sa tír seo. Tá deireadh le ré an fhrustrachais atá orainn agus orthu siúd a bhfuil cónaí orthu sa Ghaeltacht, frustrachas atá an-soiléir agus ní liomsa amháin an tuairim sin má léann duine an tuarascáil chuile bhliain ón gCoimisinéir Teanga. Is léir go bhfuil fadhbanna bunúsacha ann nach féidir leis an mBille seo tabhairt fúthu.

I ndeireadh thiar thall níl ann ach Bille. Mura dtarlaíonn athrú meoin ag na céimeanna is airde agus ag gach uile chéim den státchóras, beimid ar ais anseo i gceann 20 bliain agus beidh an fhadhb ó thaobh na teanga de níos measa má táimid ag brath go huile is go hiomlán ar an státchóras. Is é sin an fáth go bhfuil moladh agus ár mbuíochas á ngabháil do na heagrais phobail tríd síos na tíre atá ag cuidiú linn an Ghaeilge a tharrtháil agus an Ghaeltacht a chosaint. Seachas iadsan bheimis i sáinn agus bheadh géarchéim i bhfad níos measa againn.

Táim sásta go bhfuilim anseo agus ag déanamh plé ar cheisteanna Gaeilge agus go bhfuilimid ag díriú isteach ar roinnt de na fadhbanna a bhí aitheanta thar na mblianta. Táim sásta freisin, cosúil lena lán daoine, muinín nó ar a laghad tacú leis an athrú atá ag tarlú agus go bhfuilimid ag bogadh ó na scéimeanna teanga agus go bhfuil coiste comhairliúcháin á bhunú agus breis cumhachtaí le bheith bronnta ar an gCoimisinéir Teanga. Tacaím leis sin. Ní féidir gan tacú leis sin ach tá súil agam nach mbeimid ag cur moill ar an infheistiú ceart ó thaobh foirne de agus ar an tacaíocht leo siúd atá laistigh den státchóras a bhfuil Gaeilge acu agus a bhí i gcónaí sásta an Ghaeilge a chur chun cinn.

Tabharfaidh mé sampla go gasta don Teach ar fhadhbanna, ceann amháin le déanaí, nár chóir go dtarlódh sé, agus níl mé ag caitheamh anuas ar an duine a dhein an fhadhb. Chuir mé ceisteanna isteach ag an Aire, an Teachta Eamon Ryan, ag an am agus tháinig na freagraí ar ais i mBéarla agus níor chóir go dtarlódh sé sin. Bhí mé sásta glacadh leis sin agus ghabh an duine a bhí i gceannas leithscéal. Bhí gearán curtha isteach ag an gCeann Comhairle agus fuair mé freagra ar ais ar an ngearán sin ón Roinn i mBéarla. Ní thuigeann an Roinn. Is é ceann de na fadhbanna bunúsacha ná nach dtuigeann daoine go díreach conas mar a ritheann sin liomsa nó leis an ngnáthphobal.

Táimse anseo ó 2002. Measaim go raibh dhá phíosa reachtaíochta a foilsíodh i nGaeilge a raibh mé in ann seasamh suas, labhairt as Gaeilge agus go raibh nóta nó meamram míniúcháin i nGaeilge leis an bhfoclaíocht. Ní bhíonn sé ann de ghnáth. Tá sé sa Bhille seo mar go bhfuil an Bille seo foilsithe go dátheangach agus cruthaíonn sé sin gur féidir é a dhéanamh. Go minic níl an státchóras atá istigh anseo sásta dul sa treo sin. I dtíortha eile foilsítear agus déileáiltear leis an reachtaíocht go dátheangach. Ní tharlaíonn sé sin anseo. Aistrítear iad anseo nuair a bhíonn siad críochnaithe. Tá an job done, hard luck. Táimid críochnaithe leis.

Chomh maith leis sin tugadh gealladh domsa, measaim ón iarAire, an t-iarTheachta Joan Burton, ag an am in 2011, go mbeadh na meamraim míniúcháin aistrithe agus ar fáil do gach duine, ní domsa amháin, mar tá Gaeilge líofa agam, ach tá daoine eile agus tá sé beagáinín níos deacra orthu na pointí atá á ndéanamh acu ar ábhair theicniúla a chur in iúl i nGaeilge mar níl an líofacht chéanna, an fhoclaíocht nó an stór focal acu. Bheadh sé i bhfad Éireann níos éasca dá mbeadh na meamraim míniúcháin curtha amach. Ní gá é a aistriú nó fiú a bheith foilsithe ar an lá ceannann céanna. Is é an t-aon rud is féidir a tharlú agus bheadh sé áisiúil nuair a bheadh dlús curtha timpeall deich focal nó mar sin ann agus go mbeadh sé sin úsáideach. Is rudaí simplí iad seo a chuideodh leis an mBille seo a thabharfadh deis dúinn déileáil le reachtaíocht as Gaeilge.

Tá samplaí eile ann, agus mar a dúirt mé níl mé ag caitheamh anuas ar dhaoine. Níl anseo ach samplai. Tabharfaidh mé na ceannlínte don Teach agus roghnóidh mé roinnt díobh anseo: "Ardú 27% ar líon na ndíolúintí ón Gaeilge a bronnadh ar dhaltaí sa séú bliain", "Riachtanas Gaeilge ‘conspóideach agus ina údar aighnis’ a deir NUI", "Teip na Roinne Oideachais maidir le Gaeilge ar shuíomh Ardteiste á scrúdú – i mBéarla amháin gur féidir le daltaí Ardteiste clárú dá scrúduithe ar shuíomh na Roinne Oideachais." Níor tháinig leagan Gaeilge den suíomh sin ach tamaillín ina dhiaidh sin, is é sin an suíomh Ranna. Tá roinnt de shuíomhanna tubaisteach fós ó thaobh na Gaeilge de. Níor tháinig leagan Gaeilge den aip Covid-19 ach i ndiaidh an leagain Béarla. Tá rudaí mar sin ag tarlú. Níl an tús áite ag an nGaeilge. Mura bhfuil an leagan Gaeilge ar fáil níor cheart an leagan Béarla a fhoilsiú go dtí go bhfuil an leagan Gaeilge ar fáil. Níor chóir go mbeadh aon suíomh Stáit ag dul beo, mar a deir siad, sa lá atá inniu ann go dtí go mbeidh an leagan Gaeilge ann ag an am céanna. Is rudaí simplí iad sin.

Tá sé i gceist ag an mBille seo go mbeadh an Stát ag tabhairt seirbhísí as Gaeilge do lucht na Gaeltachta. Treisím leis sin. Tá sé sin á lorg againn sin le blianta. Is í an fhadhb atá ann ná nach bhfuil an oiread sin oifigeach Stáit ann anois mar tá mórán acu ar líne anois. Má tá duine ag tabhairt seirbhísí Gaeilge do lucht na Gaeltachta, beidh ar na daoine a mbíonn ag lorg an seirbhísí sin a bheith ar líne freisin. Má tá siad ar líne beidh siad ag gach duine. Níor chóir go mbeimid ag díriú isteach go díreach ar shuíomhanna fisiciúla sa Ghaeltacht ina bhfuil duine ina sheasamh ag deasc agus ag tabhairt seirbhíse. Nuair a líonann duine foirm anois is ar líne den chuid is mó atá neart daoine á dhéanamh sin. Má ghlaonn duine ar an Roinn Gnóthaí Fostaíochta agus Coimirce Sóisialaí gheofar duine ar an bhfón agus d'fhéadfadh an duine sin a bheith in Timbuktu agus beidh an tseirbhís ar fáil dó nó di agus an duine in ann cnaipe a bhrú. Tá sé i bhfad Éireann níos éasca dúinn mar Stát é sin a dhéanamh ná mar a bhí sé 20 nó 30 bliain ó shin nuair a bhí ar an duine a bheith ann go fisiciúil. Níor chóir go mbeadh sé deacair ar an Stát athrú a dhéanamh.

É sin ráite, tá fadhb bhunúsach aitheanta faoi láthair leis an gcóras ceapacháin, mar shampla, agus is é sin an fáth go bhfuilimid ag caint faoi earcú 20% de na daoine nua a bheidh sa Státseirbhís faoi 2030 a bheith líofa sa Ghaeilge. Faoi láthair déantar painéal a chumadh d’oifigigh feidhmiúcháin Gaeilge. Rinneadh ceann le déanaí agus leanfaidh sé go ceann 18 mí. Tá sé sin go maith ach luíonn sé le réasún go roghnófar duine ón bpainéal do gach cúigear folúntas atá ann agus is é an pointe sin atá i gceist againn. Níl sé chomh simplí sin mar go bhfuil sé ar bhonn iarratais ó Roinn éigin a roghnaítear duine ón bpainéal sin. Má tá dhá fholúntas ag Roinn, ní bheidh an chuid is mó de na Ranna ag lorg duine le Gaeilge, níl siad ach ag lorg duine agus tá an chuid díobh ar phainéal eile. Tá fadhbanna bunúsacha ann agus beidh ar an gcoiste comhairliúcháin, ar an Aire agus ar an tSeirbhís un Cheapacháin Phoiblí déileáil leis na rudaí sin. Tuigim go bhfuil am ag teastáil chun an córas a athrú go hinmheánach agus gur fadhbanna bunúsacha iad.

Ó thaobh an spriocdháta de, cad a tharlaíonn tar éis 2030?

Ceapann daoine go mbeidh 20% den Státseirbhís in ann Gaeilge a labhairt nó go mbeidh siad líofa sa Ghaeilge faoi 2030. Ní hé sin atá ann. Níl ann ach go mbeidh 20% dóibh siúd a bheidh earcaithe as sin amach in ann Gaeilge a labhairt. I gceann 30 nó 40 bliain, beidh 20% den Státseirbhís in ann Gaeilge líofa a labhairt. Sin atá ann mar go minic bíonn daoine ann fad saoil.

Cad faoi 2035, 2040 nó 2050? Nach féidir linn sprioc eile a leagan amach go mbeidh 30% nó 40% ann agus sa deireadh go mbeidh 50% dóibh siúd atá sa Státseirbhís líofa sa Ghaeilge, seachas a bheith ag caint fúthu siúd a bheidh earcaithe? Sin athrú eile agus tá súil agam go mbeidh muid ag plé sin ó thaobh na leasuithe ar Chéim an Choiste.

Tagraím don choiste comhairleach. Tá sé seo spéisiúil agus níl a fhios agam cén fáth go bhfuil sé curtha sa slí atá sé. Tá a lán leasuithe le dul air sin. Níl ach duine amháin ón nGaeltacht ann agus níl na heagrais Gaeilge nó fiú na heagrais Stáit Gaeilge luaite le bheith ar an gcoiste gcomhairleach sin. Ba chóir dúinn roinnt acu a lua go sonrach agus b'fhéidir cathaoirleach neamhspleách ón Státchóras a cheapadh ar nós an Coimisinéir Teanga nó duine cosúil leis an bpríomhfheidhmeannach i bhFhoras na Gaeilge. Níl mé ag roghnú duine amháin nó duine eile ach tá mé ag rá go mba fiú dúinn féachaint ar conas gur féidir linn déanamh cinnte de go bhfuil téagar sa choiste comhairleach sin.

Tá rudaí eile ann nach bhfuil muid ag tabhairt fúthu i gceart sa Bhille seo, ceisteanna pleanála san áireamh. B'fhéidir nach é seo an áit cheart na ceisteanna seo a phlé ach má táimid ag déileáil leis seo, caithfear dualgais sa bhreis a bheith ar an Státchóras i gcoitinne maidir le déanamh cinnte de go mbeidh na caighdeáin phleanála teanga i gceart ansin.

Mar a dúirt mé, tacaím leis seo agus déanfaidh mé iarracht ar Chéim an Choiste leasuithe a chur síos a dhéanfaidh an Bille seo níos láidre. Ní haon caitheamh anuas ar dhaoine é sin. Seo atá ann ach táimid ag iarraidh go mbeidh sé i bhfad Éireann níos fearr agus go mbeidh muid in ann brath air chun cuidiú leis an obair chun an Ghaeilge a tharrtháil agus chun cur leis an nGaeltacht, seachas í a bheith ag meath an t-am ar fad.

2:15 pm

Mairead Farrell (Galway West, Sinn Fein)
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Ba mhaith liom comhghairdeas a dhéanamh leis an Aire agus leis an Aire Stáit as ucht a bpoist nua. Is maith an rud é go bhfuil muid anseo inniu chun Bille nua ar Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla a phlé. Tá 17 bliana caite ó tugadh an tAcht féin isteach agus gealladh an Bille leasaithe seo sé bliana ó shin, nach mór. Ar a laghad, tá sé de sheans againn anois an Bille a scrúdú mar is cuí.

Ba léir nach raibh an Bille teanga a cuireadh os comhair Teachtaí i ndeireadh na bliana seo caite feiliúnach. Ar chuid de na laigí a tugadh aird orthu ag an am, bhí easpa spriocdháta don chuspóir go mbeadh líofacht sa Ghaeilge ag 20% d'oibrithe nua sa tseirbhís phoiblí; ní raibh spriocdháta ar bith maidir le seirbhísí poiblí i nGaeilge a chinntiú do mhuintir na Gaeltachta; ní raibh ionadaíocht ar bith ag saineolaithe ná ag pobal na Gaeilge ar an gcoiste comhairleach a bhí molta; agus gan dréachtchaighdeáin a bheith ar fáil mar eiseamláir do chóras na gcaighdeán teanga a thiocfadh isteach in áit na scéimeanna teanga.

Níl aon amhras ach gur chúis áthais a bhí ann domsa nuair a gealladh i gclár an Rialtais seo go ndéanfaí láidriú ar a raibh molta sa Bhille deireanach. Ar an ábhar sin, cuirim fáilte chroíúil roimh an leasú chun cumhachtaí breise a thabhairt don Choimisinéir Teanga sa chaoi is gur féidir leis faireachán a dhéanamh ar aon Acht a bhfuil baint aige le húsáid na Gaeilge nó lena stádas mar theanga oifigiúil. Tá sé ríthábhachtach go mbeadh sé de chead ag an gcoimisinéir tráchtaireacht a dhéanamh ar dlíthe eile, seachas Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla amháin. Easpa mhór sa Bhille a bhí ann ná nach raibh cead ag an gcoimisinéir ach iniúchadh a dhéanamh ar sheachaint dualgais nuair a ndéantar gearán agus táim an-sásta go bhfuil sé sin curtha ina cheart ag an Rialtas. Ina theannta sin, is céim eile chun cinn é go gcuirfidh na leasuithe spriocdháta den 31 Nollaig 2030 leis an gcuspóir sa Bhille go mbeadh 20% d'oibrithe nua sa tseirbhís phoiblí ina gcainteoirí Gaeilge. Is cur chuige tomhaiste ciallmhar é seo ach tá fadhbanna ann, mar a luaigh mo chomhghleacaí, an Teachta Ó Snodaigh.

Ní thuigim beag ná mór tuige a bhfuiltear ag moladh go mbeadh sé de chumhacht ag an Aire ordú a dhéanamh in 2028 go gcuirfí siar an spriocdháta sin. Mugadh magadh atá ann spriocdháta a leagan amach agus ag an am céanna a rá gur féidir é a shíneadh amach mura n-éireoidh leis. Ní luíonn sé le réasún agus creidim go láidir gur cheart an leasú sin a bhaint ón mBille. Ba chóir freisin go mbeadh sé ina dhualgas reachtúil ag duine nó dream ar leith maidir leis an bplean náisiúnta earcaíochta a chur i bhfeidhm.

Údar mór díomá eile atá sa Bhille seo ná nach bhfuil foráil láidir ann a leagfadh dualgas reachtúil ar chomhlachtaí poiblí freastal ar mhuintir na Gaeltachta ina dteanga dhúchais. Is minic atá sé ráite ach is tobar luachmhar teangeolaíoch iad na ceantair Ghaeltachta is láidre sa tír agus tá brú aisteach ar na pobail seo ar go leor bealaí. Níl na jabanna le fáil agus níl an infreastruchtúr gréasáin sásúil ar chor ar bith idir leathanbhanda, bóithre agus cuanta. Cuireann sé seo ar fad iallach ar mhuintir na Gaeltachta an baile a fhágáil ar thóir oibre agus is iondúil gur i mBéarla a bhíonn an obair sin ar fáil. Ar a dhroim sin, nuair a bhíonn muintir na Gaeltachta ag plé le seirbhísí an Stáit, bíonn orthu iompú ar an mBéarla go rímhinic chun a gcuid gnó a dhéanamh. Is í an teachtaireacht atá ann don chainteoir dúchais Ghaeilge, mar sin, go bhfuil sé go breá acu labhairt go príobháideach lena muintir nó le cairde i nGaeilge ach sa saol poiblí is é Béarla an teanga atá ann agus a bhéas in uachtar.

Mar atá ráite ag an sochtheangeolaí aitheanta, an Dr John Walsh, ní bheidh mórán údaráis i ndáiríre ag reachtaíocht teanga nach dtugann aghaidh ar na háiteanna ina bhfuil an Ghaeilge fós á labhairt mar theanga an phobail. Ba cheart go mbeadh an Stát ina eiseamláir maidir le soláthair seirbhísí Gaeilge ach ina ionad sin tá Bille os ár gcomhair nach ndéanann caint ar bith faoin éileamh bunúsach seo a chur ar fáil i nGaeilge agus gan cheist an chuirfeadh an Stát a chuid seirbhísí ar fáil sa Ghaeltacht ná tada ach an oiread faoin gceart níos bunúsaí fós a bheith ag duine ainm agus seoladh i nGaeilge a úsáid i gcúrsaí oifigiúla.

Tagraím don Choiste Comhairleach agus ba cheart go mbeadh ionchur ag sciar níos leithne de phobal na Gaeilge air sin, go háirithe saineolaithe teanga agus daoine ón bpobal a thuigeann go rímhaith cén tionchar a bhéas ag an reachtaíocht ar an bpobal. Tá sé ráite ag Conradh na Gaeilge gur cheart tuilleadh cumhachtaí a thabhairt don Choimisinéir Teanga chun go mbeadh cead aige Billí nua agus polasaithe Rialtais a scrúdú, faoi mar a dhéantar sa Bhreatain Bheag. Tagaim 100% leis an moladh seo. Is deis atá sa Bhille seo céimeanna móra chun cinn a ghlacadh maidir le seirbhísí Gaeilge a chur ar fáil don phobal agus chun cur le cumas an Stáit freastal mar is cóir ar mhuintir na Gaeltachta.

Cé go gcuirim fáilte roimh chuid de na leasuithe atá molta ag an Rialtas, is léir gur Bille easnamhach atá ann go fóill agus go bhfuil easpa físe ag baint leis. Is é an cheist a bheadh agamsa don Rialtas ná cén toradh atá sé ag iarraidh ón mBille seo? Is éard a bheadh mise ag iarraidh uaidh ná go ndéanfaí éascaíocht do mhuintir na Gaeilge agus na Gaeltachta saol trí Ghaeilge a bheith acu sa tír seo. Más é sin a theastaíonn ón Aire, ón Aire Stáit agus ón Rialtas, chaithfí go dtuigeann siad gur chúis imní í an treocht reatha i leith úsáid na Gaeilge sna pobail Ghaeltachta ina bhfuil sí fós beo mar theanga phobail. Ní bheifear in ann an méid seo a iompú ar ais de cheal polasaithe láidir a dhéanfaidh an Ghaeilge a shní isteach i chuile chuid den saol. Sin é an dúshlán atá romhainn agus is ar an mbonn sin a impím ar an Aire agus ar an Aire Stáit breathnú an athuair ar an reachtaíocht seo, na leasuithe cuí a choinneáil agus a láidriú agus ansin na leasuithe gan chiall atá luaite agam a fhágáil amach ar fad sula dtabharfaí an Bille isteach.

Duncan Smith (Dublin Fingal, Labour)
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The Labour Party welcomes this Bill. It has been ten months since it was published and it has been a very peculiar legislative period. The Minister has brought this forward as soon as feasibly possible and this is appreciated. The Labour Party will look to bring some amendments to the Bill to strengthen it, but overall it is a move in the right direction and we broadly support it.

I will, however, flag some of the issues here that we will be raising. An Post should not be able to avoid obligations of section 9 of the current Act with regard to marketing materials made available to the public because their duties under the Official Languages Act 2003 were not made sufficiently clear. If a public body or a Government Department contacts the public in any way that contact should be made bilingually or in Irish only, and current exceptions should not be allowed. There should be a requirement for a specific level of advertising to be included in the Bill. It has been made abundantly clear that during the Covid crisis there was very little, almost zero, Irish or bilingual advertising from the HSE and the Government. I spent a few days in the Gaeltacht during the summer and the vast majority of HSE signs were in English. It was very visible.

Warnings on alcoholic drinks should be bilingual as well, as they are in other bilingual countries. That could be included in this Bill.

There is a broader issue involved with the promotion of the Irish language, which this Bill falls under. I will use this opportunity to speak about what the Minister of State and the Government can do before next week's budget, and then beyond, to promote the Irish language, in particular to young people. I am sure the Minister of State is familiar with Raidió Rí-Rá, which is an Irish-language music station aimed at 12 to 30-year olds. It broadcasts online and via its app and has studios in Dublin, Cork and Galway. It is seeking an FM licence. There is no concern regarding the frequency; it just wants the opportunity to be able to broadcast to the 32 counties. Raidió Rí-Rá is a unique offering. It is a vibrant radio station operated by young people for young people. It plays exactly the same music and content as any radio station broadcasting in English, whether that is FM104, Spin 103 in Dublin, or stations anywhere else around the country. The one defining and distinct selling point of Raidió Rí-Rá, however, is that it broadcasts in Irish. The costs associated with the request are not insignificant but, that said, they are not too high. I am sure a briefing has been sent to the Minister of State's office on this issue. This could have benefits for the language, and particularly for promoting it to young people. Those benefits would be manifest compared with the money required to support it.

I am someone who is constantly trying to relearn Irish. At the moment, I have CDs in my car, which I bought about six months ago to try to bone up on my Irish. It is not working for me, but I am trying all the time. A station like Raidió Rí-Rá would benefit people like me, who went through our education system for 14 years and still does not have the confidence or competence to speak as Gaeilge in our national Parliament. We need to look at other ways of promoting the language outside the education system.

We look forward to engaging with the Minister and Minister of State on this Bill as it goes through Committee Stage and into the Seanad. We welcome this debate and thank the Minister and Minister of State.

2:25 pm

Cathal Crowe (Clare, Fianna Fail)
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D'oscail Coláiste Eoghain Uí Chomhraídhe i gCarraig an Chabhaltaigh i gContae an Chláir mar choláiste samhraidh don Ghaeilge sa bhliain 1908, ach bhí ar lucht bainistíochta an choláiste é a dhúnadh dhá bhliain ó shin mar thoradh ar easpa maoinithe. I mí an Mhárta na bliana seo, rinne bord bainistíochta an choláiste iarracht airgead a fháil ón gciste um athghiniúint agus forbairt tuaithe, ach theip orthu. Déanfaidh baill an bhoird iarracht nua an mhí seo chugainn agus tá súil agam go ndéanfaidh an tAire a dícheall chun an tacaíocht fíorthábhachtach seo a thabhairt dóibh. Tá sé mar phlean acu, agus iad ag dul ar aghaidh, an coláiste a úsáid le haghaidh ranganna Gaeilge mar is gnách i rith an tsamhraidh agus mar shuíomh fiontraíochta agus turasóireachta i rith na míonna eile. Níor dhún Coláiste Eoghain Uí Chomhraídhe ach uair amháin thar na blianta, agus b'shin nuair a dhóigh na Dúchrónaigh an foirgneamh. Tá súil agam go láidir go gcabhróidh an tAire leis an gcoláiste seo.

I speak about Coláiste Eoghain Uí Chomhraídhe in Carrigaholt in County Clare. It was founded as an Irish college by Conradh na Gaeilge way back in 1908, and during its many years of existence it only had to close once. That was in 1920, when the building was partially burnt by the Black and Tans. To the immense dismay of local people in west Clare and the Irish language movement across the county, Coláiste Eoghain Uí Chomhraídhe had to close its doors once again in 2018. This time, it closed due to a lack of funding, which has been the enemy of so many organisations.

In March this year, Coláiste Eoghain Uí Chomhraídhe applied for rural regeneration and redevelopment funding, but its application was unsuccessful. It is planned to make a second application for funding next month and I hope the Minister of State with responsibility for the Gaeltacht will make the effort possible to support that case. The plan for the future of the coláiste is a realistic and sensible one. Management envisages the coláiste operating as an Irish college, as normal, in June, July and August. For the remainder of the year, it would operate as a centre in west Clare to be used interchangeably for enterprise and tourism activities. It even has the potential to be a three-star hostel providing accommodation in the extremities of west Clare.

There are, therefore, many new uses for the coláiste beyond what was initially conceived in 1908. Funding for the Irish college in Carrigaholt is not just about protecting our native language. It is also about jobs and the rural economy in west Clare. I ask that the Minister of State do his very best for Coláiste Eoghain Uí Chomhraídhe.

Pa Daly (Kerry, Sinn Fein)
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Déanaim comhghairdeas leis an Aire. Tá a fhios agam go dtagann sí as Carraig Mhachaire Rois i gContae Mhuineacháin. Dúirt mo sheanmháthair liom go raibh Gaeltacht nó breac-Ghaeltacht i nDomhnach Maighean sa chontae sin nuair a bhí sí ina cailín óg. Tá súil agam go bhfuil cúis na teanga go smior i ndearcadh an Aire.

Do bhuaileas an tseachtain seo caite le Breanndán Ó Beaglaoich ó Bhaile na bPoc i gCorca Dhuibhne agus bhíomar ag plé cúrsaí teanga. Aontaím leis gur chóir go mbeadh pobal na Gaeltachta in ann cónaí lena gcomharsain sa Ghaeltacht. Tá polasaithe an Stáit dírithe ar dhaoine a bhrú isteach sna cathracha, nó sna bailte is cóngaraí dóibh ar nós An Daingean, cé go dtéann sé seo glan in aghaidh traidisiún agus meon pobal na tuaithe. Má táthar chun pobal sláintiúil a choimeád faoin tuath, caithfear tacaíocht a thabhairt dóibh agus is é an ceart is bunúsaí ar fad ná an ceart atá ag gach duine maireachtaint ina cheantar dúchais. Mar atá ráite ag Breanndán Ó Beaglaoich, muna gcuirtear ina cheart an córas atá ann faoi láthair, beidh ár mhuintir a chuaigh romhainn, a d'fhág ár mbailte beaga againn mar oidhreacht, maslaithe againn agus ní mhaithfidh na glúnta atá le teacht é go deo. Ba chóir aitheantas faoi leith a thabhairt don gcainteoir dúchais atá ag iarraidh maireachtaint ina cheantar féin. Ba chóir go mbeadh Gaelainn líofa ag na pleanálaithe a bhíonn ag plé le muintir na Gaeltachta.

Is sórt saoránach den dara grád é an teanga. Nuair a bhím ag tiomáint ar ais go dtí Contae Chiarraí, feicim an leagan Gaeilge scríofa níos lú ar comharthaí bóithre, cleachtas a bhriseann na rialacha a deir gur chóir an leagan Gaeilge a úsáid nuair atá na logainmneacha cosúil lena chéile i mBéarla agus i nGaeilge, áiteanna cosúil le Úlla i gContae Luimnigh, Muine Gall i gContae Uíbh Fhailí agus Mín Liatroma i gContae Chiarraí. Go dtí seo, ní rabhthas in ann m'ainm Gaeilge a úsáid agus mé ag déileáil le seirbhísí pobail. Fós níl daoine ábalta síneadh fada a úsáid agus iad ag déanamh áirithintí le Aer Lingus.

Is é seo an Bille is tábhachtaí don Ghaeilge le blianta. Aontaím le sprioc an Bhille maidir le postanna sa tseirbhís poiblí. B'fhéidir go gcabhróidh sé le fostaíocht a chruthú. Aontaím freisin leis na moltaí atá curtha chun cinn ag Conradh na Gaeilge, an Coimisinéir Teanga agus pobal na Gaeilge i gcoitinne. Ba cheart don Rialtas dréachtchaighdeáin teanga a fhoilsiú sula dtagann an reachtaíocht seo ar ais os comhair na Dála, agus na leasuithe atá i gceist acu a dhéanamh ar an mBille a chur in iúl dúinn. Gan na gníomhacha seo ó thaobh an Rialtais, beidh sé deacair tacú leis an mBille ar an Dara Céim. Má dhéanann an Rialtas na rudaí seo roimh ré, b'fhéidir go mbeimid in ann tacaíocht a thabhairt don reachtaíocht ar an Dara Céim sa tsúil go ndéanfar na leasuithe cuí ar Chéim an Choiste.

Photo of Gary GannonGary Gannon (Dublin Central, Social Democrats)
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I begin by apologising for not making my contribution in the language that we are gathered here to protect. It is an issue of which I am conscious, and I have committed to improving my Irish language ability. It will be a great honour to be able to stand up in this House and address Ministers with more confidence. I will be doing that in the weeks and months ahead.

I am going to speak about the Bill and comment on some potential issues, topics and concerns that have been raised by members of the Irish language community, with whom I have engaged, and the Social Democrats' WhatsApp group as Gaeilge, which has welcomed me into its forum in recent days. I also hope to raise various issues when we discuss amendments on Committee Stage.

It is great that 2030 has been set as the target date for increasing to 20% the proportion of recruits who are competent in Irish. The provision for a review in 2028 and the power being given to the Minister to extend the deadline beyond 2030 will have to be examined and it is likely these provisions will need to be amended.

3 o’clock

The Minister with direct responsibility should not be able to give him or herself an extension. It should absolutely be the Dáil or an independent person or body that takes the decision.

As with the Welsh Language Commissioner and the Ombudsman for Children in Ireland, the Coimisinéir Teanga should examine all proposed legislation relating to the Irish language and any public strategy relating to the promotion of the official language, that is, the 20-year strategy for the Irish language. Further duties for the Coimisinéir Teanga need to be included in the Bill such as, for example, giving the Coimisinéir Teanga a role in examining Government Bills and policies and in making observations regarding the Irish language and Gaeltacht matters, which may head off any problems arising after the enactment of legislation or Government policy. This proposed role for the Coimisinéir Teanga reflects a similar duty to that of the Welsh Language Commissioner in Wales.

All functions delegated by public bodies in contracts to other bodies should automatically come within the ambit of the legislation, including the Dublinbikes scheme, the Go-Ahead bus services etc. The comparison that was made to me when I spoke to the Irish language community was with Irish Water. I do not know anybody who refers to it as Uisce Éireann. The idea of having a sole body's name be in the Irish language is important. Bodies such as An Post should not be able to avoid the obligations of section 9 of the current Act regarding marketing materials made available to the public because their duties under the Official Languages Act 2003 were not sufficiently clear. If a public body or Department contacts the public in any way, that contact should be made bilingually or in Irish only and current exceptions should not be allowed.

A requirement for a specific level of advertising should be included in the Bill. Deputy Duncan Smith has already raised the issue of the Covid restrictions, guidelines and warnings only appearing in the English language. It is a particular source of annoyance to the Irish language community and is something that we need to address, possibly as a matter of urgency as the pandemic continues. Anyone working in the Civil Service should have the same right to do their business with the State through Irish. For example, the promotions process, the staff assessment process, internal correspondence for staff and so on should be made available in Irish for the Civil Service. Employees should not be prohibited from using Irish in the workplace for no good reason. This is an example of effective language planning in the wrong direction which needs to be banned if we are to increase the use of Irish in society. Some issues have been raised with me about people in the hospitality industry who were reprimanded for use of the Irish language when engaging with customers, back when we had a hospitality industry. That needs to be protected and enhanced, and anybody who engages with the language in their place of work should be protected.

The commissioner and the public should be given a role relating to the enactment of the legislation, in line with the injunction mechanism under the planning Acts, given the strong public dimension relating to language legislation. In the event that a public body refuses to comply with any provision of this Bill in accordance with any provision or regulations made pursuant to this Bill, the High Court may, at the request of the commissioner or any other person, whether or not that person has a particular interest in such default or refusal, require any public body, by order, to do anything in accordance with any provision of this legislation or in accordance with any provision in regulations made pursuant to the legislation, which is not, in the opinion of the court, necessary and specified in the order.

As was already raised, the warning on alcoholic drinks should be given bilingually, as it is in other bilingual countries. When this issue was raised in the past, it was noted that this may be in contravention to a European directive. This would not actually be the case. If one looks at cigarette packaging where the warnings are bilingual, those act as a template of how we could move this forward.

As it is ensured that women and men are well-represented on State boards, there should certainly also be representation for Irish speakers on such boards.

Irish should have equal status with English on Ireland's road signs. This is done in Wales, Scotland and in other countries with more than one official language. The current Tánaiste, when he was Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, supported the recommendation. No one is talking about changing the signs overnight, only as they need to be renewed or as new ones need to be supplied. It should be taken into account that research conducted by Conradh na Gaeilge, with a report prepared by the expert, Garrett Reil, shows that the current road signage system is defective and dangerous, especially as drivers get older. This presents an opportunity to change it and make it bilingual.

Section 18B, which is inserted to the principal Act by section 6, on the Irish language services advisory committee, advises that only member is to be nominated by the Minister as a representative of a Gaeltacht area, yet the rest will represent Departments. In my opinion and the opinion of those with whom I have engaged in this regard, this proposal acts as tokenism, even by typical Irish language community expectations, and to have it at the bottom of the list shows the communities that this consideration and planning is as if it is a task that needs to be done for its own sake and not for the benefit of any community or people. Instead, there should be clear representation from at least three of the main Gaeltacht areas, including Donegal, Galway and Kerry, for example, and at least one of the four urban Gaeltacht and emerging communities. I specifically refer to Clondalkin, which has done incredible work to promote its Gaeltacht in recent years.

With regard to Gaeltacht service towns and Irish language networks, this Bill, despite its amendments, is too passive. It places little or no obligation or incentive on public bodies to improve their capacity for bilingual services unless they happen to be in already vulnerable Gaeltacht zones. To boost the language, these service towns must be encouraged further to become bilingual for the nearby Gaeltacht communities and local second language communities.

The proposed new section 19C is a derogation from language standards. It is open to abuse from bodies which may not wish to engage with any new language standards and seek instead to opt out through whichever excuse they may find. There is an equal suspicion being shared with regard to the amendment of section 12 of the Juries Act 1976, which removes references to both languages and court summonses. A question was asked about why that is being done but Deputy Chambers addressed that in his contribution. I look forward to seeing that be catered for.

I will leave my contribution there and look forward to engaging with the process as it continues.

2:45 pm

Marc Ó Cathasaigh (Waterford, Green Party)
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Uaireanta, is iad na rudaí beaga a chuireann isteach ort mar Ghael - nuair a fhiafraíonn daoine “What is that name in English?”, mar shampla. B’fhéidir gur ceist saonta, gan dochar í, ach tar éis tamaill, cuireann sí isteach ort. Is sampla eile é an síneadh fada. Níl an Ghaeilge neamhchoitianta i dteangacha sa tslí ina bhfuil diacritics aici - tá an umlaut ag na Gearmánaigh, an cédille sa Fhraincis, ach fáth éigin, tá an síneadh fada deacair dúinn anseo in Éirinn. Go dtí le déanaí, ní raibh Iarnród Éireann in ann é a úsáid ar shuíocháin réamháirithe, ach tá an cás sin réitithe anois. Uaireanta, is iad na rudaí níos mó a chuireann isteach ort, mar nuair a bhíonn duine ag iarraidh maireachtáil trí mheán na Gaeilge, agus níl sé nó sí in ann seirbhísí, fiú seirbhísí an Stáit, a fháil trí Ghaeilge, chéad teanga oifigiúil an Stáit de réir an Bhunreachta. Téann sé sin go mór i bhfeidhm ar phobal na Gaeilge.

Is iarracht é an Bille seo chun cuid de na fadhbanna sin, beag nó mór, a réiteach agus Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla a neartú. Cuirim fáilte roimh na leasuithe atá idir lámha againn anseo. Ceann de na gnéithe is tábhachtaí anseo ná go bhfuil níos mó fiacla ag an mBille seo ná mar a bhí cheana. Cáineadh an Bille a tháinig os comhair na Dála anuraidh de bharr nach raibh spriocdhátaí ag a lán de na cuspóirí a bhí luaite ann. Is maith an rud é go luaitear 2030 mar spriocdháta do 20% d'earcaíocht na Státseirbhíse a bheith do phoist Gaeilge. Tá imní orm go fóill toisc go bhfuil saghas get out clause fágtha sa téacs a thugann cumhacht athbhreithnithe don Aire sa bhliain 2028, ach is tús maith é seo agus tá súil agam go mbeidh uaillmhian ag an Roinn an sprioc seo a bhaint amach. Cuirim fáilte freisin roimh an leasú a thugann níos mó cumhachta don Choimisinéir Teanga iniúchadh a dhéanamh ar a thoil féin.

Is deá an rud é go gcuirfear seirbhísí Stáit ar fáil sa Ghaeltacht i nGaeilge, gan cheist agus gan choinne. Ba chóir an coiste comhairliúcháin a chuir le chéile chomh luath agus is féidir chun plean a reáchtáil maidir le conas a bhainfear é sin amach trí sheirbhísí Gaeilge a fheabhsú agus a mhéadú. Ba bhreá liom freisin go ndéanfar infheistíocht sna bailte seirbhísí Gaeilge, mar Dhún Garbhán, a fhreastalaíonn ar Ghaeltacht na nDéise i bPort Láirge. Tá iarratas amháin agam maidir le déantús an chomhchoiste. Iarraim ar an Aire cinntiú go mbeidh ionadaíocht ag pobal na Gaeilge ar an gcoiste sin.

Tá gach baol ann agus muid ag caint faoin nGaeilge go dtitfimid isteach sa ghaiste díospóireachta sin ina dtriailimid í a thuiscint trí phriosma ár gcóras eacnamaíochta. Aithníonn an córas sin praghas, b’fhéidir, agus brabús cinnte, ach an aithníonn sé luach rud? Tá sé sinn neamhchinnte. Tá a fhios againn mar Ghlasaigh go bhfuil difríocht idir praghas agus luach. Tá fiúntas faoi leith ag baint, mar shampla, leis an mbithéagsúlacht thar aon mheasúnú eacnamaíochta. Tá sé sin mar an gcéanna le teangacha, agus an Ghaeilge ina measc. Is lionsa í gach teanga, cruthaithe ag cultúr daoine na háite sin, a bhíonn mór-thionchar aici ar ár radharc ar an domhan atá mórthimpeall orainn. Is linne an Ghaolainn agus is í ár bhfuinneog ar an saol.

Labhair mé le déanaí anseo sa Dáil faoin moladh a rinne an tUachtarán Micheál D. Ó hUigín agus é ag tabhairt óráid don Tom Johnson Summer School leath scór bliain ó shin. An chomhairle a bhí aige ná go gcaithfimid fís útóipeach a chur romhainn mar sprioc agus oibriú ansin ar a son. Chomh maith le haon tuiscint eacnamaíochta a bhaineann leis an moladh sin, déarfainn féin mar Ghlasaigh go gcaithfidh aon mhachnamh ar an ábhar seo sláinte na timpeallachta a thabhairt isteach. Déarfainn freisin mar Ghael go bhfuil an Ghaeilge mar chuid lárnach d’aon fhís útóipeach a bheadh agam don tír seo. Más sin an sprioc atá os ár gcomhair amach, ní mór dúinn oibriú go tréan chun an sprioc sin a bhaint amach.

Is iad an grúpa is tábhachtaí do thodhchaí na Gaeilge na daoine a bhfuil stair na teanga iontu freisin, sin iad, muintir na Gaeltachta. Tá brú uafásach ar ár gceantair Ghaeltachta faoi láthair ó thaobh fostaíochta, tithíochta agus cinnte ó thaobh na teanga í féin. Aithnítear go bhfuil géarchéim teanga sna ceantair Ghaeltachta. Tá obair den scoth á dhéanamh ag Foras na Gaeilge agus ag Údarás na Gaeltachta go háirithe chun infheistíocht agus fhostaíocht a mhealladh go dtí na dúichí, ach tá i bhfad níos mó tacaíochta ag teastáil ón Rialtas. Lárnach san obair sin ná na coinníollacha teanga cearta a chur i bhfeidhm sna ceantair Ghaeltachta le bheith cinnte, agus tithíocht á fhorbairt againn, go bhfuilimid ag freastal ar na riachtanais sa phobal, ach gan an Ghaeilge a scriosadh nó a chaolú mar theanga i mbéal na ndaoine ann.

Is iad an dara grúpa is tábhachtaí ná dream na Gaeilge lasmuigh den Ghaeltacht, daoine a bhfuil caighdeán ard Gaeilge acu agus gur mhaith leo maireachtáil trí mheán na Gaeilge, ní amháin sa Ghaeltacht ach ar fud na tíre. Tá sárobair déanta ag ár n-urlabhraí Gaeilge Peter Kavanagh agus a chairde leis an bhfeachtas Pop-up Gaeltacht, ach caithfear seirbhísí an Stáit a chur ar fáil go forleathan as Gaeilge chun freastal ar an bpobal sin. Má táimid ag iarraidh líon na ndaoine atá ag úsáid an Ghaeilge mar a ngnáth teanga laethúil a mhéadú, is as an gcohórt seo a thiocfaidh siad.

Deirtear gur tús maith leath na hoibre. Bhuel, caithfidh mé an obair atá sa Bhille seo a mholadh, agus an tAire, an tAire Stáit agus an Roinn, a mholadh as ucht an obair atá déanta anseo. Níl ann ach tús ar an méid atá le déanamh chun an ghéarchéim teanga a leigheas, ach tugann sé leid agus misneach do lucht na Gaeilge go bhfuil fís agus uaillmhian ag an Roinn dul chun cinn fiúntach a dhéanamh sa tréimhse Rialtais atá romhainn. Ní ach tús é, ach tús maith. Molaim an Bille seo.

Photo of Donnchadh Ó LaoghaireDonnchadh Ó Laoghaire (Cork South Central, Sinn Fein)
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Níl agam ach tréimhse ghairid. Táimid ag déileáil leis an mBille seo 17 bliain ar aghaidh ón Acht agus an scéim a bhí ann ó thaobh na scéimeanna teanga. Bhí sé i gceist go mbeadh a scéim féin ag gach eagraíocht pobal. Go minic, cuireadh scéim amháin ar fáil, d’éag sé, bhí sé imithe agus ansin níor tháinig aon rud ina dhiaidh. Cé go raibh an fealsúnacht dhearfach agus bheadh solúbthacht ann do na heagrais faoi leith, is léir nár oibrigh sé in ainneoin go raibh an dearcadh agus na haidhmeanna ceart ann. Tá an cur chuige anseo an-difriúil. Táimid ag caint faoi chur chuige mórthimpeall an Státseirbhís agus na heagraíochtaí pobal go léir. Cé go bhfuil gnéithe dearfacha sa Bhille, tá sé tábhachtach agus is fadhb é, mar atá sé ráite ag daoine cheana féin, nach bhfuil dátaí againn do na spriocanna seo. Caithfear nach bhfuil siad mar aspiration, gur féidir iad a bhaint amach agus go mbeidh cur chuige agus tiomáint ann i dtreo iad a bhaint amach. Ba chóir go mbeadh spriocdhátaí ann ó thaobh na seirbhísí Stáit a chur ar fáil trí Ghaeilge sna ceantair Ghaeltachta. Tá sé sin an-tábhachtach.

Níl samplaí againn de na dréacht-chaighdeáin a bheidh ag teastáil do chóras na scéimeanna teanga agus tá sé sin tábhachtach freisin. I gcoitinne, nuair a labhraímid faoin nGaeilge deir daoine go bhfuil ábhar imní agus ábhar dóchais ann. Níl sé chomh simplí le rá go bhfuil an Ghaeilge ag fáil bháis ach níl sí ag borradh ach an oiread. Tá an Ghaeilge inár gcathracha agus tá an-ábhar dóchais ansin. Feicimid na deiseanna atá á cruthú tríd eagraíochtaí ar nós na Gaeil Óga agus Laochra Loch Lao, na Pop-up Gaeltachtaí agus mar sin de. Caithfidh an Roinn tacú leo sin agus tá ról ag an mBille seo tacú leis na deiseanna cainte do dhaoine a thagann amach as na Gaelscoileanna nach cainteoirí dúchais iad. Caithfear na deiseanna sin a thabhairt dóibh agus tá sé sin tábhachtach mar i go leor slite ní bhíonn na deiseanna acu cé go mbíonn an fonn orthu an teanga a labhairt. Tá an fonn acu ach ní bhíonn an deis acu ina ngnáth saoil.

Is léir go bhfuil an-fhadhb againn sa Ghaeltacht agus ní rud beag é sin ar chor ar bith. Is í an Ghaeltacht an áit atá ina bhfuil an Ghaeilge mar an teanga labhartha. Tá saibhreas na teanga ansin agus is saghas tobar í don teanga ar fud an Stáit. Tá sé tábhachtach go dtuigimid díreach conas tacú leis na pobail sin agus déanadh cinnte go bhfuil Gaeilge ag na daoine atá ag lonnú ann nó go bhfuil siad chun í a fhoghlaim agus a labhairt agus gur féidir leo seirbhísí Stáit a bhaint amach.

Teastaíonn spriocdhátaí agus níos mó sonraí ó thaobh conas go gcuirtear forálacha na reachtaíochta i bhfeidhm. Tá sé sin tábhachtach chun feabhas a chur ar an mBille seo. Cé go raibh aidhm mhaith ag an mBille 2003, is léir nár oibrigh sé mar a bhí á súil leis. Tá súil agam go n-éiríonn níos fearr leis an mBille seo ach caithfidh sé a bheith níos láidre agus níos daingne.

Photo of Bríd SmithBríd Smith (Dublin South Central, People Before Profit Alliance)
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Ar dtús, déarfaidh mé cúpla focal as Béarla. As I have the opportunity, I wish to raise an issue unrelated to this Bill with the Minister and the Minister of State. I refer to the lack of a Gaelscoil in the postal districts of Dublin 10 and 12. I acknowledge that this is a matter for the Department of Education and Skills but support from the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht would help progress the achievement of some educational facilities in these very big postal districts which include areas like Ballyfermot, Cherry Orchard, Walkinstown, Drimnagh, Crumlin. Tá siad gan aon Ghaelscoil – not a meánscoil or a bunscoil in any of those areas. We managed to get a naíonra in Ballyfermot with the help of our local councillor Hazel De Nortúin over the last few years but there is a need for a Gaelscoil in these big working class areas, and there is a very deep desire among parents and young people to learn and become prolific in their own language. There is a grá for it and an absolute need for it. We will be leaning on the Minister for her support in campaigning for a Gaelscoil in both Dublin 10 and Dublin 12.

Maidir leis an mBille, mar a dúirt Teachtaí Dála eile, molaim go leagtar amach spriocdháta cinnte le go mbeadh 20% de dhaoine nua a thagann isteach sa Státchóras in ann a ngnó a dhéanamh trí Ghaeilge. Má mholann an Rialtas an bhliain 2030 mar spriocdháta, ba chóir go mbeadh spriocanna gearrthéarmach socraithe freisin agus go ndéantar athbhreithniú gach dara bliain chun cinntiú go bhfuil na spriocanna á baint amach. Is gá go dtéann grúpa neamhspleách i mbun na hathbhreithnithe seo. Cuirim fáilte roimh an gcoiste comhairleach atá molta chun faire ar earcaíocht don Státchóras. Tá locht mór ag baint leis an leagan amach atá molta ag an Rialtas, áfach. Níl aon ról luaite ann d’ionadaithe ó phobal na Gaeilge lasmuigh den Ghaeltacht agus ní bheidh guth acu ar an gcoiste seo. Tá sé sin mícheart agus níl an deá-chleachtas céanna i gceist anseo a bhaineann le réimsí eile sa saol. Mar shampla, ní bheadh an Teach seo sásta fóram a bhunú do dhaoine faoi mhíchumas gan ionadaí a bheith ann ón earnáil sin. Molaim ionadaí a bheith ar an gcoiste seo ó ghrúpa stocaireachta Gaeilge. Tá sé ríthábhachtach go mbeadh gach seirbhís a chuireann an Stát ar fáil do phobal na Gaeltachta ar fáil trí Ghaeilge. Is gá spriocdháta cinnte a luaigh dó sin mar chuid den Bhille seo freisin. Ba chóir go mbeadh na seirbhísí Stáit curtha ar fáil sa Ghaeltacht féin agus mura bhfuil fós, ba chóir go mbeadh na seirbhísí féin curtha ar fáil trí Ghaeilge.

Mura dtarlaíonn sé seo, ciallaíonn sé go bhfuil Dáil Éireann ag rá le pobal na Gaeltachta nach bhfuil tábhacht leis an teanga.

Molaim go mbeadh sa Bhille breis cumhachtaí tugtha don Choimisinéir Teanga ionas go mbeadh sé nó sí in ann réamh-scrúdú a dhéanamh ar aon reachtaíocht nua chun a chinntiú nach ndéanann sé dochar don Ghaeilge nó don Ghaeltacht. Bheidh an méid seo ag teacht leis an dea-chleachtas idirnáisiúnta.

Ba mhaith liom buíochas a thabhairt do gach éinne a dhein obair chrua ar an mBille tábhachtach seo.

2:55 pm

Photo of Dara CallearyDara Calleary (Mayo, Fianna Fail)
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Cuirim fáilte roimh an mBille agus déanaim comhghairdeas leis na hAirí agus a gcuid oifigigh as an obair atá déanta acu le cúpla mí anuas. Bhíomar ag caint air seo sna cainteanna a bhí ann chun Rialtas a chur le chéile i lár na Bealtaine. Déanaim comhghairdeas leis an gCathaoirleach freisin agus leis an Leas-Cheann Comhairle as an obair a bhí déanta ag coiste na Gaeilge, mo chomhghleacaí an Teachta Eamon Ó Cuív san áireamh, chun rudaí níos láidre a chur sa Bhille. Tá a fhios agam nach raibh turas éasca acu go dtí seo, ach táimid anseo anois agus tá Bille láidir againn. Tar éis an phróisis seo, b’fhéidir go mbeidh muid in ann é a dhéanamh níos láidre.

Cath amú a mbeadh ann muna ndéantar aon difríocht do mhuintir na Gaeltachta agus do dhaoine a bhfuil Gaeilge acu ó thaobh seirbhísí de. Tá deiseanna sa Bhille chun an Ghaeilge a dhéanamh níos láidre agus chun bunús níos láidre a bheith ann don Ghaeilge i ngach chuid den tír. Am amú a mbeidh san obair atá déanta go dtí seo thar na mblianta muna ndéantar iarracht i bhfad níos mó sa Teach seo.

Agus lá na cáinaisnéise ag teacht, ní bheidh mórán Gaeilge á úsáid agus Airí ag tabhairt a gcuid óráidí. Ba cheart, ar a leithéid de lá, agus nuair a mbíonn taoisigh ag tabhairt óráid don Stáit, go mbeadh an Ghaeilge in úsáid i bhfad níos mó ná mar a dtarlaíonn anois. Léireoidh sé do mhuintir na Gaeltachta agus do dhaoine a bhaineann úsáid as an nGaeilge, go bhfuil tábhacht ag baint leis an teanga. Molaim an teanga a úsáid.

Cuirim fáilte roimh an 20% ach tá sé tábhachtach iarracht a dhéanamh chomh luath agus is féidir agus go mbeidh na seirbhísí ann, ní hamháin sa Ghaeltacht – tuigeann gach duine an méid sin – ach sna ceantair ina bhfuil daoine ag baint úsáid as an nGaeilge. Bhí mé ag éisteacht leis an Teachta Ó Cathasaigh. Tá mé ag caint faoi cheantair cosúil le Cluain Dolcáin, áit ina bhfuil an Comhairleoir Peter Kavanagh as déanamh sár-iarracht, agus ceantair cosúil leis sin sna cathracha, ceantar an Chathaoirligh ina measc. Ní Gaeltacht iad, ach tá a lán daoine le Gaeilge ach seans í a úsáid.

Agus muid ag déanamh roll-out ar an mBille seo, ba cheart dúinn brú a chur ar sheirbhísí cosúil leis An Post, An Roinn Gnóthaí Fostaíochta agus Coimirce Sóisialaí agus An Roinn Oideachas agus Scileanna ionas go mbeidh daoine i ngach ceantar sa tír, ní hamháin sa Ghaeltacht, ag iarraidh an Ghaeilge a úsáid. Ba cheart go mbeidh cuidiú ar fáil do dhaoine, go mbeidh notices i ngach oifig sa tír á rá go bhfuil Gaeilge á úsáid chun a rá le daoine go bhfuilimid ag déanamh an méid seo le chéile. Tá sé tábhacht a léiriú ní hamháin go bhfuil Bille ann, ach go bhfuil suim ann freisin.

Maidir le pleananna Gaeilge, tá sé soiléir go gcaithimid suigh síos leis na pleanálaí i ngach chuid den tír atá ag déileáil leis an pleananna. B’fhéidir go mbeidh sé úsáideach chun a fháil amach cad atá ag obair agus cad nach bhfuil ag obair sna pleananna. Tá na pleananna an-tábhachtach, agus bunúsach chun an teanga a shábháil. Ach tuigim agus tugaim faoi dheara nach bhfuil buy-in sa phobail in a lán ceantar. I gceantar amháin, sean-Ghaeltacht, bhí plean á ullmhú ach bhí tuismitheoirí sa mheán scoil ag rá nach raibh suim ag na tuismitheoirí an Ghaeilge a úsáid. Gaeltacht oifigiúil a bhí ann, mar dhea, ach bhí siad ag tabhairt teachtaireacht don phróiseas pleanála.

Beidh sé úsáideach a fháil amach cad atá ag obair sa phróiseas. An bhfuilimid ag baint úsáid as na méain shóisialta chun cuidiú leis an bpróiseas agus chun a rá le daoine nach bhfuil aon rud chun a bheith buartha faoi maidir leis an nGaeilge a úsáid agus a spreagadh i ngach ceantar. Tá sé tábhacht go mbeadh acmhainní breise ar fáil don phróiseas sin.

Beidh an cáinaisnéis ar an Máirt agus bhí feachtas difriúil ann ó thaobh a bheith ar líne, ach tá an teachtaireacht cheánna ann, go gcaithfimid airgead sa bhreis a thabhairt do na cumainn Ghaeilge atá ag obair ar son na Gaeilge ionas go mbeidh siad in ann an obair sin a dhéanamh. Mar an gcéanna leis na comharchumainn sna Gaeltachtaí agus iad siúd atá ar na hoileáin, atá ag déanamh sár-iarracht chun seirbhísí a chur ar fáil trí Ghaeilge, seirbhísí atá luaite sa Bhille.

Tá fadhb tuisceanna nó fadhb de shaghas éigean maidir le cúrsaí pleanála. Bhí mé ag plé seo leis an tAire Stáit, an Teachta Jack Chambers. Tá sé soiléir i Rath Cairn agus i Daingean Uí Chúise go bhfuil fadhb ann. Tar éis na cáinaisnéise, caithfimid suigh síos leis an Aire Tithíochta, Pleanála agus Rialtais Áitiúil chun é sin a phlé.

Tá TG4, TnaG agus Raidió na Life ag déanamh an-jab. Caithfimid a bheith bródúil as an méid atá ag tarlú ag TG4 agus an caighdeán atá ar fáil ann. Caithfimid cuidiú le TG4 as an obair tábhacht atá á dhéanamh ann.

Gabhaim buíochas agus comhghairdeas leis na hAirí. Mar a dúirt an Teachta Ó Cathasaigh, tús maith leath na hoibre. Táimid anseo chun cuidiú leo. Tá sé tábhachtach a bheith ag obair le chéile. Tá obair mór le déanamh.

3:05 pm

Photo of Aengus Ó SnodaighAengus Ó Snodaigh (Dublin South Central, Sinn Fein)
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Tá an Teachta Tóibín ag roinnt a chuid ama leis an Teachta Shanahan.

Photo of Peadar TóibínPeadar Tóibín (Meath West, Aontú)
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Tá meas agam ar an Aire agus a comhghleacaithe. Tá a fhios agam go bhfuil siad dáiríre faoina gcuid polaitíocht. Tá seans ollmhór acu anois difear ollmhór a dhéanamh ar ábhar atá iontach tábhachtach don tír seo. Tá mé ag smaoineamh ar an teach a bhí ag an Rathailleach, a leagadh cúpla seachtain ó shin. Cosúil leis an nGaeilge, bhí an teach ina sheasamh. Tá an Ghaeilge fós ag seasamh sa tír seo. Leagadh an teach sin. Mar a deireann an fógra a bhíonn ar an teilifís, nuair atá sé leagtha tá sé imithe. I gcás na Gaeilge, nuair a bheidh sí imithe mar theanga phobail sa Ghaeltacht, beidh sí imithe i ndáiríre. Tá sé go hiontach ar fad go bhfuil nascanna fós ann timpeall na tíre mar gheall ar an nGaeilge - labhraíonn daoine ar fud na tíre an Ghaeilge lá i ndiaidh lae - ach is é bun agus barr an scéil ná nach mbeidh todhchaí dhomhain shaibhir ag an teanga as seo amach muna bhfuil sí mar theanga labhartha phobail sa Ghaeltacht.

Tá an Ghaeilge tábhachtach agus luachmhar do mhuintir na hÉireann toisc gur chuid bhunúsach dínn í. Ceanglaíonn sí lenár dtimpeallacht muid. Is stór saibhir litríochta, ealaíne, amhránaíochta, startha, miotaseolaíocha agus seanchais í. Struchtúr smaointe atá sa teanga, i ndáiríre, freisin. Ag an tráth seo, nuair a chailltear éagsúlacht teanga ar bhonn bliantúil, is uathúil an teanga í. Tuigim go mbíonn na Glasaigh ag díriú isteach ar bhithéagsúlacht ar fud na cruinne, ach meabhraím dóibh go bhfuil teangacha ag fáil bháis lá i ndiaidh lae ar fud an domhain freisin. Is saghas stór iontach de chultúr na hÉireann í an Ghaeilge. Tá an teanga cosúil le doras - nuair a osclaítear é, bíonn an seomra lán de rudaí iontacha cultúrtha. Is féidir le daoine le Gaeilge an doras sin a oscailt. Tá an Ghaeilge uafásach tábhachtach mar theanga theaghlaigh, mar theanga ghnó, mar theanga chairdis agus mar theanga oideachais. Is fíortheanga í an Ghaeilge.

Is am cinniúnach é an t-am seo, i ndáiríre. Tá a fhios agam go bhfuil sé sin ráite le fada an lá. Tá an Ghaeilge á labhairt sa tír seo le beagnach 2,000 bliain. Tá seans díreach ann gur muidne an ghlúin dheireanach ina mbeidh an Ghaeilge againn mar theanga phobail. Nuair a dhéantar comparáid idir líon na bpáistí atá á dtógáil le Gaeilge i measc na teaghlaigh ar fud na tíre agus líon na bpáistí ag freastal ar bhunscoileanna sna Gaeltachtaí, is léir go bhfuil go bhfuil an cóimheas sin an-íseal anois, go háirithe i gcomparáid leis na blianta roimhe seo.

Caithfimid rudaí láidre agus cróga a dhéanamh chun an Ghaeilge a shábháil agus a fhás sa Ghaeltacht. Tá mé láncinnte gur féidir linn é sin a dhéanamh, agus go dtiocfaidh borradh ar an nGaeilge má táimid dáiríre faoi. Caithfimid bheith dáiríre faoin teanga. Muna bhfuilimid dáiríre, déanfaimid an praiseach chéanna is a rinne an Rialtas deireanach agus na Rialtais roimhe sin le fada an lá. Níor thug go leor Rialtais níos mó ná lip service don Ghaeilge. Is é sin an fáth go bhfuil rudaí imithe chun donais. Má táimid ag iarraidh fianaise a fheiceáil sa chomhthéacs sin, is féidir linn breathnú isteach ar an mhéid airgid atá curtha ar fáil don Roinn thar na blianta. Ceapaim gurb é Roinn na Gaeltachta an t-aon Roinn sa Rialtas nach bhfuil tar éis an leibhéal a bhí acu in 2009 nó 2010 a bhaint amach arís. Is dóigh liom go raibh titim níos mó i Roinn na Gaeltachta ná aon Roinn ar bith eile. Mar is eol dúinn, tá sé mar dhualgas ar Údarás na Gaeltachta mar eagraíocht fiontraíocht a fhorbairt sa Ghaeltacht. Tháinig titim uafásach ar an mhéid airgid a fhaigheann an tÚdarás. Níl maoiniú an Údaráis ar ais go dtí leibhéal 2009 nó 2010 go fóill.

Tá gá ann cúpla rud a dhéanamh chun an Ghaeilge a neartú sa tír seo. Is dóigh liom go bhfuil cúig rudaí thábhachtacha i gceist. Ar an gcéad dul síos, ba cheart don Rialtas cabhair a thabhairt do theaghlaigh a gcuid páistí a thógáil le Gaeilge. Is í sin an tslí is furasta chun an Ghaeilge a thabhairt don chéad ghlúin eile. Níl aon slí níos éasca ná an bealach a réiteach do theaghlaigh a gcuid páistí a thógáil le Gaeilge.

Ar an dara dul síos, tá rochtain Ghaelscolaíochta uafásach tábhachtach freisin. Bliain i ndiaidh bliana, léiríonn pobalbhreitheanna go bhfuil 25% de dhaoine na tíre seo ag iarraidh go rachaidh a gcuid páistí isteach sna Gaelscoileanna. Cén céatadán de pháistí na tíre seo a fhreastalaíonn ar Ghaelscoileanna, áfach? Ní fhreastalaíonn ach 5% de pháistí ar Ghaelscoileanna - is í sin an mhéid - cé go bhfuil 25% de thuismitheoirí ag iarraidh Gaelscolaíocht dá bpáistí. Deirtear uaireanta ar na meáin chumarsáide go bhfuil an Rialtas ag brú na Gaeilge síos scornacha na ndaoine, ach caithfear a rá go bhfuil a mhalairt fíor. Tá tuismitheoirí agus páistí ag iarraidh freastal ar Ghaelscoileanna. Tá daoine ag iarraidh seirbhísí ón Stát trí mheán na Gaeilge, ach níl na seirbhísí sin le fáil.

Ar an tríú dul síos, ba cheart go mbeadh daoine in ann dul i dteagmháil leis an Stát ina theanga féin. Tá an Rialtas seo ag rá le páistí go gcaithfidh siad an Ghaeilge a fhoghlaim le haghaidh dosaen bhliain nuair atá siad óg. Ag an am céanna, tá lucht an Rialtais ag rá leo gan bheith ag teacht isteach agus bagairt a chur orthu mar gheall ar an nGaeilge - gan bheith ag labhairt leo mar gheall ar an nGaeilge - nuair atá a gcuid scolaíochta críochnaithe acu. Caithfidh mé a rá gur dhein mé iarracht ar feadh cúig nó sé bliana an Ghaeilge a roghnú mar theanga seirbhíse nuair a bhí mé i dteagmháil leis an Stát. Nuair a bhíodh mé i dteagmháil leis na Coimisinéirí Ioncaim, an Roinn Sláinte nó aon Roinn nó rannóg Stáit eile, bhrúfainn an cnaipe le haghaidh na seirbhíse Gaeilge ach ní bheadh éinne ar fáil. Saghas doras draíochta atá i gceist, i ndáiríre. Is féidir linn brú ar an doras, cé go bhfuil an seomra folamh, agus tá seans ann go dtiocfaidh duine éigin ar ais i gceann trí lá. Má thagann an glaoch ar an tríú lá agus má iarrtar orainn céard atá á lorg againn, is féidir linn a rá go bhfuilimid ag iarraidh seirbhís X, seirbhís Y nó seirbhís Z ach go hiondúil deirtear linn ag an bpointe sin go gcaithfimid fanacht dhá nó trí lá eile, agus b'fhéidir go mbeifear in ann seirbhís trí Ghaeilge a sholáthar ag an bpointe sin. Nuair a tharlaíonn sé sin arís is arís eile, stopann daoine ag roghnú an rogha Gaeilge. Muna bhfuil an Stát sásta é seo a dhéanamh go huileghabhálach, ní úsáidfidh daoine an tseirbhís teoranta seo.

Is í an tslí is éasca chun an fadhb seo a réiteach ná daoine le Gaeilge a earcú ionas go mbeidís in ann seirbhís a sholáthar trí Ghaeilge nó trí Bhéarla. Tá muidne ag troid le haghaidh deich mbliana, b'fhéidir, agus muid ag iarraidh ar an Rialtas córas earcaíochta den chineál seo a chur ar bun. Nuair a earcaítear comhréir le Gaeilge, níl aon chostas sa bhreis ag baint leis an tseirbhís a sholáthar trí Ghaeilge. Gabhaim buíochas le Dia go bhfuil a leithéid d'fhoráil sa Bhille seo i ndeireadh thiar thall. Cé go molaim an seasamh níos tréine atá tógtha ag an Aire agus a comhghleacaithe chun é sin a chur sa reachtaíocht seo, caithfidh mé a rá go bhfuil get-out clause fós ann. Beidh cibé Aire a bheidh ann i gceann ocht mbliana in ann a rá nach bhfuil an Stát réidh chun an chéim seo a thógáil. Ar an mbonn sin, beidh Aire na linne sin in ann teacht siar ón ngeallúint sin go mbeidh an chomhréir bainte amach. I mo thuairim, beag beann ar pé Aire a bheidh ann sa bhliain 2028, ní bheidh sé nó sí an duine is fearr chun an cinneadh a dhéanamh. Ba cheart go mbeidh daoine eile atá bainteach leis an earnáil seo ar fáil leis an ról sin a chomhlíonadh.

Ar an gceathrú dul síos, ba cheart dúinn béim a chur ar fhostaíocht sa Ghaeltacht. Muna bhfuil daoine in ann obair a fháil sa Ghaeltacht, imeoidh siad. Is é sin scéal na Gaeltachta le fada an lá. Caithfidh go mbeidh sé ar chumas muintir na Gaeltachta obair mhaith a fháil sa Ghaeltacht, ach ní mar sin atá sé i go leor Gaeltachtaí ag an bomaite.

Ar an gcúigiú dul síos, is rud simplí é stádas na Gaeilge. Mar Dháil agus mar Stát, caithfimid tosaíocht a thabhairt don Ghaeilge. Ní chosnaíonn sé mórán airgid, i ndáiríre. Nuair a fhoghlaimíonn daoine sa bhaile gur úsáideadh Google Translate chun Gaeilge a chur faoi bhráid na ndaoine i gcomhthéacs físeán ón Rialtas nó tvuít ón Aire, tuigeann siad nach bhfuil meas ar an nGaeilge nó stádas ag an nGaeilge. Tuigeann siad gur rud imeallach atá sa teanga, i ndáiríre. Caithfidh mé a rá go bhfuil titim ag teacht ar stádas na Gaeilge anseo i dTeach Laighean agus ar fud an Stáit. Nuair a labhair mé le déanaí le daoine a bhí ag iarraidh teacht os comhair an Chomhchoiste um na Meáin, Turasóireacht, Ealaíona, Cultúr, Spórt agus Gaeltacht, dúirt siad liom nár fhéidir leo a gcuid gnó a dhéanamh leis an gCathaoirleach nua ar an gcoiste sin os rud é nach bhfuil Gaeilge aici. Is sampla eile é sin den easpa measa atá i gceist anseo.

Tuigim go bhfuil an t-am ag sleamhnú uaim, ach ba mhaith liom rud nó dhó eile a rá. Cathain a bheidh seirbhísí ar fáil do phobal na Gaeltachta i nGaeilge? An bhfuil spriocdháta daingean ag an Rialtas mar gheall ar an tseirbhís sin? Cathain a bheidh duine sa Ghaeltacht atá ag déanamh iarracht a chlann a thógáil trí Ghaeilge cinnte go bhfuil sé nó sí in ann gach seirbhís a bhaineann leis an Stát a fháil i nGaeilge? Sa Bhreatain Bheag, téann gach Bille os comhair coimisinéir teanga na tíre sin sula théann sé trí Chomhthionól na Breataine Bige. Ba cheart go mbeadh a leithéid d'fhoráil sa reachtaíocht seo. Dá mbeadh an Coimisinéir Teanga in ann féachaint ar na fadhbanna reachtaíochta roimh ré, ní tharlódh na deacrachtaí seo i dtús báire.

3:15 pm

Matt Shanahan (Waterford, Independent)
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B'fhearr liom caint as Béarla. I recently shared a post on social media not because this debate was coming up but, rather, because it struck a chord with me. The post in question was probably not written with Ireland in mind but it speaks to a hard truth and the responsibility on present and future Irish generations to act. The post I circulated states:

Speak your native language to your children or watch it die within the next 20 years! Looking down on your relatives or friends who speak your native tongue because you speak perfect English is stupid - it is like being proud of borrowed clothes!

As we contemplate Brexit and the need for our exporters to look to new market opportunities on the European mainland and beyond, we rarely consider language to be a significant barrier. We have come to expect that customers in those countries will have a reasonable proficiency in speaking English. It rarely impacts on our thought processes that English is not their mother tongue but, rather, was taught to them as part of their early school learning. How is it that so many people from Finland, Germany, Holland and Sweden to name but a few can engage in conversation in English, often flawlessly, despite it being a second language for them? Many of them also speak a third language with equal ability. How is it that even though our children begin learning Irish from national school age and on into secondary school, so many pupils graduate without the ability to carry on even an informal conversation in Irish after 14 years of education? Many students who decide to opt for another language in secondary school, such as French, German or Spanish, leave school with far greater proficiency in that language after five or six years of study than they have in Irish, which they have been taught for 14 years. As part of new technology sector developments, Irish students are being encouraged to learn Chinese. It is a sad fact that many of those who do so will develop greater ability to communicate in that language than in their cultural mother tongue.

I accept that the aspiration of the Bill is to increase access for those who wish to engage with public sector services through the medium of Irish. I acknowledge that implementation of the steps contained in the Bill may be a positive development in improving frequency and some fluency in Irish-language usage in public service communications, but those steps alone will not be enough to secure Gaeilge as a contemporary used language in Ireland into the future. In our current battle with Covid, there may be consideration of a circuit breaker announcement, that being a deliberate step-change initiated by the Government and designed to completely reset the parameters of dealing with Covid transmission in this country. If we are serious about preserving this mother tongue, such an action is now required to reset and redefine our national attitude and the value we place on our national language.

As Irish people, we often take pride in the international recognition of our venerated names, our culture and our traditions, yet we often fail to associate that cultural development with the Irish language or acknowledge that it was largely communicated and facilitated through the medium of our Gaelic language. Our inability to secure Irish as a working requisite language in this country is because of its deliberate downgrading within the outlines of what constitutes national identity and its modern dissociation with brand Ireland. In the Ireland of 2020, a large proportion of citizens speak English as their mother tongue. We consider ourselves intrinsically different from the rest of Europe even though many of us cannot carry on a conversation in the language of our forebears. Such a situation would be laughed at in France, Germany, Finland, Sweden and many other countries I could mention. Our country requires an Irish language circuit breaker moment. Although the Bill is welcome, it will not provide such a moment.

To preserve Irish as a working language, we need a new national debate on how we value the language, the way in which it is taught in our schools and how we can integrate it into daily use so as to defend our Gaelic culture and traditions and so that we can message widely that we continue to retain a unique history, perspective and identity. In truth, to achieve such a goal, the Government might need to announce legislation outlawing and custodial sentences penalising the teaching or speaking of Irish, in light of the fact that throughout our long history it has often been the case that we only value something when there is a threat that others may take it away.

As an interim step in securing the use of our native language, I welcome the Bill. I see it as a bulwark to the erosion and loss of our ability to converse in our mother tongue. The Bill provides for an objective of 20% of recruits to the public service being competent in Irish, which I welcome. It also provides for the introduction of language standards in place of language schemes, a national plan for the provision of Irish language services and the adaption of public bodies' ICT systems to accommodate the representation of a person's name as Gaeilge. I welcome the proposed establishment of an Irish language services advisory committee to oversee the drafting of a national plan for the provision of public services through Irish, which will set strategies for public bodies to increase the provision of services through Irish and increase the number of staff who are competent in Irish. However, I question the fact that there is to be only one member nominated by the Minister as a representative of the Gaeltacht area. That is hardly the level of representation our Irish language speakers need and it does not convey to me the appropriate level of engagement or commitment by the Government to the issue of Irish people being able to communicate effectively as Gaeilge with public institutions and with one another.

As Ireland moves to being a more multicultural society, we must embrace the challenges that brings, but also capitalise on the opportunities. We have a unique and proud history, unparalleled impact on world affairs given our small size and a diaspora that spans the globe and is counted in millions. Our Irish language is a natural resource unique in the world, a resource that we have cultivated like our landscape. We must honour and protect it but in order to do so, we must use it. In using it, we must emphasise that it is the unique characteristic that an Irish person can carry abroad as a beacon of nationality and use at home as an anchor to a proud and cultured tradition. Tír gan teanga, tír gan anam.

Johnny Guirke (Meath West, Sinn Fein)
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I wish to apologise for speaking on the Bill in English. I am not one of those who has any fluency in our native tongue and I regret that. Like many others, I am a product of an education system which did not help me to get a grasp of Gaeilge. I would love to be speaking as Gaeilge and am committed to learning and using the cúpla focal inside and outside the House.

In my county, there are two small Gaeltacht areas, namely, Ráth Chairn and Baile Ghib. People were relocated to those areas from the western seaboard between 1935 and 1937, leaving their humble abodes to head to county Meath under a resettlement scheme undertaken by the Irish Land Commission. Like every other Gaeltacht, the very survival of those areas is threatened because of a lack of investment in local jobs, education and the protections that would have allowed them to thrive and be a beacon of the revival of Gaeilge and living as Gaeilge from cradle to grave.

There is a need for additional funding for Foras na Gaeilge, Údarás na Gaeltachta, TG4 and Raidió Rí-Rá. I have met those groups and they have asked that they be adequately resourced such that they can properly implement, assist and plan in conjunction with the 80 Irish-language and Gaeltacht groups that currently exist. Children from disadvantaged areas do not have the option to attend a summer college in the Gaeltacht as the fees are so high. Will the Minister consider bringing in a scholarship scheme such as that recommended in the investment plan by the 80 Irish-language and Gaeltacht groups in order that such students have the option of attending summer college in the Gaeltacht?

It is good that the Bill is before the House because it is an acknowledgement of the failure of the State to deliver its services bilingually nationwide and as Gaeilge in Gaeltachtaí such as Baile Ghib and Ráth Chairn. There are wonderful people there who are tireless warriors for their community. I invite the Minister to visit the area. The Comharchumann Ráth Chairn would be more than willing to give her a tour if she has not been there previously.

Photo of Michael CollinsMichael Collins (Cork South West, Independent)
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The Irish language has been spoken on this island since some time in the first millennium BC. It was the primary vernacular until the late 18th century but then experienced a collapse in its population of native speakers, particularly in the second half of the 19th century. Support for the use of the Irish language has consistently been a stated aim of the State since its establishment.

However, the most recent research makes it clear that on current trends, use of the Irish language as the primary community language, that is, the normal language of discourse in the range of everyday interaction settings in the Gaeltacht, will not continue beyond 2025. By contrast, there has been a consistent growth in the number of Irish speakers in the State overall. However, despite this growth, the population of active speakers, daily and weekly speakers outside the education system and outside the Gaeltacht, has not reached what might be regarded as a relatively significant population density, being less than 5% in all but a small number of electoral districts.

Based on a range of surveys conducted over recent years, support for the Irish language retains broad public support. It also enjoys significant constitutional protection as the national and first official language, as well as having become a working language in the European Union in 2007. The United Nations has recognised language rights as a component of human rights. Finally, evidence of the potential benefits of bilingualism have been growing since the 1960s. An increasing body of research suggests that bilingual populations may enjoy significant cognitive and health advantages over monolingual ones.

I welcome the fact that this Bill is finally coming before the Dáil. It is long overdue. The Official Languages (Amendment) Bill is an important element of development and sustaining a stronger and more fit-for-purpose language Act.

Three areas must be delivered as part of this Bill. The fragile state of Irish in Gaeltacht areas is evident in the census results and in various pieces of research in recent years. It is, therefore, vital that the provisions of public services through Irish in the Gaeltacht is placed on a statutory footing and that the language rights of the Gaeltacht community should be underpinned by the legislation. Unfortunately, at this stage, the Bill appears to contain no firm provisions placing a duty upon the State to ensure that the Gaeltacht community is served in its native language. This is a point which has been highlighted repeatedly by the Irish Language Commissioner.

I support the recommendation that a national statutory plan for the provision of public services through Irish be prepared and that new recruitment policies and practices should be an integral part of this plan. However, I am concerned that external experts and the public are not adequately represented on the advisory committee to be established under the amended Act to prepare the implementation plan. I am also concerned that there is no stated deadline for the publication of the plan and that there is no statutory obligation to implement any agreed plan.

One of the main provisions of the Bill is the proposal to replace the language schemes system with a system of language standards. This is a worthwhile proposal, but it is difficult to judge the possible impact of this change without sight of the draft standards. I believe that the timely production of these draft standards would greatly benefit the process of assessing the Bill. Can the Minister of State clarify today whether these draft standards have, in fact, been published, as I have been unable to obtain them to date?

It would be remiss of me not to mention Cape Clear Island, one of the eight islands in my constituency in west Cork. They have been speaking fluent Irish and promoting the Irish language on the island for many years. I commend each and every person on Cape Clear who, I suppose, has gone against the trend. It has been a massive promotion for tourism in the area, with people attending courses and whatever there. In fairness to the people of Cape Clear, they have made such a Trojan effort to keep the Irish language alive. It is an eye-opener for the rest of the constituency in Cork South-West and something that I commend greatly. I commend each and every person on that island for doing so.

3:25 pm

Photo of Mattie McGrathMattie McGrath (Tipperary, Independent)
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I too am delighted to get cúpla nóiméad chun caint faoin straitéis don Ghaeilge.

I am proud to come from Caisleán Nua na Siúire i dTiobraid Árann Theas agus na Déise - an paróiste chéanna. In fact, my grandmother did not have any English. Caisleán Nua was a breac-Ghaeltacht area up until 1957. For the record, I happened to be born in 1958. I did not have the privilege of knowing my grandmother.

That was the spirit in the foothills of the Knockmealdowns and, indeed, the Comeraghs. It was an áit álainn. It is still an áit an-álainn ar fad for people to come and visit and see. Many activities are carried out there trí Ghaeilge.

I salute Helen Nic Craith, Catherine McCarra and cúpla duine eile. Thosaíomar Naíonra Caisleán Nua na Siúire 20 bliain ó shin and it is a wonderful success. It is wonderful to see na daltaí. They are preschool. Barely out of the cot, they go into that school. It caters for after-school and before school and indeed, the bigger children atá ag dul ar an scoil náisiúnta tar éis an naíonra freisin. I note the way that they can pick up the Irish and their grasp of it, and the fun-loving way that the múinteoirí sa naíonra sin are running it and the love that they have, above all, for the children, but also for the language, the heritage or dúchas. It is tremendous. There are many naíonraí throughout the country. It is a great way of re-energising our teanga náisiúnta. It is very important. We can have all the strategies in the world but if we do not use it, we will lose it. We have to adopt some kind of a strategy of use it or lose it.

Thosaíomar coláiste samhraidh Caisleán Nua 20 bliain ó shin freisin and that went very well for 12 years. It was through the medium of Irish again, and fun. One would not be sent home from the Gaeltacht. There were many counts of daltaí, maybe daltaí mór agus daltaí dána perhaps, sent home from the Gaeltachtaí that we knew of in different parts of the country, such as Corca Dhuibhne. We did this through the medium of fun and it was very successful. I salute the late Delia Egan, who was a founder member - bhí mé ann freisin - Tomás Ó Slatara and George de Barra, Catherine McCarra agus daoine mar sin as ucht an obair stairiúil a rinneadar. It was very successful. Tháinig na daltaí ó Thiobraid Árann, Port Láirge agus a lán áiteanna eile, agus chuid acu ó Bhaile Átha Cliath agus áiteanna mar sin. When we had the breac-Ghaeltacht up until 1957, it was an industry as well and it supplemented the incomes of the ordinary people who took in the daltaí or students.

I salute former Senator Labhrás Ó Murchú, ard-stiúrthóir Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann, agus a bhean chéile. Dúirt Labhrás ar "The Late Late Show" oíche amháin gur fhoghlaim sé a chuid Gaeilge i gCaisleán Nua. He always says that he is proud he learned it in Caisleán Nua.

Is mór an trua nach bhfuil an Ghaeilge go flúirseach agam anois ach tá mé chun é a thosú arís.

I salute the families who took in the students in those days. I remember meeting some of them in later years and hearing the fond memories they had. They stayed in lodgings or "digs", and they got a fine country dinner. Often they went out and gave a hand picking the spuds at this time of year with the farmers. They got a feeling for the culture, our cluichí freisin, ar nós peile agus iománaíochta, and, above all, our dúchas. They loved that. That friendship has held up with those people. Tá siad i Sasana agus a lán áiteanna ar fud an domhain. That relationship or connectivity is still there.

Now we have a community policing unit in Cathair Dún Iascaigh anois, in Cahir Garda station, under the guidance of Sergeant Ray Moloney and Superintendent Denis Whelan and the team there. Not only are they involved in the community and doing a wonderful job at this time of difficulties with Covid, and visiting the people, re-energising in this new level 3 and ready for whatever else might come, but Sergeant Moloney gives comhrá cois tine in Cahir House Hotel, Tigh Óstán Cathair Dún Iascaigh, gach oíche Luain. There are a number of people there, such as Gavin Berry, an múinteoir. As the people are coming in, they are finding it an tslí ceart chun an Gaeilge a fhoghlaim. It is a nice, soft, simple way of learning and picking up the Irish, transgressing it with English and, indeed, linking it to the logainmneacha. These placenames are very important. All those old placenames are oozing with our culture. They are oozing with our heritage. Fr. Christy O'Dwyer from Cashel, a renowned hurler for Tipperary fadó, gave me a valuable masterpiece including all the old seanfhocail as Gaeilge agus as Béarla. It is a wonderful historical reservoir and I must learn much more from it.

However, I thank Fr. Christy and wish him well in his retirement from Cashel. Christy O'Dwyer was a renowned hurler for Tipperary fadó fadó.

Sergeant Ray Moloney and the team there, and my own iníon, Máirín McGrath, get a lot of fun from this engagement every Monday night and they look forward to going back as soon as the cloud that hangs over our communities is gone. That is the way to do it. There should be more of that strategy in that area. Ní neart go cur le daoine. Na daoine óga sa naíonra.

People might not realise but the múinteoirí in the national schools have a huge part to play. There have been many famous múinteoirí thar na blianta and many people learned it from them. When I went to school, bhí mé i mo bhuachaill dána i gcónaí agus níor fhoghlaim mé mórán Gaeilge. Deputy Shanahan mentioned that if Irish was banned we would all be speaking it, I have often said so myself. We are a wonderful country for resisting rules and regulations. We must pay more attention to it.

While I welcome this strategy, there are a lot of gaps in it. We have Foras na Gaeilge, Údarás na Gaeilge, Conradh na Gaeilge, Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann, CCE, agus Glór na nGael freisin. CCE is a wonderful organisation facilitating song and dance, amhránaíocht, seanfhocail, rince sean-nós and all the wonderful parts of our heritage and culture. The sessions are often completely through Irish and they are wonderful. We were involved in our own paróiste in Glór na nGael competitions and enjoyed some success when we had the Coláiste Cois Siúire ar siúl. Tá súil agam go mbeidh Coláiste Cois Siúire ann arís an bhliain seo chugainn, le cúnamh Dé. Tús nua arís. Many people cannot afford the full-on Gaeltacht experience for a month or trí seachtaine. It costs a lot of money. Our project was simple. Buses collected people from a 30-mile radius, or beyond. People came for the day and went home full of fun. They would be there on their buses picking up their tin whistles and singing sean-nós. They were not ag rince on the bus although some of them were trying. It was a wonderful way of doing it through fun. All these organisations are doing hard work but we need more of a meitheal approach, and less of top bodies but a sense of learning up from the síolta, ón talamh suas. Let us plant the seeds and it will grow. Then there are the GAA clubs. Caisleán Nua GAA club also helped us, and we used its facilities. We used the Muintir na Tíre community hall. I salute them. They all got an income from that. It was a very good model for a summer college, coláiste samhraidh, and people made a few pounds out of it too. That was not their motive but it was a spin-off. There were concerts and aifrinn faoin speir. There was an open air mass on the final night with the buachaillí and cailíní choláiste and there was fierce passion, energy and enthusiasm. I had the privilege of presenting prizes. There was much interest in it. Na daoine óga made friends and they are still friends today. The main age group was ocht mbliana d’aois go dtí 13 bliana. Then they went on to secondary school and made friends, and some are still friends in university. Some are in dancing classes and have been to the world championships. I am not saying they learned it all there but they had wonderful dancing teachers such as Kathy McGrath and Monnie Hallahan in different places around Tipperary. They developed the skill but they got the love and taste in the scoil samhraidh. That is vital to like it. I have often seen the bata scoir in school when the Irish was beaten into people but it did not achieve the desired effect and it never will; it will be resisted. There should be more groups like Sergeant Moloney's. It is simple and soft while people have their cup of tea or coffee. In Newcastle we also had comhrá cois tine in people's houses, which is especially lovely in the winter months. I do not know if we can do it this year. It would be too cold to sing in the wind or le bheith ag caint but we can do our best. We will look at the strategy and see.

Under the legislation, 20% of entrants to the Civil Service are expected to be proficient in Irish. That idea has been there for a long time but has it happened? People complain about the huge cost of translating all the European diktats into Irish but we will see. I was in a lovely hostelry in Bray last night where I am staying where I met a Chinese man who had better English than myself. He is in Ireland 18 or 20 years. It is amazing what we can learn when we have to. He is highly proficient in English. I meet many people from different lands who pick up Irish quite easily. Some say it is an easier language to learn than their own. With the multicultural cities and country that we have and that we all embrace, why not have pride in our own Gaeilge? A nation is not a nation without its language, as Pádraig Pearse said. If we do not have that what do we have? I have often known people who have gone abroad, if they get into trouble and are questioned in a police station, they use Irish and they often have to make phone calls home in Irish to see if there is any chance of a cúpla quid sa phost. We have cards now and can transfer money but before that it went in the post. They would be embarrassed but they could speak in their own language. It is amazing the ingenuity we have to use it when it suits us. I say: use it or lose it. That is what we should do under this strategy.

The strategy mentions of language rights and that the UN has recognised our rights but the UN has recognised lots of rights, and what good is it? I met people outside the gates here protesting about what is going on in Azerbaijan. The UN has enough to do without expecting it to support Irish. Certainly, Irish should be protected and preserved. We should do it ourselves from the ground up.

Tá siad go léir básaithe anois, but there were a lán daoine in Caisleán Nua ag caint trí Ghaeilge up to deich mbliana ó shin, such as Mattie O'Leary, Padraig O'Keeffe, Seán Ó Donnagáin, agus mo thuismitheoirí freisin. It is amazing that people did not have English as a language at all in my village, Caisleán Nua na Siúire, up to the late 1950s. It is a pity we ever lost the breac-Ghaeltacht status. I will knock on the Minister's door to see if we can look at the model a bhí ann fadó and restart it. We talk about clusters and counties and boundaries now. Maybe we should start small and try to support a pilot in areas where there is a residue. We are only 20 míle ó Dhún Garbhán agus 25 míle ón Rinn. We are all part of the Déise and proud of our history and the historic kings in Cashel. It is a very rich cultural area. We must do better having more bilingual signage. I thank the county council in Tipperary and the roads engineer for putting up some lovely artistic signs recently in both languages. We can learn a lot. We must try to engage the daoine óga i gcónaí. We have the right model with the re-emergence of our Coláiste Cois Siúire. It is an easier way to learn and it enlivens the spirit and interest of the whole community. Ní neart go cur le chéile. We need to bring the community with us because we cannot do anything otherwise. The African saying is that it takes a village to raise a child. It takes a community to regain and rekindle the spirit of our seantuismitheoirí and the people going back so that we can remember them proudly, through the medium of Irish, with the heritage they left for us to mind.

I look forward to working with the Minister. She might pay Coláiste Cois Siúire a visit lá amháin.

3:45 pm

Ruairi Ó Murchú (Louth, Sinn Fein)
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Táim ag iarraidh eitilt ar leath-sciathán anois. Tá rud beag náire orm nach bhfuil mo chaighdeán chomh maith agus ba chóir dó a bheith. Ní chleachtaim minic go leor ach bainfimid triail as.

Táimid ag caint ar an mBille seo agus ba chóir go mbeidh cabhair agus tacaíocht ag achan duine chun go mbeidh siad in ann a ghnó a dhéanamh trí mheán na Gaeilge. Caithfimid feabhas a chur ar chúpla rud. Tá timelines de dhíth mar gheall ar an sprioc de 20%. Caithfimid plean a bheith againn chun na timelines sin a bhaint amach. Caithfimid cloí leo toisc go gcaithfimid cabhair agus tacaíocht a thabhairt do dhaoine.

Chomh maith leis sin, bhí cuid mhór dúinn ag caint le Conradh na Gaeilge. Tá tacaíocht airgeadais de dhíth fá choinne na teanga. Tá airgead ag teastáil ó Fhoras na Gaeilge, ó Údarás na Gaeltachta, ó Raidió Rí-Rá agus ó TG4. Caithfimid an t-airgead sin a chur ar fáil. Chomh maith leis sin, bhí daoine ag caint faoi na coláistí samhraidh, go háirithe sna Gaeltachtaí. Tá cuid mhór chabhrach agus tacaíochta ag teastáil ó na teaghlaigh uilig a chuireann a tithe ar fáil - na mná tí agus a leithéidí. Tá cabhair agus tacaíocht uathu. Tá tacaíocht de dhíth freisin fá choinne na coláistí. Caithfimid é a chur ar fáil.

Caithfimid polasaí níos fearr a bheith againn mar gheall ar oideachas trí mheán na Gaeilge. Táim ag caint faoi thacaíocht i leith naíonraí chomh maith le bunscoileanna, meánscoileanna agus institiúidí tríú leibhéal. Caithfidh a leithéid de pholasaí a bheith againn. Tá fadhb againn i nDún Dealgan le Coláiste Lú. Tá cuid mhór tuismitheoirí ag déanamh obair an-mhaith chun an déileáil leis an bhfadhb seo ach tá ar an Roinn Oideachais agus Scileanna tacaíocht a thabhairt.

Táimid ag tacú leis an mBille seo ach caithfidh achan rud a tharla chomh gasta agus is féidir.

Photo of Mattie McGrathMattie McGrath (Tipperary, Independent)
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Anois tá na Teachtaí Harkin agus Pringle againn ar son an Ghrúpa Neamhspleách.

Marian Harkin (Sligo-Leitrim, Independent)
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I hope the Chair does not mind me addressing him, but when he was speaking earlier, I wondered whether he had ever been one of the daltaí dána about whom he spoke.

Photo of Mattie McGrathMattie McGrath (Tipperary, Independent)
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Ba dhalta dána mé go han-mhinic ar fad agus is ceann mé fós to this day.

Marian Harkin (Sligo-Leitrim, Independent)
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I am pleased to have the opportunity to contribute on the Bill. My one regret is that I am unable to use our first language. I envy those who can. Nonetheless, it does not in any way diminish my firm belief that strong measures need to be taken to facilitate greater use of and familiarity with our language and to guarantee our citizens that they can use the medium of Irish when availing of State services. For too long, we as a country - I include myself in this - paid a certain amount of lip service to promoting the use of our language. Legislation guaranteeing citizens a certain level of service through Irish is a positive move.

Among those who have walked the walk and not just paid lip service are the people who have established the more than 250 Gaelscoileanna throughout the country. Establishing any school is a major undertaking. The commitment and determination of those who have driven the establishment of our Gaelscoileanna is admirable. I refer to Aonad Loch Gile, which is in Mercy College, Sligo where I had the privilege of teaching for 20 years. Aonad Loch Gile was established after I left, although do not take that to mean anything. It has been a successful undertaking and contributed much to the language's use in an everyday way. It makes the language accessible to all who want to access it and normalises its use.

An increase number of people either speak the language or want to speak it. That is why we need a comprehensive policy for the teaching of Irish from preschool to third level and beyond. The language must form part of our lifelong learning. People like me who have a basic knowledge of it would then have an opportunity to improve our usage. Scéim na Pobal Gaeilge, which is run by Foras na Gaeilge, is an example of lifelong learning. It is an Irish-in-the-community scheme that involves community development through the Irish language. It reaches people whose formal educational opportunities have probably passed and puts the language at the centre of people's everyday lives. The programme needs extra supports. We also need to develop Irish language centres. They normalise the language's use in our everyday activities.

In the above context, the Bill is relevant. It is about the State providing services to its citizens inside and outside Gaeltachtaí through the medium of Irish. The Bill will help to underpin many of the voluntary and community actions that have been taken to promote the language. It will also recognise the rights of Irish speakers in Gaeltachtaí and elsewhere.

One of the Bill's most important aspects is the need to include timescales for the proposed actions. There will be a 20% recruitment target of Irish speakers in the public service and all public offices that provide public services in Gaeltachtaí will operate through the medium of Irish. The timescale for these measures is 2030. That must be our target delivery date. The Minister will appreciate that the date should be fixed at 2030 just as it is fixed for a reduction in CO2 emissions and that we are determined to reach that point. It should be the date on which all State services from public bodies will be available in Irish to Gaeltacht communities.

It is important that we include the síneadh fada. I spent many years working in Brussels. No self-respecting French speaker would tolerate the idea of the grave, circumflex or any other French accent not being part of French written words. We must ensure that the same is the case in Ireland. It is how it should be. Anything else would simply be inappropriate.

All public forms, be they applications for driver licences, passports, carer's allowance or old age pensions, should be bilingual.

A study conducted by the Coimisinéir Teanga in 2018 illustrated that only 551 out of 21,000 staff working in Departments had sufficient competence in Irish to conduct business through it. The numbers may have changed slightly since, but even if that is the case, they represented only 3% of departmental staff in 2018.

That highlights the need for the provisions in this Bill.

It is proposed that an Irish language statutory advisory committee will be set up to support the work we are discussing. That work will include the publication of a national plan for an increase in the provision of public services through the medium of Irish. This plan is hugely important because it will ensure a systemic, planned and co-ordinated approach. The process must not be open-ended and should include a timeframe for the drafting of the plan.

The Bill provides for a duty on prescribed public bodies to facilitate the use of a person's name, address or title in the Irish language. This includes the patronymic and metronymic forms of a person's name, which are of cultural significance, especially in Gaeltacht areas. The rest of us could learn something from that.

As I said, official forms are required to be published bilingually or in Irish. It is also proposed that when renewing or altering logos, public bodies should ensure that text which forms part of the new or altered logo is in the Irish language or in both Irish and English. The introduction of language standards is essential.

Once the plan that will be produced by the Irish language statutory advisory committee is in place, it should be subject to a yearly review process in this House. It is important that we, as politicians, are able to monitor its progress and implementation. I understand the Minister has proposed to introduce such a review mechanism.

I look forward to a reversal in the budget next week of some of the cuts in funding to Irish language bodies such as Foras na Gaeilge, Conradh na Gaeilge, Glór na nGael, Gael Linn and Údarás na Gaeltachta. Those organisations were seen as low-hanging fruit during the most recent crisis and the cuts imposed on them must be reversed. They have severely impacted job creation efforts in Gaeltacht areas. We know that if there are no employment opportunities in an area, people will not stay there. Increased numbers of people are working from home since the start of the Covid crisis. We do not know whether they will continue to do so or if it will be the case for most of partly working from home and partly in the office. The latter is the more likely outcome. Either way, we have a real opportunity to ensure better employment prospects in Gaeltacht areas. That in itself will have the knock-on effect of promoting the language.

This Bill is a good start in seeking to address the issues, but the most important requirement is that its provisions are actually implemented. I know from speaking to several Irish speakers in recent days that the Bill is welcomed by the Irish-speaking community. However, it must be supplemented by budgetary measures that support the language.

Before I conclude, it is important to mention the important role of TG4, not just in its promotion of the language but also the fact that much of its content is produced in Gaeltacht communities. The same applies to Raidío Rí-Rá. It is not just about using the language but also providing an opportunity for participation and involvement by different communities. It has a hugely powerful effect when people have a sense of the language belonging to them. The Bill is welcome as an indication that the State will play its part in giving legislative support to Irish speakers.

3:55 pm

Photo of Thomas PringleThomas Pringle (Donegal, Independent)
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Tá brón orm nach bhfuil mé ábalta an Ghaeilge a labhairt i rith an contribution seo. I welcome the opportunity to contribute to this debate. We have waited far too long for these proposals to come to the House. The Bill amends the 2003 Act, which has not been fit for purpose for a long time, and attempts to ensure that the Irish-speaking population can engage with the State through Irish.

It is useful to consider how we got here. In 2011, the programme for Government set out the intention of the then Government to review the 2003 Act with a view to ensuring that expenditure in this area was best targeted towards the development of the language and that obligations would be imposed appropriately in response to demands from citizens. In 2014, a public consultation took place on the review of the Act. It identified a significant demand for services through the medium of the Irish language on a par with services provided through the medium of the English language. There was an attempt in 2014 to amend the legislation but it did not come to anything. We recognised then that the existing Act was no good. More than nine years later, in 2020, we are finally amending that outdated legislation. As well as taking a long time to get here, it has been a hard battle to do so. It is welcome that legislative action is being taken at last but it must be implemented with urgency.

Unfortunately, the Bill does not go far enough. I am happy that the Government intends to introduce amendments, but we have not had sight of them. Based on what the Minister said, they still do not go far enough because they do not reflect the emergency that exists in Gaeltacht areas. Once again, the Government is not listening to the people who are directly affected by the legislation in question. The Government has not even listened to the Comhchoiste na Gaeilge, na Gaeltachta agus na nOileán. The members of that committee, during the previous Dáil, travelled around the country to every Gaeltacht area and listened to the people living there, who have a deep understanding of the emergency facing their population. The committee also heard from the Coimisinéir Teanga and all interested stakeholders. On foot of these consultations, it published a unanimous cross-party report in May 2018 that contained 20 practical recommendations. In the report, the Chairman of the committee expressed concerns in regard to the lack of recognition of the emergency in the Gaeltacht and among the Irish-speaking community. That concern is not addressed at all in the Bill and it is clear that the Government did not take account of what the committee had to say. People in Gaeltacht areas relayed to the committee that, unless supported, the Irish-speaking population will be wiped out. We know that the numbers of native Irish speakers are at a critical level. We must start with the recognition that there is an emergency. There should be a strong statement in the Bill that we are in an emergency, just as the climate change and biodiversity emergency is acknowledged in the climate change legislation. An urgent action plan to address this emergency is needed.

Native Irish speakers or people who choose to speak Irish cannot engage or interact with the State in Irish, notwithstanding the recognition in the Constitution that Irish is our first official language. The provision in the Bill of a requirement that, by 2030, 20% of public service employees must be bilingual is to be welcomed as partly addressing that issue. However, it is a cause for alarm that the provision also states that whichever Minister is in charge in 2030 may extend the timeframe for meeting that target. The deadline of 2030 is already too far out but the Minister of the day is to be given the option to push it out further. It seems this Government is going to act on climate change but not on the Irish language emergency. The reality is that people cannot access services through Irish, whether online, by telephone or in person. This was laid bare in the summer during the public consultation process on the mess that is the Forestry (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2020. In that case, legislative proposals that will have an impact on great swathes of the Irish-speaking population were not available through Irish.

Another section of the Bill that needs to be addressed is that dealing with the powers of the Coimisinéir Teanga. As it stands, he or she is permitted to act only within the confines of the Official Languages Act. The powers of the Coimisinéir Teanga must be extended beyond that Act to enable him or her to examine other legislation. It is vitally important in this day and age that the Coimisinéir Teanga would be able to examine other legislation enacted by the Oireachtas to see whether it is benefiting the Irish language. After all, Irish is the official language of the State. One would not see a similar situation in any other country. Similar to the way in which we poverty-proof and gender-proof legislation, the Coimisinéir Teanga must have the power to ensure legislation recognises the Irish language emergency that exists and either helps to address it or at least does no further harm. That is the least that is required.

I welcome the introduction of this Bill but the reality is that it simply does not go far enough. I look forward to further discussions on Committee Stage when we will put forward amendments to make the Bill work effectively.

Debate adjourned.