Seanad debates

Wednesday, 6 March 2024

Seachtain na Gaeilge: Ráitis


10:30 am

Photo of Lynn BoylanLynn Boylan (Sinn Fein) | Oireachtas source

Gabhaim buíochas leis an Chathaoirleach Gníomhach. Tá brón orm ach níl Gaeilge mhaith agam. Táim ag foghlaim agus táim ar 349 ar Duolingo. B'fhéidir an bhliain seo chugainn go mbeidh mé ag caint fully as Gaeilge. Sinn Féin is committed to the restoration of Irish to use as a spoken language in communities nationwide and as a primary language of the Gaeltacht. Seachtain na Gaeilge provides a welcome opportunity to highlight our support for the Irish language and our policies to promote it while also drawing attention to the serious crisis affecting the Irish language in Gaeltacht communities.

Regarding the drop in numbers of those speaking Irish in Gaeltacht areas, Sinn Féin is committed to its routine use and has called for extra funding and support for the language planners working in these areas. Thit líon na gcainteoirí laethúla Gaeilge sa Ghaeltacht don dara daonáireamh as a chéile. There is a need to incentivise Gaeltacht families to raise their children through Irish, and this could be done by restoring the Irish speakers scheme that lasted from 1935 until 2012, which would provide €500 per child. This would help more families to raise their children trí Ghaeilge. Níl ach teaghlach Gaeltachta amháin as gach cúig ag tógáil a bpáistí trí Ghaeilge. Like everywhere else in the State, housing in Gaeltacht areas is in crisis. Bánú, the housing campaign group, said the crisis is forcing many Gaeilgeoirí, Gaeilge workers agus teaghlaigh Ghaeilge to leave the Gaeltacht as they can neither build nor buy a home locally. Sinn Féin published a ten-point Gaeltacht housing and planning policy in 2022 to address this. We have tabled more than 150 amendments to the Planning and Development Bill 2023 to protect Gaeltacht communities in planning. The housing Minister, Deputy Darragh O'Brien, has failed in his 2021 promise to address the crisis.

The story is the same with the Government's promise to restore democratic elections to the main Gaeltacht development agency, Údarás na Gaeltachta, before the local and European elections in June. The legislation has not been published yet. Sinn Féin published proposals in 2023 to guarantee representation for all Gaeltacht areas and islands through elections and a substantial amount in the budget for Údarás na Gaeltachta to develop the region. Tharla titim 30% ó 2017 i líon na mná tí do choláistí samhraidh Gaeltachta. Ach dar leis an Aire, an Teachta Catherine Martin, níl géarchéim ar bith san earnáil. A rescue package for the Gaeltacht summer college sector is urgently needed and Sinn Féin has put forward its proposals.

Foras na Gaeilge is the main agency for funding local Irish language efforts and the lead organisation in the Irish language sector, and its chairperson, Professor Regina Uí Chollatáin, wrote to all TDs on its 25th anniversary, describing the Government's funding as not only inadequate but derisory, with the inflation adjusted budget reduced by 45% over the past 15 years. A substantial increase in funding is required for Foras na Gaeilge, and in our alternative budget for 2024 we committed to €2.8 million as a start.

Cé gur lean TG4 na rialacha go léir i gcomparáid le RTÉ, tá an craoltóir serbhíse phoiblí Gaeilge ag fáil i bhfad níos lú maoiniú ná RTÉ ná S4C na Breatnaise, fiú. In our alternative budget we would have provided €9.2 million extra to TG4 and would ensure the new media fund to replace the TV licence would adequately support the growth of TG4 into the future.

A Government commissioned report recently found that a lack of structure and strategy in Irish language arts is leading to lost opportunities and a crisis in Irish language theatre in particular. The promised strategy for language-based arts has missed deadline after deadline and still remains unpublished. We are committed to providing the funding for the national Irish language theatre, An Taibhdhearc, in Galway with the funding it has sought to revive the sector. The Oireachtas Irish language committee under the Chair, Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh, published a comprehensive report at the Oireachtas festival on how to support the Irish language writing, publishing and reading sector.

A year after Sinn Féin published its policy, Ár Seacht nDícheall don Ghaeilge, to normalise and increase the use of Irish in public, the Government has still failed to act. Tá bliain imithe ó d'fhoilsigh Sinn Féin ár bpolasaí i rith Seachtain na Gaeilge chun úsáid na Gaeilge a normalú agus a spreagadh sa phobal agus níor ghníomhaigh an Rialtas. In government Sinn Féin would implement these seven proposals, including protecting the right to use Irish, bilingual packaging, information in shops and advertisements, Irish on ATMs and ticket machines and using Irish for placenames on road signs and on State branding.

The right of children to receive education in the medium of Irish is also being denied.Tá cearta á séanadh do pháistí oideachas trí Ghaeilge a fháil. An ESRI report showed that 23% of parents would choose the local Irish-medium school if they could, and that 11 of the Twenty-six Counties have no Gaelcholáiste. Níl aon Ghaelcholáiste in 11 as na Sé Chontae Fichead. We have yet to see a draft of the long-promised policy on Irish-medium education outside of the Gaeltachtaí, and it will leave out third level and adult learning altogether. A survey from of schools in the Gaeltachtaí found 80% have had to hire teachers who are not fluent in Irish. A report from the Oireachtas Gaeilge committee found that the current framework and criteria for exemptions are unscientific and called for an entirely new approach to second-language learning.

The Government needs a State-wide vision for the growth of the Irish language and the plan should be comprehensively resourced. No area of life should be ignored in the promotion of the language. Sinn Féin in government will support access to Irish in the education sector, and the Irish-medium sector, on a State-wide basis from pre-school to third level. It would also provide free Irish-language lessons for adults. We should be proud of our language and it is great to see the revival that is taking place. However, for generations like mine, we did not have these opportunities and we would love to have them as it is important to use Gaeilge gach lá.

I wish to commend Dublin City Council, which had its entire council meeting as Gaeilge on Monday night. That is the first time this has happened in the country. It is good and I encourage other local authorities to do the same. In fairness, most of the local elected councillors made an effort to address and put questions to the officials as Gaeilge. Long may that continue. Go raibh maith agat.


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