Seanad debates

Wednesday, 5 April 2006

4:00 pm

Photo of Ulick BurkeUlick Burke (Fine Gael)
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I move:

That Seanad Éireann:

—noting that our young people receive 1,500 hours of education in the Irish language throughout their schooling, at an estimated cost of €500 million per annum;

—recognising that Irish is the only subject that all students are required to take after the junior certificate examination;

—deeply concerned at the fact that, in spite of this situation, many of our young people are leaving school without any reasonable command of the Irish language;

—acknowledging the findings of the 2003 NCCA discussion document, Languages in the Post-Primary Curriculum, which stated that our syllabi and examinations retain an emphasis on reading and writing at the expense of listening and speaking;

calls on the Government to:

—reform radically the curriculum for Irish in second-level education, focusing on the teaching of Irish as a living language of modern and useful communication;

—introduce an oral examination at junior certificate immediately and devise a new subject for the leaving certificate, Communicating in Irish, which would focus to a large extent on spoken Irish;

—allow all post-junior certificate students a choice as to whether to take Irish to leaving certificate level; and

—devise a new national strategy for Irish which sets out very clearly what the Government wants to achieve for the Irish language, what will be done to support this goal, and what is expected from agencies and other partners in meeting the challenges that lie ahead.

Cuirim fáilte roimh an Aire, agus molaim an rún atá os comhair an tSeanaid. I Samhain na bliana seo caite ag cruinniú a bhí eagraithe aige, dúirt ceannaire Fhine Gael, an Teachta Kenny, gur mhaith leis díospóireacht a thosnú ar cheist na Gaeilge, agus sin an fáth go bhfuil an rún seo os ár gcomhair inniu.

I welcome the Minister of State to the House to take this important motion. It will start the debate on this issue in this House. It is only right that we have an opportunity to contribute to the debate on teaching our native Irish language as a living language. Unfortunately, during the years there has been a decline in its use. Despite the many efforts that have been made by various Governments and Ministers during the years, it is unfortunate that much of what was intended in respect of it was never implemented. At a time when most other countries are conscious of the significance of their native language and heritage, it is important that we would indicate our commitment to our native language.

The recognition of Irish as an official European language two or three years ago was an important step. When Deputy Kenny made a statement last November on the Irish language and what he had envisaged for it, he did so in the context of being a Gaelic speaker. Furthermore, from the perspective of having being a teacher, he recognised the fact that there was a steady decline in the use of the Irish language and that many people were leaving second level school having received 1,500 hours tuition without any great proficiency in the Irish language or an ability to communicate in Irish. Anybody who fails to accept the fact that there is something wrong in the way we are teaching the Irish language is hiding behind a smokescreen and, unfortunately, that is the position in the case of many people.

In the context of the Government's amendment, the Minister for Education and Science will recognise exactly what the leader of the Fine Gael Party was trying to achieve in initiating debate on this issue. The Government's amendment states: "further acknowledges that the Minister for Education and Science has made very clear her intention to reform how Irish is taught". The intention to reform the position is the basis of everything that has been said in the debate on this issue. However, how many previous Ministers have made a similar statement and literally not done anything? In this instance, the Fine Gael proposal is to do something that will be acceptable not necessarily as a major sop to Gaeilgeoirí alone but that will give young people an opportunity to learn Irish because they want to do so rather than because they are forced to do so.

My party leader's proposal is that students would have to take Irish up to junior certificate and thereafter they would have a choice in that respect. The Department has indicated that Irish is compulsory in the same way as, in some instances, are English and mathematics. However, at least in respect of those latter two subjects there is a choice, but in the case of Irish there is none.

As a teacher I saw at first hand that many students who took Irish went through the process of being physically present in the class and doing what they were asked to do but thousands of them went into the leaving certificate Irish examination and left after the statutory requirement of remaining at the desk for 30 minutes. I have often supervised leaving certificate examinations and observed that in the case of the Irish examination, the minute the clock ticks the half hour after the official starting time students have left one after the other except those who were committed. It was in the spirit of recognising that something must be done that Deputy Kenny initiated the debate on this issue. It does not do the cause of the Irish language any good to misrepresent his statements, as certain people have done.

I want to put the position on the Irish language into perspective. Students taking Irish who commence at primary level and complete the leaving certificate receive 1,500 hours tuition at a cost to the state of €500 million. Comparing that with the position of students who take another European language such as French, the number of students who take honours French at leaving certificate and achieve at that level is far greater than those who take honours Irish. The most important part of this is that they are achieving a higher standard in French, as a foreign language, as opposed to what is happening with Irish.

The Minister of State is eager to get up and I ask for the protection of the Cathaoirleach.

Rory Kiely (Fianna Fail)
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The Senator has only ten minutes and I would like some order.

Photo of Brian Lenihan JnrBrian Lenihan Jnr (Minister of State, Department of Education and Science; Minister of State, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Minister of State, Department of Health and Children; Dublin West, Fianna Fail)
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Tá tú criochnaithe anois.

Photo of Ulick BurkeUlick Burke (Fine Gael)
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The statistics are there to prove that the greater number of people achieve higher standards in higher level French or other modern languages than they do in Irish, our own native language. Therefore something is wrong.

The proposals of Fine Gael are that we would, first, give far greater resources at primary level and improve the facilities for teacher training at that level. Good work has been done by the gaelscoileanna throughout the country and we should acknowledge that fact. On Monday evening I was in a Gaeltacht area and I spoke with a teacher. He stated that he was teaching subjects to honours leaving certificate standard trí Gaeilge, and there are no official textbooks which he can use. Something is wrong in such a case.

Many people remember just a few years ago a company being established in a Gaeltacht area to provide textbooks as Ghaeilge, perhaps translating books that were being used at secondary and primary level. That company was not supported by Údarás na Gaeltachta by way of any deontas a raibh le fáil. That was wrong, and it was the first indication of the failure of the Government to respond to a need that was there to support the Irish language. We must address the issue.

The 2002 census demonstrates the decline in the numbers of the people using Irish as their primary language on a daily basis. There was a decline of 4%, even within the Gaeltacht areas. That must be a warning light to all concerned about the Irish language. That is the reality of the census, and the commissioner himself drew attention to it.

Photo of Brian Lenihan JnrBrian Lenihan Jnr (Minister of State, Department of Education and Science; Minister of State, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Minister of State, Department of Health and Children; Dublin West, Fianna Fail)
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There was an increase of 140,000.

Rory Kiely (Fianna Fail)
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The Senator, without interruption.

Photo of Ulick BurkeUlick Burke (Fine Gael)
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The Minister of State can contradict the numbers for as long as he wants, but I do not think the census statistics lie.

It is important to note the three real ideas that Deputy Kenny is looking to have in place, namely, reform, renewal and revival. Anybody misinterpreting them and stating otherwise is wrong. The idea of revival is important. Deputy Kenny proposed that after the junior certificate, people who wished to take Irish as a subject would have a choice. They could take a subject called communicating in Irish, where there would be an emphasis on the spoken language, and 50% of the marks in the subject would be awarded for a comhrá examination. Others, who would really have a love of the language and wished to learn of the heritage and literature of the Irish language, could take a subject tailored to that effect. These people could specialise in such a way.

It is possible to make Irish a living language if we have people speaking the language. Why can this be done in other areas but it cannot be done with our own language? This debate is worthy of attention. In a recent MRBI poll, 62% of the population agreed with the elimination of the compulsion to do Irish to leaving certificate level. It should be there as a choice, and people should be given the opportunity to learn the language for the love of it rather than being compelled to do so.

Photo of Joe McHughJoe McHugh (Fine Gael)
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I second the motion.

Rory Kiely (Fianna Fail)
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Is the Senator speaking at this stage?

Photo of Joe McHughJoe McHugh (Fine Gael)
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No.

Rory Kiely (Fianna Fail)
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He is reserving the time to speak later.

Photo of Ann OrmondeAnn Ormonde (Fianna Fail)
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I move amendment No. 1:

To delete all words after "That" and substitute the following:

"Seanad Éireann,

—recognises the constitutional position of Irish as the national language and the first official language of the State;

—acknowledges the Government's success in gaining recognition for Irish as an official language of the European Union;

—further acknowledges the Government's increased support for TG4;

—believes that these measures are important in raising the esteem in which the language is held in society in general, something which naturally has an effect on students' interest in learning Irish;

—notes that in the 2002 census, 140,000 more people classified themselves as Irish speakers than had been the case in the 1996 census, with significant growth in the number of people outside the Gaeltacht who speak Irish;

—further notes that this year, for the first time, there is a gaelscoil in every county in the country, a development which is reflective of an increased desire among parents to educate their children through Irish;

—acknowledges that in recent years a new curriculum has been introduced for Irish at primary level, modern literature and film have been added to the leaving certificate curriculum and there has been a substantial increase in investment in texts and resources to support the teaching of Irish;

—further acknowledges that the Minister for Education and Science has made very clear her intention to reform how Irish is taught at senior cycle level in particular and has asked the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment to make proposals for curriculum change to her as a matter of priority, and for these proposals to include greater emphasis on the spoken language; and

—believes that all parties should support reform of how Irish is taught in our schools rather than jeopardising the future of the language by calling for its status in our education system to be downgraded."

I welcome the Minister of State and I wish to start with cúpla focail as Ghaeilge. Molaim i gconaí daoine nach bhfuil a lán Gaeilge acu as iarracht a dhéanamh Gaeilge a labhairt sa Seanad. Cé nach bhfuil a lán Gaeilge agam féin, is mian liom a rá go bhfuil mé ag tabhairt tacaíochta don leasú a tá curtha síos ag an Aire. I always admire Senators who come into this House and make an effort to speak Irish. While I may not have the blas myself and am not good at speaking Irish, I wish to have my cúpla focail on the record because of my interest in the revival of the Irish language.

The wording on the proposed amendment is self-explanatory. Irish is recognised in the Constitution as the national language, and the Government is clearly committed to promoting it. That is evidenced by its increased funding and support for TG4 and the Gaeltacht areas. The Government has also introduced the Official Languages Act and succeeded in making Irish an official language in the EU.

Photo of Ulick BurkeUlick Burke (Fine Gael)
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Very reluctantly.

Photo of Ann OrmondeAnn Ormonde (Fianna Fail)
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There is now a gaelscoil in every county in Ireland, which clearly shows evidence of a new interest in the language in areas where there was no past interest. My party will do everything to facilitate that group, and the Government remains committed not just to the conservation of the Irish language but to the promotion and expansion of its use. We have seen significant improvements in the provision of textbooks and teaching material through An Comhairle, set up in 2002. There is a perception, whether we like it or not that we wish to downgrade Irish.

Photo of Ulick BurkeUlick Burke (Fine Gael)
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It should be corrected.

Rory Kiely (Fianna Fail)
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Senator Ormonde without interruption.

Photo of Ann OrmondeAnn Ormonde (Fianna Fail)
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The Irish language for too long suffered a lack of commitment from successive Governments. Every side of the House has been guilty on that front. Nobody should act like a "Mr. Clean" in discussing how the language was treated in the past. Under this Administration, the language is undergoing a revival, as the facts show.

This is not to say we cannot do better. Many young people are still leaving school unable to converse through Irish. It is a sad reality that this Government is determined to tackle. Shortly after the Minister for Education and Science took up her post, she highlighted this as an issue for prioritisation. She stated her view that 50% of the marks in leaving certificate Irish should be for the oral examinations. I was interested to see this proposal recycled some time ago by the Opposition.

The syllabus for Irish at post-primary level is also built on the communicative approach, and it will have an integrated approach to develop the four language skills of speaking, listening, reading and writing. In every aspect of language learning — teacher training, curriculum, textbook, teaching methods and aids, support services and inspection systems for examinations — there should be an urgent and impartial review of the learning and teaching of Irish.

Irish should be taught in schools in a way that is interesting and relevant, and which will promote a positive attitude among our young people. I am very much against the proposal in front of us to abandon compulsory Irish after the junior certificate examination.

Photo of Ulick BurkeUlick Burke (Fine Gael)
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There is no proposal to abandon it.

Photo of Ann OrmondeAnn Ormonde (Fianna Fail)
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I will not under any circumstances agree to the suggestion that Irish not be compulsory at post-junior certificate level. It is important to realise that the promotion of the Irish language cannot be advanced by schools alone, and that societal attitudes to the language also impact on students' desire to learn it. The Opposition stated that there was something wrong when we achieve a higher leaving certificate points total in French and German than we do in Irish. The problem is attitudinal, rather than a lack of commitment. With commitment to the methods of reviving a language there is no question of not being able to raise the standard of Irish at the leaving certificate, higher level paper.

I hope Senator Ulick Burke's party gives its full support to the reform efforts under way, rather than proposing to abandon compulsory Irish after junior certificate level. Given the centrality of our language to our culture and identity as a nation I hope Senators opposite will put party political difference aside and work with us to ensure the future of the Irish language is a bright one.

I sincerely hope young people enjoy learning Irish as a result of the reforms to be put in place, which are in line with the Minister's commitment to bring about a continual increase in the number of people speaking Irish on a daily basis.

Photo of Joe O'TooleJoe O'Toole (Independent)
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Ba mhaith liom, más féidir, propose my own amendment. Is that allowed?

Rory Kiely (Fianna Fail)
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No.

Photo of Joe O'TooleJoe O'Toole (Independent)
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No? In that case I will just speak to my own amendment.

Rory Kiely (Fianna Fail)
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A Senator can only propose one amendment at a time.

Photo of Joe O'TooleJoe O'Toole (Independent)
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Ar an lá deireannach, bhíos ag éisteacht leis an díospóireacht sa Teach eile mar gheall ar ráitis i nGaoluinn, agus ní dóigh liom gur chualas aon ráiteas a bhí chomh holc sin ó aon Aire Gaeltachta le blianta anuas. Ní raibh fiú féin script aige. Ní raibh moltaí aige, agus bhí daoine den scoth from the Opposition os a chomhair amach, daoine ar nós an Teachta O'Dowd, an Teachta Joe Higgins agus an Teachta O'Shea; daoine a bhfuil suim acu sa Ghaoluinn agus a bhí in ann í a phlé. Níor chuala mé díospóireacht ariamh a bhí chomh holc leis an méid a bhíá rá ag an Aire.

Tá mé ag féachaint anseo ar Department of the Taoiseach: Action Programme for the Millennium. I congratulate Senator Ormonde on a spirited defence of her Government, since that is what she is there to do. Caithfidh mé a rá nach n-aontóinn léi i ngach rud a dúirt sí, áfach. Cuirfear plean náisiúnta don réamhscolaíocht agus don Ghaelscolaíocht le chéile. That has not been done. Cuirfear coiste náisiúnta comhordaithe ar bun. That has been done. The last thing that I wish to talk about is: cuirfear lár-ionad acmhainní ar bun chun áiseanna cearta oideachasúla a chur ar fáil le haghaidh fhoghlaimeoirí na teanga. Níor deineadh é sin. I 1999, nuair a bhí an Teachta Ó Máirtín ina Aire Oideachais agus Eolaíochta, mhol sé don Rialtas go mbeadh lár-ionad oideachas Gaoluinne náisiúnta lonnaithe i mBaile Bhúirne i gContae Chorcaí. That was the proposal, straight and simple. Ghlac an Rialtas lena mholadh, agus chuireadar airgead ar fáil an bhliain sin ó the capital programme. Níor tharla aon rud, agus níl fhios agam cén fáth.

Ina dhiaidh sin, tháinig an Teachta Woods isteach mar Aire. Chuaigh sé go Baile Bhúirne le chéile le hArd-Rúnaí na Roinne Oideachais agus Eolaíochta, agus chas sé an fód ar an rud seo. Níor tharla aon rud ina dhiaidh sin. The next Minister was Deputy Dempsey. Bhí sé go mór i bhfabhar chomh maith. Nothing happened. Anois, tá an tAire, an Teachta Hanafin, politician of the year, i bhfeighil an ruda seo. Tá an-jab á dhéanamh aici, agus tá mé cinnte go bhfuil sí báúil don teanga, something that I would not take from her, ach níor tharla aon rud.

The Opposition may have differing opinions on the points made by Senator Burke, but he has pointed out flaws in the system. Dhá scór bliain ó shin, agus mé ag freastal ar scoil na mBráithre Críostaí i nDaingean Uí Chúis, as it is correctly called, An Daingean as the Minister calls it, or Dingle Uí Chúis, as others call it, bhíos ag foghlaim mo chuid Laidine trí Ghaoluinn as téacsleabhar Béarla. It was natural and normal at the time, and we did not pay much attention to it, but it is utterly unacceptable that 40 years later the same thing is still happening. I will say this in English lest there be any doubt among those listening. My colleagues in the Gaeltacht who teach in primary schools — the same happens in post-primary schools — have been crying out for an Irish textbook of the standard that those in the rest of the country would expect of an English textbook. No aspect of the geography curriculum in primary or post-primary schools is available i nGaoluinn.

There are other examples. The Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs is more interested in picking a fight with the people of the Gaeltacht by taking away their right to determine the names of where they live than what children learn in school. He is far more interested in what is written on a signpost or in ensuring that the NRA and other semi-State companies unnecessarily spend huge amounts producing hard copies of glossy, pictorial versions of their annual reports, a total waste of money. In the meantime, what was proposed for Baile Bhúirne would have produced, from day one, téacsanna agus leathanaigh Idirlíne as Gaoluinn and all sorts of information technology material trí Ghaoluinn to be used on the day by schools around the country looking for such texts.

People correctly stress the importance of gaelscoileanna and have lauded their achievements, but I visited every Gaeltacht school in west Kerry and in south Connemara a couple of years ago and did not find one classroom where every child had Gaoluinn ón chliabhán. In every class, there were a few. I was in foinse na Gaoluinne, i nDún Chaoin, agus bhí leanaí sa scoil sin, naíonáin shóisear a bhí tagtha ó Londain, ón Spáinn agus ón Ghearmáin, but those teachers are still trying to inculcate the Irish language without the support of textbooks, and that is completely and utterly wrong. The Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs should be taken to the real world, where such things are necessities.

The Fine Gael argument is correct, even if it does not mean that the contents of the Fianna Fáil amendment are untrue. The things that it leaves out are the problem.

Why have we not established the centre in Baile Bhúirne? People are opposed to it, but in the past week I have spoken to Údarás na Gaeltachta, and it is favour. I have spoken to An Roinn Gnóthaí Tuaithe, Pobail agus Gaeltachta, and it is in favour, as is Foras na Gaeilge. All the main players are in favour. The Department of Education and Science is in ainm a bheith i bhfabhar. Cén fáth nach bhfuil sé tarlaithe? It is because somebody is blocking it somewhere, perhaps because it is too far from Dublin.

Photo of Brendan RyanBrendan Ryan (Labour)
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Hear, hear.

Photo of Joe O'TooleJoe O'Toole (Independent)
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How can people in the Gaeltacht run their own affairs? We have spent 80 years ordering them around from Dublin. This centre must be established in the Gaeltacht ionas go mbeadh beocht ann i measc mhuintir na Gaeltachta, i measc mhuintir na Gaoluinne, agus go mbeadh siad ag cur na dtéacsanna agus gach rud eile ar fáil atá ag teastáil ó na scoileanna tríd an tír.

Is mise an t-aon duine sa Teach seo ón nGaeltacht. Every time that I go home, people tell me of their problems. I do not know why there is not a Gaeltacht uprising over the way that they have been treated over the years. The smart comments about Gaeltacht grants are not what they need. They need to be able to live their lives trí Ghaoluinn. In terms of education, that means réamhscolaíocht, primary education, an dara léibhéal, an tríú léibhéal, ollscolaíocht and adult education trí Ghaoluinn. That is what this centre can do. There are other groups that can do things. I spoke to An Coiste um Oideachas Gaeltachta agus Gaelscolaíochta last night, with which I have had some differences of opinion in recent times. However, they are doing a good job, and I will not take that away from them.

In Baile Bhúirne, we had something that would deal with Gaoluinn across the whole island at every level of education and provide things that would immediately be used for teaching and learning Irish. If we do nothing else, we must railroad whoever is blocking this and deal with the issue. More importantly, the Minister should tell us who is blocking it, why it has not happened hitherto, and where the problem lies. We must show support for schools and education. In that sense, we might differ with aspects of what Fine Gael is doing tonight, but the bunphrionsabal is absolutely fundamental.

Photo of Labhrás Ó MurchúLabhrás Ó Murchú (Fianna Fail)
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Tá fáilte roimh an Aire chuig an díospóireacht seo. I ndáiríre, is maith an rud é go bhfuil sí ag tarlú, mar cruthaíonn sé sin go bhfuil an Ghaeilge beo agus go bhfuil grá againn uilig don teanga. Táimid ag iarraidh comhoibriú le chéile le cinntiú go mbeidh feabhas ar stádas na Gaeilge, ní amháin sa chóras oideachais ach sa timpeallacht freisin. Caithfidh an trí rud dul le chéile, an córas oideachais, an scolaíocht agus an timpeallacht. Má fhéachtar siar ar stair na Gaeilge, feicfear go bhfuil sárobair déanta le blianta fada ag na scoileanna. Ba é ceann de na deacrachtaí a bhí ann i gcónaí náé seo. Is cuma cén cumas Gaeilge a bhí ag daoine, nuair a chuadar lasmuigh den scoil sa Ghalltacht, ní raibh an Ghaeilge á húsáid. Mar sin, níor fhéach na scoláirí ar an Ghaeilge mar rud a bhí tábhachtach ann féin agus a bhíáúsáid go nua-aimseartha i measc an phobail.

Tá sé suimiúil i ndáiríre go bhfuil feabhas tagtha ar an timpeallacht anois. Ní dóigh liom go bhféadfadh éinne a rá nach bhfuil sárjab déanta ag TG4. Bím ag caint le daoine.

Photo of Brendan RyanBrendan Ryan (Labour)
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Buíochas leis an Teachta Michael Higgins.

Photo of Labhrás Ó MurchúLabhrás Ó Murchú (Fianna Fail)
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Aontaím leis an Seanadóir. Sheas an Teachta Michael Higgins an fód ag an am sin.

Photo of Joe O'TooleJoe O'Toole (Independent)
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In fairness to the former Taoiseach, Charles Haughey, chuir seisean airgead ar fáil.

Photo of Labhrás Ó MurchúLabhrás Ó Murchú (Fianna Fail)
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Bhí an-chuid daoine a bhí ag cur i gcoinne TG4, nó Teilifís na Gaeilge mar a tugadh air ag an am, á rá go gcosnódh sé an iomarca. Nach raibh sé sin fíor? Is cuimhim liom na díospóireachtaí ar an teilifís.

Photo of Joe O'TooleJoe O'Toole (Independent)
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Agus anseo, fiú.

Photo of Labhrás Ó MurchúLabhrás Ó Murchú (Fianna Fail)
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Sheasadar an fód, agus chruthaíodar go raibh féin-mhuinín againn agus go raibh sé ar ár gcumas rud a dhéanamh ar cheap an-chuid daoine nach raibh sé indéanta. Tá sé déanta anois, agus níl aon amhras faoi ach go bhfuil sé sin ag cabhrú go mór linn ó thaobh chur chun cinn na Gaeilge de, agus tugann sé sin dóchas dúinn.

Tá gaelscoil anois i ngach uile chontae sa tír seo. Ní amháin go bhfuil siad ag dul i bhfeabhas, ach tá daoine ag feitheamh le fáil isteach sna gaelscoileanna, mar tá sé faiseanta an Ghaeilge a bheith ag duine. Tá sé soiléir go bhfuil ardchaighdeán oideachais ar fáil, ach tá focal eile thar a bheith tábhachtach ó thaobh na Gaeilge de. Táéiteas sna scoileanna sin atá ag teastáil ó na tuismitheoirí. Sin bua eile, chomh maith le TG4, ach tá bua eile fós ag dul leis na gaelscoileanna. Lasmuigh, tá na tuismitheoirí ceangailte leis an oideachas sin. Bíonn siad ag cabhrú leis na scoileanna. Bíonn siad istigh ansin ag iarraidh coiste a chur le chéile chun feabhas a chur ar na scoileanna. Is rí-annamh anois go mbíonn sé sin le feiscint, agus beidh na gaelscoileanna ag méadú chuile lá.

Tharla rud stairiúil sa Seomra seo anuraidh nuair a d'éirigh linn rún a chur le chéile ar son na Gaeilge ar ghlac gach páirtí anseo leis. Bhíomar ag troid chun stádas oifigiúil oibre a bhaint amach don Ghaeilge san Eoraip, ach d'aontaíomar le chéile anseo. Nuair a bhí an Bille teanga á phlé, is beag cur ina choinne a bhí anseo. Is é an tAcht teanga an dul chun cinn a chruthaíonn go bhfuilimid dáiríre faoin Ghaeilge agus go bhfuil sé i gceist againn an timpeallacht a ghaelú trí seirbhísí a chur ar fáil.

Ar chreid éinne 20 nó deich mbliana ó shin go mbeadh stádas oifigiúil ag an Ghaeilge i gComhphobal na hEorpa? Ní dóigh liom gur chreid. Bhí coiste ann, áfach, agus molaim Conradh na Gaeilge, Foras na Gaeilge, agus Comhdháil Náisiúnta na Gaeilge, a tháinig le chéile. Cérbh iad na daoine a bhí amuigh ar na sráideanna sa léirsiú? Níor sheandaoine iad ach daoine óga a bhí ag lorg cearta don Ghaeilge. Chuireadar brú iontach ar gach éinne le cinntú go mbeadh stádas oifigiúil oibre ag an Ghaeilge san Eoraip, rud atá againn anois. Más rud é go bhfuilimid ag caint ar dhul chun cinn sa timpeallacht, tá an-dul chun cinn ann.

Ní hionann é sin agus a rá nach féidir linn feabhas a chur ar stádas na Gaeilge sa chóras oideachais, agus ba chóir dúinn taighde a dhéanamh air sin. Tugaim faoi deara go bhfuil geallúint tugtha ag an Aire go bhfuil sé i gceist aige taighde a dhéanamh agus béim i bhfad níos mó a chur ar chumas cainte. Ba mhaith liom an méid seo a rá, áfach. Ní ghlacaim leis gur easpa chumas cainte an fhadhb is mó ach easpa muiníne. Is minic a bhíonn bunchloch na Gaeilge ag daoine, an foclóir agus an ghramadach, ach tá easpa muiníne acu. Cad ina thaobh go bhfuil easpa muiníne ann? Táimid ag caint anseo faoi fhéinmhuinín mar náisiún, an rud is tábhachtaí. Seo ár dteanga féin, an teanga náisiúnta. Tá litríocht shaibhir sa Ghaeilge sin.

Ag am a bhfuil gach náisiún ar domhan ag iarraidh cinntiú go mbeidh an fhéiniúlacht náisiúnta chun tosaigh, an Ghearmáin, an Fhrainc agus gach tír eile, tá sé tábhachtach dúinne díreach an rud céanna a dhéanamh agus ár bhféiniúlacht náisiúnta a chosaint. Caithfimid rud amháin a sheachaint, áfach, a bhaineann le cuid de na deacrachtaí a bhí againn go dtí seo, agus is é sin dearcadh diúltach. Caithfimid a bheith cúramach nach dtagann an dearcadh diúltach i bhfeidhm orainn go hiomlán. Nuair a bhíonn an dearcadh sin ann, tá sé cinnte nach féidir rud dearfach a dhéanamh, mar beimid diúltach faoin teanga.

Is cuma cad a thagann as an díospóireacht seo. Ní dóigh liom go mbaineann tábhacht ró-mhor le haon vóta a bheidh anseo, slí amháin nó slí eile, anocht. Tá rud amháin tábhachtach, áfach, agus is é sin go leanaimid ar aghaidh aontaithe. D'fhéadfaimis treoir a thabhairt don náisiún, agus is féidir linn anois glacadh leis an dearcadh dearfach atá i measc an phobail ó thaobh na Gaeilge de. I ngach uile shuirbhé a rinneadh do dtí seo, bhí sé soiléir go raibh feabhas ag teacht ar an scéal. Tá níos mó daoine ag labhairt na Gaeilge agus ina fabhar. Tá níos mó tuismitheoirí i bhfabhar stádas ceart a thabhairt don Ghaeilge sa chóras oideachais. Tá súil agam, nuair a bheidh an díospóireacht seo thart, is cuma cad a thagann aisti, go mbeidh muidinne in ann leanúint ar aghaidh ag cabhrú agus comhoibriú le chéile agus nach mbeidh aon dearcadh diúltach ag dul amach as an Teach seo.

Photo of Brendan RyanBrendan Ryan (Labour)
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Cuirim fáilte roimh an Aire. Tá mé an-drochbhéasach faoi sin, agus is minic a dhéanaim dearmad ar a leithéid a rá.

Mar a dúirt an cainteoir deiridh, is iontach an rud é go bhfuil a leithéid de dhíospóireacht ar siúl anseo, agus is fiúé. Níl mé cinnte gurbh é an rud ab fhearr go mbeimis go léir ar aon aigne faoin nGaoluinn. Ba cheart dúinn a bheith ar aon fhealsúnacht faoi na rudaí is tábhachtaí, áfach. Tá beagnach gach éinne san dá Thigh den Oireachtas ar an meon céanna faoina dteastaíonn uainn. Is é a theastaíonn uainn ná go mbeadh an teanga dhúchais againn beo, á labhairt go forleathan agus, go speisialta, go leanfadh ar aghaidh mar phobal beo pobal na Gaeltachta ina bhfuil an teanga á labhairt fós.

Nuair a fhéachtar ar an Ghaeilge, is féidir féachaint ar an ngloine agus a rá go bhfuil sí leath-lán nó leath-fholamh. It is worth quoting some statistics os comhair an Tí. Tá 6,000 teanga sa domhan agus de réir na saineolaithe, half of those are inevitably going to die out. Den 3,000 atá fágtha, tá 90% acu i mbaol. Níl ach 300 teanga nach bhfuil i mbaol agus tá an Ghaeilge i measc leo. It is an interesting fact that with all of our limitations, failings and smart alecry, mar a dúirt Coimisinéir na Teanga, the last native Irish speaker has not been born yet and will not be for another few generations. We have not done as well as I would have wished but we have not done as badly as many would have us believe; that is the present situation.

Nuair a fhéachaim ar an rún ag Fine Gael atá os ár gcomhair, tá mórán ann lena n-aontóinn ach tá líne amháin ann nach féidir le Páirtí an Lucht Oibre a thacú— go ligfí do gach mac léinn tar éis an teastas sóisir rogha a bheith aige Gaeilge a thógáil san ardteist — agus mar gheall air sin ní bheimid ag vótáil ar son an rún. Ní aontaím leis sin.

There is a valid argument about the teaching of Irish in this State and what we want to achieve. We have never clarified our thinking properly about it. To call dramatically now for a sudden and fundamental change in the way Irish is treated in the leaving certificate is not appropriate. There is a case for a review and I am happy to take it away from examination agus gach rud mar sin go mbeadh ach sprioc amháin a bheith againn — go dtí an teastas sóisir ar a laghad — go mbeadh Gaeilge labhartha cumasach ag gach éinne ag fágáil na meánscoile nó ag fágáil na bunscoile. Dá sroichfimis an sprioc sin, d'fhéadfaí tosnú ag caint faoi cad is fiú an Ghaeilge sa chóras meánscolaíochta, go mór-mhór san ard teastas. If we could reach a stage where everyone could speak good Irish comfortably, we could then talk about choices but it is putting the cart before the horse to talk about that before doing the other.

In case there is an excess of optimism on the other side, I am not suggesting that the Labour Party will vote for the Government amendment either. Tá rudaí ann lena n-aontaím ach sa líne deireanach tá an abairt "believes that all parties should support reform of how Irish is taught in our schools rather than jeopardising the future of the language by calling for its status in our education system to be downgraded". Má tá daoine ar lorg comhaontaithe faoi conas a láimhseálfaimis an Ghaeilge, ní chuirfidís a leithéid ar an chlár. That is confrontational politics and the Labour Party will not vote for the amendment.

Bheadh Páirtí an Lucht Oibre sásta vótáil ar son na leasaithe ó na Seanadóirí O'Toole agus Quinn because something funny is going on. Dá mbeimis i ndáiríre faoi seo bheadh téacsleabhair den chaighdeán is airde ar fáil do gach éinne a dteastódh uaidh ábhar ag an mbunscoil, meánscoil nó ar an tríú leibhéal a dhéanamh trí Ghaeilge. Tá mé amhrasach faoin phleidhcíocht atá ar siúl faoin ionad náisiúnta a gealladh do Bhaile an Bhúirne. Aontaím leis an Seanadóir O'Toole — someone in Dublin thinks Baile an Bhúirne is too far away, tá sé chomh simplí sin. Ceapann siad go bhfuil na Gaeltachtaí ró-fhada ó Bhaile Átha Cliath. Sin trioblóid atá ag gluaiseacht na Gaeilge le 80 bliain — is mór an trua nach bhfuil an Ghaeltacht in aice le Baile Átha Cliath agus bheadh sé i bhfad níos compordaí le Gaeilgeoirí Bhaile Átha Cliath dá mba rud é nach raibh orthu taisteal agus iad féin a chur faoi míchompord le cuairt a thabhairt ar an Ghaeltacht. Murach sin cén fáth nach bhfuil an institiúid ar siúl?

Glacaim go bhfuil a lán daoine dáiríre faoin nGaeilge ach tá rudaí atá ag teastáil le blianta. Tá orainn athscrúdú bunúsach a chur ar siúl faoin dóigh a múintear an Ghaeilge sna bunscoileanna. The single most extraordinary assumption that bedevils the whole movement ar son na Gaeilge ná the assumption that the same curriculum can be taught in a Galltacht and a Gaeltacht school. In one case children are being taught — agus tá Gaeilge ag an chuid is mó díofa — about a language atá acu cheana féin. I bhformhór na scoileanna tá muid ag iarraidh teanga nua a chur ar fáil. To use the same curriculum in both cases is ridiculous.

We must bheith cinnte go bhfuil na daoine atá ag múineadh na Gaeilge compordach agus iad ag labhairt na teanga. That is not an unreasonable demand, it should be true of all languages. We would not ask people to teach French who could not speak it fluently. Caithfidh téacsanna a bheith ar fáil fosta.

Is fiú go bhfuil an díospóireacht seo ar siúl. Tá difríocht beag idir mo pháirtí féin agus Fine Gael ach níl sé ró-mhór. Ba é Aire de chuid Pháirtí an Lucht Oibre a chuir TG4 ar bun, an cinneadh is dearfaí ar son todhchaí na Gaeilge le 50 bliain anuas. Is é an t-athrú is mó ar dhearcadh an phobail faoin Ghaeilge agus faoi Ghaelachas ná go bhfuil seirbhís teilifíse phroifisiúnta bheo bhríomhar as Gaeilge ar fáil. An t-aon easpa ná nach bhfuil na hacmhainní a ba chóir ag TG4 agus mholfainn don Aire agus don Rialtas acmhainní TG4 a mhéadú go mór.

John Minihan (Progressive Democrats)
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I welcome the Minister of State to the House and the opportunity to speak on the use of the Irish language, how it is taught to children and adults and its promotion and preservation. There will hardly be a Member of this House who is not concerned by the fact many of our young people leave school without a reasonable command of the Irish language as stated in the Opposition motion. I would also presume that no Member or party would have a problem, in principle, with 1,500 hours of Irish language education being delivered to Irish children throughout their school lives nor with the estimated annual cost of €500 million. It is also unclear how many people are truly worried that students are required to take Irish after the junior certificate examination. Few would take specific issue with the findings in the 2003 NCCA document, Languages in the Post-Primary Curriculum, that our syllabi and examinations "retain an emphasis on reading and writing at the expense of listening and speaking".

Given these points, this debate boils down to how the Irish language becomes, in the Opposition's words, "a living language of modern and useful communication". Our cultural heritage is protected and deepened by continuing to support our understanding, use and development of the Irish language in as many media as possible. Assessment of the Irish language in the curriculum must be part of a broader need to promote a better understanding and valuing of our national heritage and culture in schools.

Moving on from a system which has not delivered, necessitates understanding of what has and what has not worked. I welcome the evaluation of teaching and learning in Irish which took place in 40 schools between January and June last year. While the information gleaned from that must be analysed by the evaluation support and research unit, I urge that the final report be published as soon as possible. Similarly, I hope the final report of the evaluation of teaching and learning in the junior cycle, in which 75 schools took part between September 2004 and June last year, will also be published soon.

I commend the Minister and the Government on working towards the revised literature course for leaving certificate Irish. I understand this will be examined for the first time this year having been introduced in September 2004. It is crucial that modern texts in Irish are part of the curriculum. Language is central to the human experience, whether the communication takes place face to face or across time through literature. Students should experience contemporary Irish language use and culture through modern texts and I welcome the inclusion of contemporary works in the prescribed prose and poetry sections of the leaving certificate.

No matter what our personal view of the book might be, there is a sense that one has only to mention the name Peig Sayers to a certain age group and one will see a dramatic rolling of the eyes, or worse. If we are to move further towards Irish as a living language of modern and useful communication, we need to learn from this. That the elective material element of the leaving certificate for both prose and poetry provides candidates with opportunities to present alternative texts of their choice is a welcome development.

I also commend the Government on working to provide a revised literature course that allows the study of a contemporary Irish language film as an alternative to the prescribed play. The Minister has stated her view that the new Irish literature curriculum offers many opportunities to study modern texts and I commend her and her Department on their efforts to date to provide both teachers and students with the ability to choose works that match their interests. That is an important point and not one, I suspect, recognised generally or in the Opposition motion for that matter.

I have some concerns about the final point of the Opposition motion on a new national strategy for Irish. I understand Fóram na Gaeilge was to look at the preparation of a 20-year strategic plan with realistic goals for the Irish language in the State. It seems the advisability of a 20-year strategic plan for the Irish language has been among the issues that have been considered in general terms by Fóram na Gaeilge. The question of why it is advisable to have a strategic plan is debateable. Surely agreement exists on the need for the development of a clear statement on the part of the Government on the Irish language.

The Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs has stated his hope to be able to advance the matter "in the near future". It would be worthwhile if the House could get some sense of what work has been completed and what issues are holding up a strategic plan with realistic goals for the language.

I wish to deviate briefly to make a point about the promotion of the Irish language generally. Much has been made of the requirement on public bodies to ensure that certain documents of public interest shall be published in each of the official languages simultaneously — for example, annual reports. Again, I suggest that no one has a particular problem with this in principle, although I understand some members of Fine Gael are now sorry they supported the Official Languages Act. The problem seems to centre on the cost. It is an issue which is talked about with little, if any, reference to the facts.

In the first instance, the number of documents which must be translated is limited — covering major policy documents only. Second, the cost of compliance to Departments, the Revenue Commissioners and the Office of Public Works was approximately €350,000 in 2005. Compare this with the total expenditure of Departments of approximately €50 billion. The €350,000 cost of compliance with the official languages legislation should be kept in that context. People are often accused of knowing the cost of everything and the value of nothing and I suggest that when it comes to preserving a language not only for us but for people not yet born, we must shed that limited view.

I welcome this debate and the opportunity to hear the view of all sides, particularly to hear the most up to date view of the Minister and the Department. I have concerns about the strategy, as I have outlined, and urge this be addressed as soon as possible. There is an old Irish saying — Níl neart gan cur le chéile, there is no real strength without co-operating. Are varying political and interest group approaches damaging the preservation and promotion of the language? The spirit of that saying spurs us to ask whether co-operation and consensus rather than divisive motions are the way to best promote and protect our native language. Government, Ministers, Departments, legislators, teachers, students and wider society must work together. It is in that spirit that I support the amendment to the motion.

Photo of Joe McHughJoe McHugh (Fine Gael)
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Cuirim fáilte roimh an Aire. Tá lúcháir ormsa go bhfuil deis agam ceist na Gaeilge a phlé anseo anocht. Tá meas mór agam ar an Ghaeilge. Rugadh agus tógadh in aice le Gaeltacht Ros Goill mé, áit a bhfuil éacht mhór déantá ag an phobal an Ghaeilge a choinneáil beo, a fhorbairt agus a chur chun chinn.

Tá comharthaíocht agus fógraíocht le feiceáil i nGaeilge. Tá an teanga le cloisteáil níos mó inniu ná mar a bhí deich mbliana ó shin. Tá imeachtaí ar siúl go rialta agus tá cúrsaí Gaeilge ar fáil ag gach leibhéal, chomh maith le cúrsaí céime sa Ghaeilge, faoi láthair.

Chaith mise 16 bliana ag foghlaim na Gaeilge ar scoil. Ní raibh córas mhúineadh na Gaeilge ró-chairdiúil ag an am sin agus níl mise ach óg. Caithfear amharc ar an chóras oideachais ó thaobh na Gaeilge de.

I am delighted to be able to say a few words as Gaeilge agus as Béarla. I mentioned what is happening at grassroots level. I live in Rosguill on the border of a Gaeltacht area in Donegal. Unfortunately, I was not born in the Gaeltacht. If I had been, I would have more muinín in terms of my ability to express myself through Irish.

There is a lot going on in my region and a community development group, an Irish language group, runs many courses for the people of the area. Much of its work is voluntary and it receives some Gaeltacht funding, etc. There is a complete revival of the Irish language because people decided to stop talking about its decline and not to focus on the negativity. I cannot remember the beautiful word Senator Ó Murchú used for negativity. The Irish language group decided to get together and run certificate courses at local level. Some years later, people wanted to progress further and began to do diploma courses. Now, in conjunction with Magee College in Derry, they have begun to do degree courses in the Irish language. This is an example of the positive work of the Irish language movement. I assume the same is happening in other rural areas. It is a bottom-up approach and it is important to focus on it.

The Minister will be aware that Oideas Gael in Gleann Cholm Cille is very much a private entrepreneurial project. The director, Liam Ó Cuinneagáin, decided on his own that there is money to be made from the Irish language, although that may not have been his primary motivation. From knowing him I believe his primary motivation was to help revive the language and keep it alive in the area. Hundreds of thousands of people have entered the doors of Oideas Gael in Gleann Cholm Cille. It is important to mention that the mother of the leader of Fine Gael, Deputy Kenny, was born in Gleann Cholm Cille. When Deputy Kenny speaks passionately about the Irish language, he is doing so because he has a fondness for it and an appreciation of its importance.

The Irish language is alive and well in Gleann Cholm Cille because mná tí are making money out of it and communicating through it. The people attending Oideas Gael are primarily not from Donegal and many come from all over the world. I was at the centre three summers ago and met people from Japan, North Korea, China and Europe, including Britain and Northern Ireland. There is a massive influx from Northern Ireland, where, it is important to note, Irish is not a compulsory A level subject.

This is what is happening at the level of private enterprise. There are other developments at this level, including the setting up of Café Una on Kildare Street by a Donegal woman. The Minister might get a chance to visit it. The proprietor prints her menus in Irish and is trying to facilitate Irish speakers in the restaurant. The staff, not all of whom are from Donegal, communicate through Irish. This is a case of private enterprise helping to keep the language alive. This is good and will continue to happen.

The Government should be congratulated on the supports it has made available to TG4 and to the Gaelscoil movement. The Acting Chairman has very good friends in Ballyliffin in north Inishowen who are native Irish speakers. The unfortunate point about Inishowen, a landmass the size of County Louth, is that it has no Gaeltacht, yet there are still people who communicate through Irish in Urris, the outskirts of Ballyliffin, Tulla and other northern parts of the peninsula. Perhaps we could re-examine this and determine the level of Irish being used in the area.

The Minister may be aware that there is a movement in Buncrana pushing very strongly for a Gaelscoil in the town — the proposal may be on the Minister's desk. It is a voluntary movement involving parents and is in its initial stages. We should acknowledge that there are people on the peninsula who want to send their children to an all-Irish school.

There should not be a political debate or toing and froing regarding the Irish language. We are all singing from the same hymn sheet and want to preserve the language. I got caught in the middle of a debate over signposts that turned into a liathróid polaitiúla, which is scandalous. A person who wants to contribute to the debate on the Irish language should not be prevented from doing so because he or she cannot speak it. Signposts are very important to some people because they allude to a place's history and connect it to the land and generations past. However, when debating this issue, we must be positive and allow people to contribute.

Six years ago at a conference in Vienna I met an interpreter from Liverpool who could speak 14 different languages. I never met a man more passionate about the Irish language. He asked why we are not all speaking it and said that, of his 14 languages, it is the most beautiful in which he has communicated. He wondered why we were not developing a grá for it and pushing the agenda in this regard. He referred to the way in which the language was taught by rote learning, whereby students must learn chunks and chunks of depressing poems. Although they may be part of our history, why is there not a choice of more lively material? I learned Caisleáin Óir inside out by rote. It is about a man who left a poor woman waiting for him up in Clochán Liath. She had to spend all her life waiting for him when he went away to earn his money and when he came back and saw her he thought she looked too old and fecked off again — sorry for my language. This is depressing stuff and the kind of stuff we are offering to our students in secondary school. Let us liven it up.

There are some beautiful words in the language.

Photo of Labhrás Ó MurchúLabhrás Ó Murchú (Fianna Fail)
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I do not like interrupting the Senator. He is making a great contribution but he has exceeded his time.

Photo of Joe McHughJoe McHugh (Fine Gael)
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I spent 16 years trying to learn the language and not one teacher told us about the beauty of the words. Senators Ó Murchú and O'Toole and others know about it when speaking them. The have a love of the language, but nobody ever teaches pupils to foster such a love or informs them of the significance of the words and their attachment to the past. We should be focusing on this.

Maurice Hayes (Independent)
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Cuirim fáilte roimh an Aire anseo. Is mór an trua go bhfuilimid ag déanamh cheist poilitíochta de seo ar chor ar bith mar is dóigh liom go bhfuilimid go léir sa Seanad ar an dtaobh céanna ar son na Gaeilge. Glacaim leis go bhfuil na Seanadóirí a chuir síos an rún agus an Seanadóir de Búrca go macánta ag lorg leasaithe teanga. Tá súil agam, i ndeireadh na dáile, nach ndeanfaí deilt sa Teach agus nach mbeidh vótáil ann. Is iontach go bhfuil an díospóireacht againn. Díospóireacht fhiúntach atá ann. Nach féidir linn ansin glacadh leis an phrionsabal go bhfuilimid go léir ar son na Gaeilge agus go dteastaíonn uainn go léir slí a fháil amach chun an teanga a chur chun tosaigh, agus a iarraidh le chéile ar an Aire pé rud is féidir léi a dhéanamh chun é sin a chur i bhfeidhm?

Táim cinnte gur maith an rud é tosnú ins na bunscoileanna le comhrá na Gaeilge agus gan trácht ar aon rud eile, agus ba mhór an feabhas más féidir linn daoine le leanaí a mhealladh teacht isteach as an mbunscoil agus cumas caidrimh agus cumarsáide acu i nGaeilge shimplí. Ins na scoileanna idirmheánach freisin, is fearr an bhéim a chur ar chomhrá. Ní chuirim mórán muinín sna staitisticí atá san Daonáireamh mar is féidir le daoine a rá go bhfuil caint na Gaeilge acu nuair nach bhfuil ach cúpla focal, agus chím a leithéid chéanna sa Tuaisceart. Tá gné amháin i gceist, a thaispeánann sé, mar a dúirt an Leas-Chathaoirleach, go bhfuil an Ghaeilge faiseanta i ndeireadh na dáile.

Is mór an rud é go bhfuil Gaelscoil i ngach chontae anois agus b'fhéidir gurbh fhiú dúinn féachaint ar cad é an recipe atá acu. Cad is féidir leo a dhéanamh nach féidir a dhéanamh sna scoileanna eile? Tá gné amháin i gceist: tá dúthracht ag na tuismitheoirí agus tá ceangailt ag na tuismitheoirí. Tá níos mó aithne agam ar na Gaelscoileanna sa Tuaisceart agus tá eolas acu orm freisin, agus bíonn sin ann i gcónaí.

Tá easpa téacsleabhar tré Ghaeilge sa Tuaisceart freisin. Níl na téacsleabhair Ghaeilge acu agus tá siad ag brath ar an Roinn sa Deisceart na téacsleabhair a chur ar fáil dóibh. Ba mhór an rud é a leithéid a dhéanamh.

Caithfidh an t-Aire suim na ndaoine óga sa Ghaeilge a spreagadh agus a chothú sa dtreo is go bhfuil sé saghas "hip", mar a déarfá. B'fhéidir go mbeidh trácht ar Pheig Sayers agus is mór an trua é. Bhí aithne agam ar Pheig agus an-mheas agam uirthi, but it is hard going for the ordinary kid. Years ago I remember thinking that if we could only encourage the Censorship Board to ban a book in Irish the language would be revived in the morning. Nílim á rá gur chóir don Aire leabhair gháirsiúile a chur amach ach b'fhéidir gurbh fhearr go mbéidís níos cóngaraí do na leabhair, na téacseanna agus na núachtáin a léann an t-aos óg i láthair na huaire.

Bá mhaith liom freisin cabhrú le leas-rún an tSeanadóra Ó Tuathail mar gheall ar Bhaile Bhúirne. Is cuimhin liom dul ar cuairt go Baile Bhúirne 60 bliain ó shin nuair a bhí cairde agam sa choláiste ullmhúcháin ag déanamh an teastais timire Gaeilge, agus ionad iontach atá ann. Tá ionad nó institiúid de shaghas éigin ag teastáil chun na téacsleabhair a dhéanamh.

Molaim freisin Teilifís na Gaeilge. Tugann sé sásamh mór domsa nuair a chím go gcaithfidh mo chomharsanna Aontachtóirí, más áil leo Ulster a fheiscint ag imirt sa Celtic League, na cluichí a fháil ar TG4, agus tá leanúint maith go leor air sa Tuaisceart. Taispeánann sin freisin gur féidir na huirlisí nua-aoiseacha leictreonacha a chur ar fáil ins na scoileanna agus ins na hinstitiúidí i mBaile Bhúirne.

I suggest that the schools are equipped for dealing with the matter. It is no longer necessary to think of everything in terms of written texts. CDs and websites exist and if the schools were equipped and if we had a central institute producing them, we could have a very exciting mix. Youngsters now operate through cell phones, iPods, etc., and that is the market we should pursue.

I hope that at the end of the day we can agree that we had a good debate and that a vote is not needed. Both the motion and the amendment, in a sense, could be withdrawn. in order to dispose of his amendment, it would help if the Minister could give an assurance to Senator O'Toole that she would consider what help could be given to Baile Bhúirne. Is maith an rud go raibh an díospóireacht againn agus molaim an obair.

Photo of Feargal QuinnFeargal Quinn (Independent)
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Fáiltím roimh an Aire. What an interesting debate we have had so far and I am sure it will get more interesting. What a joy it is to hear Senator Maurice Hayes talking about knowing Peig Sayers. It sounds like somebody who knew Napoleon as it seems so long ago. I also enjoyed listening to Senator McHugh to an extent. He used a term that reminded me of something when he talked about the significance of the Irish language.

At an early age when I was in my late 20s, I believe I was the only person who won a case at the Supreme Court, which found certain legislation to be unconstitutional as it discriminated on the grounds of religion. I was prosecuted for selling meat and I found that it excluded meat where the animal had been killed under the Jewish ritual method. I relate the story because I remember two things from what I learnt about law at university — that it was not possible to discriminate on the grounds of religion and that the Irish language took precedence over the English language in case of doubt. The argument used against me in the Supreme Court was that one could not discriminate in favour of somebody as one discriminated against somebody. However, as the Irish word used in the Constitution was idirdhealú, to distinguish between not against, I won the case on that basis. I mention this as it shows the significance of the Irish language.

I welcome the debate and I agree entirely with Senator Maurice Hayes. I do not believe we need votes tonight as everybody is on the one side. The debate echoes what I said some years ago when we debated the Official Languages Bill in this House. I remind Members that I was one of the very few people — perhaps the only one — in this House to speak against that Bill. I opposed the Bill not because I was against the Irish language, but because I am in favour of it. I argued then, and I still believe now, that the Bill diverted money and attention to the wrong place. The attention and the money should be directed to the area addressed by the motion and Senator O'Toole's amendment, which I support, and that is the teaching of the language in our schools.

In the debate on the Official Languages Bill, I asked given that our young people learn Irish from their first day at school, why can so few people speak it? Why do so few adults wish to speak Irish in their daily lives? How do we fail our children and the citizens of the nation and what must we do to succeed in engendering in them a love for the language? On that occasion I drew attention to the massive State apparatus devoted to the teaching of Irish, which went back to the 1920s. In spite of that apparatus, the vast majority of young people do not learn the language effectively. A large number of young people leaving school do so not just with a lack of enthusiasm for the language but also with a negative attitude to it. The current system of teaching Irish has failed miserably to engage the majority of the population.

Why have we failed so badly? It is not that Irish is a particularly difficult language to learn and it is certainly not that we have failed to devote enough time or resources to the teaching of Irish. There must be some other reason for this monumental failure to achieve the objectives we set down for ourselves, but which we have not reached. How can we ensure that we will achieve what we are setting out to do? I argued then many of the same points that are being revisited in this debate. I said that we would be far better off investing in research to find out what we were doing wrong in the teaching of Irish in our schools than spending vast sums of money on translating documents into Irish that nobody would read.

I got the Competition Authority report — two big, thick and glossy documents — today. I do not know how long it takes to translate such documents into Irish, or the length of the delays which arise for that reason. I suggest that time has proved me right because the costs of implementing the Official Languages Act 2003 have caused a national outcry. That gives me no pleasure because it has helped to bring the Irish language further into disrepute. I welcome one consequence of the passing of the Act, however. The inaugural annual report of the Office of An Coimisinéir Teanga, published on 14 March 2005, states:

It is estimated that almost 1,500 hours of tuition in the Irish language is provided to school pupils over a period of 13 years, from their first day at primary school to the end of secondary level. This clearly raises the question: is the State getting value for money from this investment, if it is true that so many are going through the educational system without achieving a reasonable command of the language — even in the case of students who succeed in getting a high grade in Irish in their final examinations? I believe that there is an urgent need for a comprehensive and impartial review of every aspect of the learning and teaching of Irish in the educational system, so as to ensure that the continuous and substantial State investment in Irish will ensure that students, having spent 13 years learning the language, acquire a reasonable fluency or command of the language by the time they complete their schooling. This is essential if we are serious about promoting Irish in every aspect of national life, including public administration.

What more is there to say? We do not have an infinite amount of time to continue to dither about this issue.

The case for the language becomes weaker and the voices speaking against it become stronger as further generations of young people emerge from school unable to speak Irish. We are fortunate that enough goodwill towards the language remains to enable us to mount a final rescue operation. That is the purpose of the motion before the House and the two amendments to it. We need to make a final effort to undo the damage we have been making since the foundation of the State. If we do not take this opportunity to face reality, the time may soon have passed when it is possible to do anything about it. That day may be closer than many of us think.

Senator O'Toole spoke about the proposed facility at Baile Bhúirne. I am not sure he is correct when he suggests it has not been supported because it is regarded as being an awful long way from Baile Átha Cliath. Perhaps there is some truth in the suggestion and perhaps there is not. The Minister for Education and Science can do something about it.

Photo of John Gerard HanafinJohn Gerard Hanafin (Fianna Fail)
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Ba mhaith liom mo bhuíochas a gabháil leis na Seanadóirí uilig as ucht an díospóireacht seo a bheith ar siúl againn inniu. Tuigim go maith go bhfuil suim dháiríre ag na Seanadóirí ar fad sa Teach seo sa Ghaeilge, mar go bhfuil díospóireacht láidir ar siúl. Tá tuairimí maithe acu faoin dteanga, mar atá acu i leith chúrsaí oideachais go ginearálta. Is trua é gur ábhar polaitiúil atá idir lámha againn anseo, ach ábhar polaitiúil a bheidh ann fad is atá polasaithe Fhine Gael mar gheall ar an Ghaeilge éigeanteach sna scoileanna ag an bpáirtí sin. Is trua é sin mar ní dóigh liom go dtuigeann Fine Gael an toradh a bheidh ar a gcuid bpolasaithe. Is dóigh liom go bhfuil easaontas idir an méid a deireann siad, an méid a cheapann siad agus an méid a thuigeann siad ó thaobh na Gaeilge, agus na polasaithe atá acu. Is é sin an fáth go bhfuil fadhb againn ó thaobh vótála nó aon rud eile anseo inniu.

Aithnímid go léir an tábhacht a bhaineann leis an Ghaeilge i sochaí na tíre seo. Tá grá againn go léir don teanga Ghaelach mar is cuid dár stair agus dár gcultúr féin í. Mar a dúirt an Seanadóir McHugh, is teanga álainn í, le focail agus cúlra álainn. Tugann na focail sa teanga Ghaeilge i bhfad níos mó eolais dúinn ná focail sa teanga Bhéarla. Má fhéachaimid ar logainmneacha, nó placenames, ar fud na tíre tá sé soiléir nach dtugann an Béarla aon eolas dúinn. Nuair a fhéachaimid ar an Ghaeilge, tuigimid go maith an áit ina bhfuilimid — an cúlra agus an stair a bhaineann leis.

Photo of Ulick BurkeUlick Burke (Fine Gael)
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Daingean, mar shampla.

Photo of Maurice CumminsMaurice Cummins (Fine Gael)
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Daingean Uí Chúis.

Photo of John Gerard HanafinJohn Gerard Hanafin (Fianna Fail)
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An rud a dhéanaim le "Daingean" ná"Daingean Uí Chúis" a ghlaoch air, mar is é sin an téarma ceart.

Photo of Ulick BurkeUlick Burke (Fine Gael)
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Abair é sin leis an Aire, an Teachta Ó Cuív.

Photo of John Gerard HanafinJohn Gerard Hanafin (Fianna Fail)
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Deirim "Dúrlas Éile", in ionad "Dúrlas", agus "Aonach Urmhumhan" in ionad "Aonach". Ní maith liom an chaoi ina bhfuil gach éinne ag gearradh na logainmneacha siar. Ba chóir an téarma iomlán a úsáid. Má táimid chun a bheith cinnte go dtuigimid agus go gcreidimid sa Ghaeilge, níor cheart dúinn mar sochaí agus go háirithe mar cheannairí na tíre seo agus mar pholaiteoirí aon pholasaí a chur i bhfeidhm a loitfidh nó a maróidh an Ghaeilge. Ag an am céanna, aithním go bhfuil dúshlán láidir os ár gcomhair. Tá dúshlán láidir os comhair múinteoirí, córas oideachais agus sochaí na tíre seo go ginearálta. It rests on the Government and on all leaders to show leadership in respect of the Irish language. I am always the first to say that the school cannot solve every problem in society, but for the most part the school is the first and only place where children learn Irish. Our schools, particularly our primary schools, have a particular obligation to ensure that the teaching of the language is exciting and interesting for our children.

Labhraímid i gcónaí faoi na gaelscoileanna. We say how exciting it is that there is now a gaelscoil in every county, which is a very positive development. Bhí tráth ann nuair ba ghaelscoil í gach scoil — the Irish language was a central part of every school. The living instructions and orders in playgrounds and during activities were given through Irish. Ordinary schools were gaelscoileanna as much as the specific gaelscoileanna are now, but that has been lost from our schools. Faraor, the teaching of Irish is being confined to 40 minutes per day. If we can extend it throughout our schools as a living language, our children will realise that it is a teanga bheo. Tá sé deacair é sin a dhéanamh nuair nach bhfuil muintir na tíre seo á labhairt, ní amháin mar chéad theanga ach mar theaga ar bith. It is very difficult for a school to do it on its own. We face a particular challenge in that regard. That is why the measures which have been taken throughout our communities and in society generally are so important.

Chuala mé Seanadóirí ag caint mar gheall ar an tacaíocht breise atá tugtha do TG4, which is a hugely popular television station that makes programmes in an imaginative manner. I do not just refer to the fact that TG4 broadcasts football matches and old western films. Tá mé ag caint mar gheall ar líon na ndaoine a bhíonn ag féachaint ar "Mo Laethanta Saoire", mar shampla, clár a rinne mé féin. That programme brings people back to the places where they went on their holidays as children, which is something to which the whole country can relate. It took TG4 to come up with and pursue such a simple idea. Tá daoine óga na tíre seo ag féachaint ar dhaoine ar nós Hector Ó hEochagáin agus Síle Seoige. Caithfidh mé a adhmháil that they are making the Irish language i bhfad níos gnéasaí ná mar a bhí. Taitníonn na daoine úd le daoine óga. Long live Hector Ó hEochagáin and Síle Seoige because they are promoting Irish in modern Ireland in a modern and living context.

The official recognition of the Irish language at EU level was a major achievement for Ireland and for the language, but what good will it do if we do not support the language at home? We will face major challenges in providing interpreters and translators on foot of that decision. Níl aon mhaith ann a bheith ag caint faoi sin muna bhfuil an Ghaeilge ag daoine go láidir nuair a fhágann siad an scoil. It all comes back to the extent to which we can strengthen the Irish language in our schools and support it in society, through the Official Languages Act 2003 and, more particularly, by increasing an meas a bhíonn ag daoine don teanga. The reactions of students to the language are dictated not only by what happens in schools but also by what happens in society generally. That is why all those wider issues are very important.

Senator Maurice Hayes said he does not have too much regard for what people say in response to questions asked in the daonáireamh. I presume that people adopted the same attitude in the last census, when answering the question about the amount of Irish they use, as they did when answering the same question in the previous census. The number of people who classified themselves as Irish speakers increased by 140,000 at the last census. It will be interesting to see cad a bheidh daoine á rá mar gheall ar an Ghaeilge in this year's census. Is dóigh liom go bhfuil meath ag teacht ar an nGaeltacht agus go bhfuil borradh agus fás ag teacht ar líon na ndaoine atá ag labhairt na Ghaeilge in áiteanna eile. I am quite satisfied that there is more Irish in my constituency of the former borough of Kingstown than in a great many Gaeltacht areas around the country.

With Gaelscoileanna, Coláiste Eoin, Coláiste Íosagáin, Scoil Lorcáin, Gaelscoil Ballybrack, lár-ionad Comhaltas CeolteóiríÉireann, daoine ag labhairt Gaeilge agus ag déanamh ceol, agus spiorad Gaelach timpeall na h-áite. It is to be found in a place where one would not expect, in which I suspect it is a good deal stronger than in traditional areas. Instead of getting depressed about the decline of the Gaeltacht, we should try to determine how strong Irish is in other areas. The growth of the Gaelscoileanna is adding to that, mar tá na tuismitheoirí ag dul amach agus ag foghlaim Gaeilge, freisin, mar tá siad ag iarraidh cabhrú lena bpáistí féin. That is encouraging a whole new generation of people to return to Irish classes to learn.

I accept, however, it is a disgrace that after learning Irish for 13 or 14 years, children leave school not being able to speak it. Is iar-mbúinteoir Gaeilge mé féin. I spent 17 years teaching Irish up to honours leaving certificate level. Even my best students cannot speak Irish today, largely because they have not the opportunity in society. I spent much of the time doing the spoken language, mar creidim go láidir ins an teanga — leis na díospóireachtaí, drámaíocht agus gach rud a bhaineann leis. Rinne mé m'iarracht agus mo chuid chun Gaeilge thaitneamhach a mhúneadh. Fortunately, the curriculum has changed. The new curriculum is very exciting, particular at primary level. Feicim an dul chun cinn atáá dhéanamh ins na scoileanna nuair a bhím ag dul timpeall. In the last year or so I have visited more than 200 schools in every country in Ireland and I can see the dul chun cinn atáá dhéanamh leis an gcuraclam nua. That places much more emphasis on the spoken language. It is following through to some degree to the junior certificate, with a new syllabus as regards literature, etc.

However, I am convinced of the need for greater emphasis in the exams structure on oral Irish, because it is only when more marks are given for the scrúdú béal ag an ard-teist, that teachers will change their methods of teaching and students their attitude to the language. I have asked the NCCA as a matter of priority to revert to me with proposals in this regard. I appreciate it is looking at the whole senior cycle, but for me this is an absolute priority. As Aire Oideachais agus Eolaíochta, I would love to be in a position to be able to progress the situation. I should love to see 50% of the marks in leaving certificate Irish being allocated to oral Irish. Ní shílim go mbeidh na deacrachtaí síos má dhéantar sin, mar ní fhéadfá díreach é sin a thosnú gan scrúdnithe a chur ar siúl ag ranganna nó blianta eile. However, it is the single most positive thing that may be done to improve the spoken language.

The new syllabus, as has been recognised, is much more exciting. There are lovely novels now, for example Dúnmharú ar an Dart or Murder on the Dart, a great lively book very suitable for using with junior certificate students. Film is being used in the curriculum. All of this has already been incorporated, so we are well on the way towards making those changes and recognising the importance of the language. That is why I am genuinely concerned at the policy of Fine Gael, as outlined in this motion and by the party leader, of removing compulsory Irish in the leaving certificate.

In a curriculum as broad as ours, students do seven subjects for the leaving certificate and may even be taking eight. There is room for Irish, for the spoken language, literature and for learning. It is completely different for A level students, who may be doing two or even three subjects. The UK is restricting at a much earlier age. They have to, because of the nature of their systems. It is interesting that they are trying to broaden the system now. However, because of the nature of the system, they have to confine matters and they have to choose. We are offering seven subjects. Surely there is room there for Irish. If the compulsory Irish is removed, students will not do it for the leaving certificate or want to do it for the junior certificate and it will be lost, at primary school level. I am as convinced of that as of anything. I am satisfied that there is no tally between what Fine Gael is saying and what is its policy. I do not believe that Deputy Kenny wants to see the end of the Irish language, nor do I believe that Senator Ulick Burke or anybody else wants to see it.

Photo of Ulick BurkeUlick Burke (Fine Gael)
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The Minister should avoid emotive language. That is total misrepresentation.

Photo of Maurice CumminsMaurice Cummins (Fine Gael)
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It is total misrepresentation.

Photo of John Gerard HanafinJohn Gerard Hanafin (Fianna Fail)
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I am giving the House my view on what will happen. The policy they are propounding is to remove the compulsory element of Irish for the leaving certificate. It will single-handedly sound the death-knell of the Irish language, and I am not being political, but am speaking from concern.

It is interesting that the Labour Party in the Dáil does not support this policy. Neither does the Green Party. I shall be interested to see what attitude is taken in this House today. If implemented, the policy being put forward in this motion will have enormous knock-on effects. I regret it shows such a lack of understanding of the manner in which the education system works and the importance of the language as a core part of the curriculum. I genuinely believe it is not what Fine Gael Members want as regards the language. As long as we offer a broad curriculum, as will always be my intention, then I will insist that the compulsory element continues.

Recognising that, we must of course ensure that we adapt in the way we do things. Bhí an Seanadóir Maurice Hayes ag caint mar gheall ar technology agus CDs, agus tá an ceart aige. Caithfhimid iad sin a chur ar fáil agus na háiseanna agus na hacmhainní do mbúinteoirí freisin. The second level support service provides a modular course on Irish through education centres, etc., and the NCCA is looking at resource material in that regard. It is crucial, as more and more students become adept at computers, that they should have access to this type of information as well.

As regards na téacsleabhair ins na Gaelscoileanna, tá dul chun cinn á dhéanamh le na h-áiseanna a chur ar fáil. Tá méadú tagtha ar an méid airgid a chuirimid ar fáil. With that increase in money we are getting new materials called Séideán Sí, a wonderful series. It is now in place for the infants, the senior infants and the first class and they are preparing currently for the second class as well. It is not just a question of books. There are puppets, posters, picture cards, compact discs and handbooks and the methodology being used is exciting. There are card games so that children may enjoy the teaching of the language. All of that is being incorporated and will be rolled out for the whole eight-year cycle. Obviously, I should like this to happen more speedily. We are only working towards it at present.

Tá an Chomhairle um Oideachas Gaeltachta agus Gaelscolaíochta ag obair air sin, working on the provision of textbooks, aids etc. It has provided various types of resources which are invaluable for both first and second level. Only recently at Colaiste Eoin I launched na háiseanna for the teaching of science to junior certificate students with all the experiments included. It is a very technical language. The particular resources were needed for science with all the experiments and these are now available and will be of great benefit to the teachers. I recognise nach bhfuil siad go léir ar fáil agus nach bhfuil siad ar fáil in am, ach tá dul chun cinn á dhéanamh air sin.

The question of entry to primary school teacher training college comes up for debate quite often because it is specified that the applicant has to have a minimum of a grade C in higher level in leaving certificate Irish. People say that it is prohibitive and is blocking some people from becoming teachers. It is absolutely essential that primary school teachers have a reasonable standard of Irish. If they do not, they cannot teach it. I know the entry requirement is higher for Irish than for English or mathematics. I would seriously consider increasing the entry requirement for English, rather than downgrading the entry requirement for Irish. One does not have to have honours English in the leaving certificate to get into primary school teaching, but one does have to have honours Irish. Surely that begs the question as to whether honours should be required for English as well, as this is crucially important.

Maidir le múinteoirí a bhíonn á n-oiliúint i Sasana agus áiteanna eile, they have to do the Scrúdú Cáilíochta sa Gaeilge, SCG. Again, this is a system that has been recently reviewed and contains a much more comprehensive language syllabus. There is a new literature textbook, Leoithne Gaeilge, and courses are being provided for teachers doing this course to ensure they can pass more speedily, so that when they are in the schools they can implement a course they know and understand. This has increased the success rates for the teachers as well.

Bhí an Seanadóir McHugh ag caint mar gheall ar third level programmes and Magee. Again, there have been great advances in the number of third level courses being provided, particularly in Acadamh na hOllscolaíochta Gaeilge, NUI Galway, which offers a great number of courses and has three centres in the Gaeltacht, in Carna, Carraroe and Gweedore. There is also Dublin City University, which established Fiontar in 1993 and offers a range of courses.

It is very encouraging that students are perhaps going to the Gaelscoileanna le gur féidir leo leanúint ar aghaidh agus a gcuid gcúrsaí a dhéanamh trí mheán na Gaeilge freisin. Summer courses are hugely popular. Bhí an Seanadóir Maurice Hayes ag caint mar gheall ar bheith mBaile Bhúirne. Tá fhios agam gur chaith sé am sa Rinn freisin. He and my father spent their childhood in Ring together. I think Senator Hayes's Irish is probably slightly better than my father's. That kind of support and encouragement that being in the Gaeltacht area gives to young people is hugely important. Every year about 25,000 students participate in cursaí samhraidh insan Gaeltacht. Sin an fáth go bhfuil an Gaeltacht an thábhachtach.

Tá obair idir lámha ach mar a dúirt mé, ní féidir leis na scoileanna gach rud a dhéanamh, ach is féidir leis an scoil feabhas a chur ar an scéal. The teaching of Irish is hugely important. It genuinely is of concern. The Harris report highlights this. The Harris report, which is about the teaching of Irish, is gone for translation agus táimid fós ag feitheamh leis agus sin ceann de na fáthanna nach féidir liom é a fhoilsiú. It is ironic that a report about the Irish language has to be translated into Irish before we can actually publish it. The report is quite critical of the Irish language and the teaching of Irish.

Senator Quinn has highlighted the importance of the Irish language in the Constitution, its importance for us as a nation in terms of our identity, and its importance for us now in Europe. For all these reasons Irish is important in schools. The policies we adopt in regard to the Irish language in our schools is what will ensure its future.

Ba mhaith é so liom a rá leis an Seanadóir O'Toole freisin mar gheall ar Bhaile Bhúirne. I am actively working on this matter and I have taken advice from different groups. I accept that a commitment was given to it but I want to make sure that something definite and positive happens in Baile Bhúirne and that it is not just a concept. I am very anxious to progress that as quickly as possible.

I believe everybody in the Seanad is genuinely interested in the Irish language. I do not question it but I would ask that the policies would follow the interest and that the policies of any party in this House in regard to the Irish language would be such as to support and strengthen it, not to weaken it which is the one thing that would happen as a result of the removal of compulsory Irish for the leaving certificate.

Photo of Maurice CumminsMaurice Cummins (Fine Gael)
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That is nonsense.

Photo of John Gerard HanafinJohn Gerard Hanafin (Fianna Fail)
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I hope that Fine Gael never gets the opportunity to implement it.

Photo of Ulick BurkeUlick Burke (Fine Gael)
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There is no basis to that statement.

Photo of John Gerard HanafinJohn Gerard Hanafin (Fianna Fail)
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Go raibh maith agat.

Photo of Maurice CumminsMaurice Cummins (Fine Gael)
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Ba mhaith liom fíorchaoin fáilte a chur roimh an Aire. I wish to share time with Senator Browne.

Rory Kiely (Fianna Fail)
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Is that agreed? Agreed.

Photo of Maurice CumminsMaurice Cummins (Fine Gael)
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I found myself agreeing with much of what the Minister said but she totally misrepresented the meaning of the Fine Gael policies. I do not think she can substantiate anything she has said about the removal of compulsion in the teaching of the Irish language leading to the demise of the language. It is nonsense.

Recently I met a friend of mine who is a fluent Irish speaker. He has a great love of Irish and has been involved in the Irish language movement for as long as I know him. When I saw him coming towards me I expected an ear bashing from him because of our policy on removing compulsion in the teaching of leaving certificate Irish. I was pleasantly surprised to hear him say that it was about time someone generated a decent debate on the Irish language, and that he believed that compulsion as a tool to revive the Irish language had failed miserably. He was also critical of friends of his who wanted to retain the status quo, knowing full well that the current system had failed the young — and not so young — in the past.

My interest in the subject was awakened by the enthusiasm of this man who relished the prospect of a debate on how to nurture and revive the Irish language. While I am in no way fluent in speaking Irish I understand it and enjoy hearing the language being spoken. I do not believe one is any less Irish by not being able to speak the Irish language but I admire people who can speak it fluently and who do not make people feel inferior or less Irish if they cannot speak it.

The Gaelscoileanna are doing a wonderful job and I salute them for the work they are doing. However, the facts of the matter are that a large percentage of young people leave school without any real command of the Irish language. The Minister has agreed with this point. Only three out of ten students attempt the higher level paper in the leaving certificate and, worse still, thousands of students do not even turn up for the exam each year. There is no doubt that we need reform in the approach to the teaching of the Irish language. I believe the vast majority of people who are active in the promotion of the language believe this to be the case also.

We must be willing to embrace change and to utilise the best available modern technology and teaching methods for the Irish language. We must also develop a specialised language support corps to help individual primary schools that have particular difficulty with the teaching of Irish. More importantly, we must concentrate on immersion in the Irish language for new and trainee teachers. Reference has been made to teachers and trainee teachers spending more time in the Gaeltacht refreshing and reviving their grasp of the language.

Above all, we must have a radical overhaul and change to focus on the teaching of Irish as a living language. A number of speakers have referred to this matter. We need a curriculum that is loaded with topics that are modern, relevant and, above all, useful. How many times do we hear young people say, "What good is Irish? How useful will it be to me when I leave school?" I hear it in my own house. Communicating in Irish must be seen as cool.

The Minister referred to Hector and Síle and all the rest of them. The teaching of Irish cannot be boring and dull, which it is in many cases at present. That is why I believe there should be a greater emphasis on the spoken language. There should be an oral component at junior certificate level and this must be introduced sooner rather than later.

Fine Gael believes that after the junior certificate all students should have a choice between two subjects. One subject would be based on communication in Irish and 50% of the marks would be devoted to spoken Irish with the rest of the curriculum focusing on useful and applicable reading and writing tasks in Irish. The second Irish subject on the curriculum would focus on literature and heritage for those with a deeper knowledge of and competence in the language. I have a great deal more to say but I am aware my time has run out.

Fergal Browne (Fine Gael)
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Cuirim fáilte roimh an Aire. Tááthas orm labhairt ar an ábhar tábhachtach seo. Is rud maith é go bhfuil díospóireacht againn sa Seanad anocht maidir le múineadh na Gaeilge. Tá sé riachtanach go bhfuil díospóireacht againn mar tá fadbh ann.

Ar lámh amháin, tá na Gaelscoileanna ag meadú ach ar an lámh eile tá a lán de na dáltaí ag fagáil scoile gan iad abálta an Ghaeilge a labhairt. Rinne mé suirbhé ar mhúinteoirí Gaeilge i mo Dháilcheantar agus dúirt formhór na múinteoirí liom go mbeadh caighdeán níos airde ann dá mbeadh an Ghaeilge deonach tar éis an teastais sóisearaigh.

Photo of John Gerard HanafinJohn Gerard Hanafin (Fianna Fail)
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Cén post a bhí ag an Seanadóir?

Fergal Browne (Fine Gael)
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Ní dúirt ach ceann amháin de na múinteoirí aon rud faoi bhás an teanga. Freisin, dúirt siad gur mheasadar nár mhaith an rud é an Ghaeilge a bheith éigeantach go dtí leibhéal na hárdteiste. Is soiléir go bhfuil fimíneacht ann maidir leis an nGaeilge. Faoí láthair, níl scrúdú béil sa teastas sóisearach. Is é mo thuairim go gcaithimid é seo a athrú gan mhoill. Ní féidir leis na daltaí atá ag freastal ar Ghaelscoileanna téacs-leabhair a fháil as Gaeilge.

B'fhéidir nach mbeadh an ceart ag an Teachta Enda Kenny maidir leis an Gaeilge, ach ar a laghad tá beagnach gach duine ag caint faoi mhúineadh na Gaeilge agus ar conas a mbheadh daltaíábalta an teanga a labhairt agus a usáid ar scoil agus ina saol féin. Is rud maith é, i mo thuairim.

Photo of Michael KittMichael Kitt (Fianna Fail)
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Ba mhaith liom mo chuid ama roinnt leis an Seanadóir White.

Rory Kiely (Fianna Fail)
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Is that agreed? Agreed.

Photo of Michael KittMichael Kitt (Fianna Fail)
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Ba mhaith liom fáilte a chur roimh an Aire agus fáiltím leis an díospóireacht seo agus an leasú. Tá sé ráite anseo go bhfuil aitheantas ó Chomhphobal na hEorpa don teanga Ghaelach agus í mBunreacht na hÉireann, agus tacaíocht freisin ón Rialtas le haghaidh TG4 and Raidió na Gaeltachta. Ba mhaith liomsa moladh freisin a thabhairt dom Teachta Dála, Michael D. Higgins, a chuir TG4 ar bun. Sin an bhéim atá ar labhairt na Gaeilge agus aontaím leis an Seanadóir de Burca mar gheall air sin. Tá gaelscoileanna i gach condae and gaelscoil nua i mBeal Átha na Slua, mar is eol don Seanadóir de Burca.

Tá suim agamsa sa Ghaeilge labhartha. Nuair a bhí mé mar ábhar muinteora ag freastal ar Choláiste Phádraig, Drumcondra, bhí orm trí seachtaine a chaitheamh sa Ghaeltacht. Tá na habhair muinteoirí le blianta ag dul go dtí an Ghaeltacht agus is maith an rud é sin. Mar a dúirt an t-Aire, tá a lán daoine óga ag dul go dtí an Ghaeltacht.

The question of the living language is important and integration was always part of the primary school curriculum and continues to be in the new curriculum. Senator Ó Murchú hit the nail on the head when he referred to easpa muinín, a lack of confidence which might be due to bias. I taught the Irish language to children who were born in the United States and neither they nor their parents had any bias against the language. The same is true for non-national people who are living in Ireland. The Minister and I spent a few days in San Francisco some years ago. We were asked by some primary schoolchildren how to say one, two, three, in Irish. We did our bit for the Gaeilge there. Many mistakes were made and many wrong actions were taken in the name of the so-called revival of the Irish language. For example, teachers were paid according to their Irish results and there was resulting pressure from school managers and inspectors which was regrettable.

Senator Ryan spoke very well. I congratulate him because this is the first occasion he has not referred to Mr. Val Hanly of Údarás na Gaeltachta. He used to talk about Mr. Hanly having no Irish. Mr. Val Hanly has improved his Irish. I have heard him speaking it many times. The same is true of many leaders in this country. When former President Mary Robinson went to the Gaeltacht to learn Irish, the media coverage was not about her learning Irish but that Galway County Council tarred some roads there before she arrived. This is the kind of publicity it receives.

I will finish with a story which illustrates the perceived snobbishness and elitism that is associated with the Irish language although I do not agree with that perception. Niall Tóibín used to tell a story about the cigire who was always dreaded when he visited the Gaeltacht to examine students. He was staying in a small hotel and while having his lunch one day discovered a fly in his soup. The young serving boy was called over. The cigire said, "Breathnaigh air sin, breathnaigh air sin." The young boy asked, "An chuileog?". The cigire was disgusted and replied, "Ní hea, an chuileog, with a "h". It is feminine." The young boy said, "You have great eyesight, Sir."

Photo of Mary WhiteMary White (Fianna Fail)
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Ba mhaith liom fáilte a chur leis an Aire. Bhí mé ana-impressed with her vision for the language.

Rugadh méí nDún Dealgan sa bhlian 1944. Bhí mé ag caint as Gaeilge sa bhaile. Bhí méí Conradh na Gaeilge. Dún Dealgan is very nationalistic. In 1955 we moved to Newbridge, County Kildare where my father was postmaster. As postmaster in charge of the postal service he made valiant efforts for years to have Newbridge changed to Droichead Nua. It saddens me to see the sign for Newbridge, County Kildare, on the bypass. He made mega efforts because he spoke Irish himself.

I am appalled at the Fine Gael motion. An bhfuil tú ag eisteacht liom, Senator Hayes? Tá tú ag gáire.

Photo of Brian HayesBrian Hayes (Fine Gael)
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If the Senator made any sense.

Photo of Mary WhiteMary White (Fianna Fail)
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This motion shows Fine Gael up in a true light at long last, that the party would even think such a thought that young people should not have to learn the Irish language.

Photo of Maurice CumminsMaurice Cummins (Fine Gael)
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Who made that suggestion?

Photo of Ulick BurkeUlick Burke (Fine Gael)
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The Senator has a mission.

Photo of Mary WhiteMary White (Fianna Fail)
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They make it sound awfully boring.

Photo of Maurice CumminsMaurice Cummins (Fine Gael)
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Who is suggesting that?

Photo of Mary WhiteMary White (Fianna Fail)
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Who said it was boring? The Senators made it sound awfully boring themselves.

Rory Kiely (Fianna Fail)
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Order, please.

Photo of Mary WhiteMary White (Fianna Fail)
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I do not find it boring. I compliment this State for setting up TG4 and Raidió na Gaeltachta. TG4 is better than RTE. I learned my Irish and also the National Anthem from my parents. I did not learn it at school because I knew it before I went to school from sitting in Croke Park——

Photo of Brian HayesBrian Hayes (Fine Gael)
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Join the dots.

Rory Kiely (Fianna Fail)
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Senator White without interruption.

Photo of Mary WhiteMary White (Fianna Fail)
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I call on all Irish parents of small children, such as Senator Hayes's own little children——

Rory Kiely (Fianna Fail)
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Address the Chair, please.

Photo of Mary WhiteMary White (Fianna Fail)
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Go mo leithsceal, Cathaoirleach. Senator Hayes has beautiful little children. I am trying to make a serious suggestion that all Irish parents of young children should put their children in front of the cartoons on TG4 as soon as they want to look at cartoons. I guarantee that by the age of four, they would be very good at Irish.

Photo of Brian HayesBrian Hayes (Fine Gael)
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They might also be an fear ramhar.

Rory Kiely (Fianna Fail)
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Senator White without interruption.

Photo of Mary WhiteMary White (Fianna Fail)
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People put their children in front of the cartoons to keep them happy. Let them look at the cartoons in Irish on TG4. They will learn their Irish in a non-boring way, Senator Cummins.

Rory Kiely (Fianna Fail)
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Address the Chair, please. This is my second time asking the Senator.

Photo of Mary WhiteMary White (Fianna Fail)
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The little children will be very good at the language by four years of age.

I draw the attention of the House to M. Chirac and Ms Merkel and how the leaders of other countries are so protective of their language. M. Chirac will not speak in English because he believes he is letting his country down if he speaks in English. He speaks in French all the time, no matter to whom he is speaking.

(Interruptions).

Rory Kiely (Fianna Fail)
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The Senator's time has concluded.

Photo of Mary WhiteMary White (Fianna Fail)
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In 1962 I won a scholarship to Bolton Street because I was able to speak Irish for the Civil Service Commission. That is the reason I won a scholarship for third level education. I refer to a CD called "Progress in Irish". I asked the Minister, Deputy Ó Cuív, for advice on learning Irish quickly. He suggested that if I listened to Raidió na Gaeltachta every morning for the news I would be speaking fluent Irish within a year. I advise the Members opposite to buy the CD and use it in the car and learn the language. They should be ashamed of themselves.

Rory Kiely (Fianna Fail)
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The Senator must conclude.

Photo of Maurice CumminsMaurice Cummins (Fine Gael)
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It is lectures like that has the language like it is.

Photo of Mary WhiteMary White (Fianna Fail)
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Pull yourselves up.

Rory Kiely (Fianna Fail)
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Senator Ulick Burke to conclude, please.

7:00 pm

Photo of Ulick BurkeUlick Burke (Fine Gael)
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Cuirim fáilte leis an Aire. Gabhaim buíochas le gach Seanadóir a bhí páirteach sa díospóireacht.

Senator Maurice Hayes made a very important statement. I was considering asking my colleagues not to call for a vote on this motion. However, the Minister has made a wildly political statement with regard to the language and this motion. The Fine Gael proposals were designed to initiate a debate with regard to the Irish language. I recall that a mere three hours after Deputy Kenny made that statement, the Minister came out with a wildly political motion that would encapsulate the thinking of some. I refer the Minister to an MRBI poll on the question of people's vision on that topic. Some 62% of respondents supported the idea.

I wish to remind the Minister of two suggestions as to how the situation could be improved. After 50 years of rhetoric on the Irish language, anybody who misrepresents the facts as they are put by a fíor-Ghaeilgeoir like Deputy Kenny——

Photo of Ann OrmondeAnn Ormonde (Fianna Fail)
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Nobody did.

Photo of Ulick BurkeUlick Burke (Fine Gael)
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He does not blatantly expound Irish as some do, like Senator White. The choice was offered to students that they could take two subjects in Irish post junior certificate.

Photo of John Gerard HanafinJohn Gerard Hanafin (Fianna Fail)
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Or neither.

Photo of Ulick BurkeUlick Burke (Fine Gael)
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The Minister told the House she was a teacher of Irish up to honours leaving certificate standard for 17 years. It was amazing that she should have said that she would not understand or recognise that when the choice was given, those who would take Irish at the highest level at leaving certificate would be those who wanted to learn and be involved in Irish. It is a point the Minister conveniently ignored.

The Minister should re-examine the NCCA's 2003 report. It clearly indicates that it is important to leave politics aside and provide a living language. We can like the language or love it. However, if Government policy in this area is developed and implemented, we can have a living language. The NCCA report states:

We do not have an integrated language curriculum, but a series of language curricula that are largely independent of one another. Arguably this leads to an impoverished educational experience; it certainly means that curriculum planning is haphazard and piecemeal. The same Irish curricula are taken by the minority of students who are native speakers of Irish and/or attending Irish-medium schools and the English-medium majority for whom Irish is a second language. This situation is linguistically and educationally indefensible, and until it is remedied there is little realistic prospect of raising the levels of proficiency achieved by the non-native-speaker majority in Irish.

That is the key to the issue, and the sentiment which Deputy Kenny had in mind.

Photo of John Gerard HanafinJohn Gerard Hanafin (Fianna Fail)
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Nobody is arguing with that.

Photo of Ulick BurkeUlick Burke (Fine Gael)
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If we do not tackle the current mindset of the Minister, she will not move forward in a positive way and make Irish a living language for the many students who want it.

Amendment put.

The Dail Divided:

For the motion: 27 (Cyprian Brady, Michael Brennan, Peter Callanan, Margaret Cox, John Dardis, Timmy Dooley, Geraldine Feeney, Camillus Glynn, Brendan Kenneally, Tony Kett, Michael Kitt, Terry Leyden, Don Lydon, Martin Mansergh, John Minihan, Paschal Mooney, Tom Morrissey, Pat Moylan, Labhrás Ó Murchú, Francis O'Brien, Mary O'Rourke, Ann Ormonde, Kieran Phelan, Eamon Scanlon, Kate Walsh, Mary White, Diarmuid Wilson)

Against the motion: 16 (James Bannon, Paul Bradford, Fergal Browne, Ulick Burke, Paul Coghlan, Noel Coonan, Maurice Cummins, Frank Feighan, Michael Finucane, Brian Hayes, Mary Henry, Joe McHugh, Joe O'Toole, John Paul Phelan, Shane Ross, Sheila Terry)

Tellers: Tá, Senators Minihan and Moylan; Níl, Senators U. Burke and Cummins.

Amendment declared carried.

Rory Kiely (Fianna Fail)
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As amendment No. 1 has been declared carried, amendment No. 2 cannot be moved.

Amendment No. 2 not moved.

Motion, as amended, put and declared carried.