30/05/17

Minister of State Seán Kyne welcomes the Government’s decision regarding the Official Languages Bill (Amendment) 2017

Minister of State at the Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Seán Kyne T.D., has welcomed today’s Government decision to draft a bill to amend the Official Languages Act 2003. This decision has resulted from the review of the Bill established by Minister of State Kyne last year, after undertaking his duties in the Department.

Minister of State Kyne said today: “Since I joined the Department, I aimed to bring forward a new Bill to ensure that the Languages Act continues to be an effective support to everyone who wishes to avail of high quality services in Irish from the State. It is clear to me, from the research carried out previously and from the conversations I’ve had with members of the Irish-language community, the Gaeltacht community, An Coimisinéir Teanga and other stakeholders over the past year, that there is a significant demand for services in Irish which are of the same standard as those provided in English.

“An effort has been made in these Heads of Bill to address two major questions – the Language Schemes and Recruitment in the Civil Service. I have already acknowledged the weaknesses in the language schemes system. Following a review of the system, I intend to introduce a language standards system here in Ireland.   Under this system, public bodies would be ranked, and standards for those bodies would be set down using regulations. In this way, we could ensure the highest standards in terms of use of the Irish language in the organisations providing services to the public, including the Irish-language and Gaeltacht community. Not only would this system be more efficient in terms of protecting citizens’ rights, it would also reduce the burden of administration which currently applies to the agreement of language schemes.”

“The effect of this new system will depend largely on recruitment. It is clear to me that problems exist in that area and I strongly believe that the number of civil service employees who are capable of providing services in Irish must be increased and we must ensure that civil service officers serving in Gaeltacht areas are competent in Irish. At my request, discussions have been ongoing for some time between my officials and their colleagues in other Departments and in key public bodies to examine their requirements in relation to people who can function bilingually.  Following those discussions, I am hopeful that we can find a solution which would ensure that a sufficient number of Irish speakers are recruited to the civil service during the drafting of this Bill. One of the objectives of the Bill will be that 20% of new recruits to the public service will be Irish speakers, that every public office in the Gaeltacht will operate through Irish and that the bodies will be capable of catering to the demand for services in Irish.”

“In reviewing the Bill, we examined the demands of the Irish language organisations, the opposition and An Coimisinéir Teanga. I am hopeful that there is enough in these Heads of Bill to ensure that we can draft a robust Language Bill. Further consultation will now be held with State Departments, the Office of the Attorney General and other stakeholders, and I am looking forward to the consultation and discussion in the Houses of the Oireachtas as this Bill is put through the legislative process. This is another step in the implementation of the 20-Year Strategy for the Irish Language and the provisions of the new Bill will, of course, help with the language planning process underway in the Gaeltacht. I strongly believe that positive results for the language and for the Irish-language community will best be achieved by working together.”

It is expected that the Heads of Bill will be published on Thursday, 1 June.

 

ENDS.

Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, 23 Kildare Street, Dublin , D02 TD30. Tel: 01 631 3800 / LoCall: 1890 383 000

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