29/05/2015: Statement from Minister of State for Gaeltacht Affairs, Joe McHugh, T.D.
The 20-Year Strategy for the Irish Language 2010-2030 is the corner stone of the Government’s policy with regard to the language and the Strategy is being systematically implemented by a range of stakeholders, including Government Departments, Foras na Gaeilge and Údarás na Gaeltachta. The Strategy was published in 2010, following cross-party support in the Houses of the Oireachtas and a comprehensive consultative and research process, including the Gaeltacht Commission report (2002) and the Comprehensive Linguistic Study of the Use of Irish in the Gaeltacht (2007). A holistic, integrated approach to the Irish language underpins the Strategy and it is evident from the progress reports that have been published to date that significant progress is being made in implementing the key areas for action identified in it.
Language planning was a vital element in the Gaeltacht Commission report (2002) and the Comprehensive Linguistic Study of the Use of Irish in the Gaeltacht (2007) which led to the 20-Year Strategy for the Irish Language. The development of a comprehensive language planning system at community level in the Gaeltacht is central to ensuring that Irish survives as the community language in the Gaeltacht. With this in mind, the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, in conjunction with Údarás na Gaeltachta, is supporting the implementation of the language planning process in the Gaeltacht under the Gaeltacht Act 2012 and Údarás na Gaeltachta is providing support to community organisations to prepare and implement language plans in the Gaeltacht.
As Minister of State for Gaeltacht Affairs, I am very aware of the dynamics of language change and the pressure minority languages face as a result of the ever-increasing dominance of English. In this context, it is important to note that the Irish language has been afforded significant constitutional and legislative protection by the State since its foundation. The Official Languages Act 2003 gave a statutory basis for the first time to the provision of State services in general through Irish. The language was given enhanced status when it was recognised as an official and working language of the European Union in 2007.
The Government’s policy is to support parents raising their children through Irish in the Gaeltacht. The Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht funds a number of support schemes in the Gaeltacht, including the Family Language Support Programme, the Language Assistants Scheme, the Summer Camps Scheme and the Language Learners Scheme. Údarás na Gaeltachta also funds a range of schemes to support the language in the Gaeltacht and provides funding to community cooperatives and community development companies throughout the Gaeltacht.
While acknowledging that the report points out the serious challenges facing the Irish language in the Gaeltacht, it is important to recognise the practical steps that are being taken by the State to improve matters. For example, the draft policy proposals for educational provision in Gaeltacht areas, which were recently published by my colleague, Minister O’Sullivan, set out a range of potential interventions and are the basis of a consultation process currently being undertaken by the Department of Education and Skills in conjunction with the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht.