Matters relating to the Irish Language, the Gaeltacht and the Islands discussed by Government at its Meeting in Donegal Gaeltacht
Government Chief Whip and Minister of State for the Irish Language, the Gaeltacht and the Islands, Seán Kyne T.D., has welcomed the detailed discussion by Government of matters relating to the Irish Language, the Gaeltacht and the Islands at its meeting in Gleann Cholm Cille in the Donegal Gaeltacht today.
Minister Kyne, at the invitation of his colleague, Josepha Madigan T.D., Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, brought four memoranda before Government for noting today addressing the following issues of importance to his areas of responsibility:
- Minister Kyne informed the cabinet of his intention to present the draft Official Languages Act 2003 (Public Bodies) Regulations 2019 to Dáil and Seanad Éireann prior to them being signed by all relevant Ministers. In this regard, Minister Kyne stated:
“The Language Commissioner has continuously highlighted the difficulties created for citizens who wished to deal with the Public Service through Irish, but who were unable to do so, due to the fact that the schedule of public bodies to which the Official Languages Act 2003 applies has not been updated since 2006. I am pleased to announce that, following extensive consultations with Government departments and other public bodies, draft regulations have been prepared with the assistance of the Office of the Attorney General. These regulations will allow us to update the list of public bodies that are subject to the Official Language Act by deleting references to public bodies that have ceased to exist or have become defunct since the Regulations were made in 2006, and by bringing new public bodies within the scope of the Act. I will be presenting the draft regulations for approval to both Houses of the Oireachtas on their return.”
“In relation to the Official Languages (Amendment) Bill, I updated my cabinet colleagues on the significant progress which has been made in drafting the Bill in recent months. The Bill is complex in nature and involves a fundamental revision of the approach to protecting, strengthening and growing the use of the Irish language in the public sector. The drafting process has, therefore, required considerable consultation with relevant public sector bodies. Intensive work is continuing and I look forward to returning to cabinet with a draft Bill for publication in the autumn.”
- Minister Kyne also informed the Cabinet of his intention to form an Interdepartmental Committee for Island Development, which he will chair himself.
“The inhabited offshore islands hold a wealth of cultural heritage,” Minister Kyne said, “and one of the key objectives of the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht is to ensure that viable communities continue to live on the islands. The Government, through the Department, supports the provision of transport services and infrastructure to provide access to the offshore islands. While a number of policies, which have largely been developed on an ad hoc basis, already exist across Government, an all-of-Government approach is required in order for our island communities to reach their full potential. It is for this reason that this important step has been taken today. It is intended to develop a cross-Government Islands Policy with an associated Action Plan stemming from the work of the committee. The result of this work will, if necessary, then be underpinned by appropriate legislation. I am delighted to have brought this proposal for discussion by Cabinet as it is the first time a project of this nature has been undertaken since the publication in 1996 of the Report of the last Interdepartmental Committee on Island Development.”
- Minister Kyne updated the Cabinet on the statutory Gaeltacht Language Planning Process and presented for noting the results of his Department’s Review of the Language Assistants Scheme and the launch by him of the Uíbh Ráthach Task Force Report and Action Plan 2019 – 2022 at an event in Cahersiveen earlier this week.
“This time last year, my Department published its 5-Year Action Plan for the Irish Language 2018-2022,” Minister Kyne said. “It sets out over 180 specific actions to be implemented by approximately 60 stakeholders and the first annual progress report in relation to the Action Plan will be published in the autumn, following Government approval. One of the key drivers in support of the implementation of the Action Plan is the Gaeltacht language planning process. Of the 26 Gaeltacht Language Planning Areas designated by Regulation under the Gaeltacht Act of 2012, 15 have been sanctioned to date. Overall funding of €3.2m has been allocated to my Department to support the process this year and, in recent days, I announced that a total allocation of €1.7m is being provided to Údarás na Gaeltachta and Foras na Gaeilge in support of the process in the current year. This process is really building a head of steam,” added the Minister of State, “and I was happy to report to Government today that 9 Language Planning Officers and 3 Assistant Officers have been appointed in Gaeltacht Language Planning Areas.”
- Minister Kyne also provided the Government with an update on progress in relation to the gradual reduction of the derogation on the use of the Irish language as an official and working language of the EU, as he presented colleagues with the report from the European Commission on the Union institutions’ progress, which was adopted by the European Commission on the 4th July. On this, Minister Kyne pointed out that:
“On the whole, this report is very positive. I was very pleased to brief the Cabinet on the progress that has been made in all areas of the action plan aimed at ending the derogation, as a result of ongoing work of my Department, in conjunction with the EU Institutions and the 3rd level sector at home. Ireland’s status as an official EU language is providing new employment opportunities for Irish people, at home and in the EU. As of last December there were 101 Irish language staff working across the EU institutions. These positions are highly-skilled, specialist in nature and, consequently, well remunerated.”
“The Irish language has a key role to play in making cultural and heritage connections, not least with the global Irish diaspora where the language strengthens links to home and maintains expressions of Irish identity through generations. In line with the Government’s Global Ireland 2025 Strategy, my Department is currently engaged in a wide variety of Irish language work which focuses on this Global Community. The work at EU level enhances this overall strategy and promotes the language as a key element of Ireland’s identity. I would like to acknowledge the institutions’ continued commitment to bringing the derogation to an end, as outlined in this report, and look forward to our continued co-operation between now and 2022.”