There is huge disappointment and anger among the Irish-language and Gaeltacht community over Budget 2017. According to the budget as announced on 11 October 2016, the Government in the south is refusing to provide €4.5 million to fund even the first stage of the investment plan. The proposal had been made that the funding of this plan could be done by reversing some of the cuts made since 2008 to Irish-language and Gaeltacht authorities.
The budget of Foras na Gaeilge and the capital investment fund of Údarás na Gaeltachta - the body charged with creating employment in Gaeltacht areas - have in total been reduced by over 50% since 2008. There was €0 of new extra funding announced by the Government for these vitally important budgets in 2017. This will mean that Foras na Gaeilge will have to continue with its cut backs of community projects, and the Údarás will not be able to create any new additional jobs in the Gaeltacht in 2017; the 2017 budget document states that an employment base of 7,000 jobs in the Gaeltacht will be maintained.
The Government announced some small additional funding for the Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs and for Údarás na Gaeltachta in some areas, but the majority of this funding is not connected to the investment plan and it is a very small sum of money to deal with the crisis in the Gaeltacht and outside of it.
The implications Budget 2017 will have on the funding of the Irish language and the Gaeltacht can be found here.
Opportunity To Set Things Right
The Government still has an opportunity to do the fair and right thing for the Irish language and the Gaeltacht however. In the revised estimates that will be put before the Dáil over the coming weeks, in 2017 they can again provide the €1.4 million of extra capital funding that they are providing to Údarás na Gaeltachta in 2016, i.e. ensure that the Údarás has €8 million in its 2017 capital investment budget to create new additional jobs.
The Government in the south can also provide €2.5 million to Foras na Gaeilge to implement the first stage of the investment plan as agreed by over 80 Irish-language and Gaeltacht groups. The funding of this cross-border body depends on both Governments, i.e. the Executive in the north can only match a percentage of the funding provided by the Government in the south, hence why it is vital that the necessary funding is allocated to this Irish-language authority in Budget 2017.
Why invest €18 million in our investment plan over three years?
- This investment would create more than 1,175 new jobs and would provide every constituency with opportunities to promote the Irish language
- Even with this investment, the Irish-language and Gaeltacht authorities would still have €5 million less than they received in 2008 (the budget for Irish-language and Gaeltacht authorities was reduced from €45 million in 2008 to €22 million in 2015)
- A majority of newly-elected Teachtaí Dála (84 TDs in total) agree that €18 million should be invested in the plan agreed by 80 Irish-language and Gaeltacht groups, and a further 43 Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs) have also pledged their support for the plan
- The plan is consistent with the Programme for Government in the south, which states that the Government will increase investment in the Irish language
- The public agrees that additional support should be made available. A Millward Brown survey from January 2016 shows that 61% of people in the south agree that the state should provide additional support for the Irish language while only 18% were against
- This investment plan will strengthen and build upon work currently ongoing and making a big difference on the ground
Where are some of the areas that the investment would be made in?
- Funding would be available to implement language plans (to provide opportunities to use Irish and opportunities to learn Irish on a planned basis) – and as regards the Gaeltacht, funding would be available to fund the language planning system in every language planning area
- There would be a fund available to establish Irish-language centres in the main which would in turn provide a wide range of services for the community (classes, café, youth clubs, etc.)
- There would be an opportunity to employ people to coordinate language plans and manage the Irish-language centres
- This investment would provide opportunities to families – especially those from financially disadvantaged families – to access scholarships to help send their children or indeed the entire family to the Gaeltacht
- There would be an opportunity to provide funding to establish childcare centres to offer nursery and crèche services for children being raised through Irish, from birth to school-age, and there would be funding to support the Gaelscoil community
Examples of the cutbacks over the past 12 months:
- Seachtain na Gaeilge’s organisational budget was reduced by 40% in 2016 from 2015, meaning that the same level of support was not available for the 200+ groups and 4,000+ schools who organise events in every county in Ireland and abroad as part of the biggest Irish-language festival in Ireland each year
- The Youth Events Scheme was reduced by 40% in 2016 from 2015
- There is a lack of funding to implement the language plans in the Gaeltacht, in the newly established specified Irish-language network areas, and in the Gaeltacht service towns
- The number of Irish-language summer camps funded was reduced 35% from 92 in 2015 to 59 in 2016
- Officers employed through the Irish in the Community Scheme have been reduced to a 4-day working week
- Baile Locha Riach, which is recognised as one of the 5 Foras na Gaeilge Irish-language network areas in the language planning process, has been left without an Irish language Community Scheme to manage the work
Can you help with the campaign?
Through the revised estimates that will soon go before the Dáil, the Government still has an opportunity to do the fair and right thing for the Irish language and the Gaeltacht, provided their local constituents put them under pressure to do so - that's where you are needed!
84 TDs and 43 MLAs agree that €18 million should be invested in the Irish-language and Gaeltacht investment plan. If you can contact the politicians in your own constituency, you can impress upon them the urgent need for them to take action by providing the investment needed to implement the plan as agreed by over 80 Irish-language and Gaeltacht groups. Tell them to:
- make €2.5 million available to Foras na Gaeilge in Budget 2017 in the south
- make €1.4 million available for Údarás na Gaeltachta's budget in 2017 to ensure that the Údarás has €8 million in its 2017 capital investment budget to create new additional jobs
The contact details of the politicians who pledged their support for the Irish-language and Gaeltacht commitments north and south can be found by clicking on the links for the TDs and for the MLAs above, or on the campaign page 2016 Elections.