Conradh na Gaeilge and Guth na Gaeltachta welcomed the publication of the Government's Gaeltacht Bill 2012 on Tuesday (19 June 2012), but the community organisations believe that there are still many questions to be answered about the legislation due to a lack of specific information on its implementation, its administration and the evaluation of the Irish-language plans at its core, and are outraged that proposed amendments to the Bill must be put forward by tomorrow morning (21 June).
In June last year, Guth na Gaeltachta and Conradh na Gaeilge were informed that this significant legislation for the Irish language and for the Gaeltacht would be ready for publication before the summer of 2011; a year later, The Gaeltacht Bill 2012 has been published but only a few days have been allowed to propose amendments and to discuss the Bill, before it reaches the Fourth Stage of the legislative process next Thursday, 28 June 2012.
According to Dónall Ó Cnaimhsí of Guth na Gaeltachta: "Guth na Gaeltachta is seriously concerned about the language plans and the way in which areas where English is the dominant language - B Areas according to the Comprehensive Linguistic Study of the Use of Irish in the Gaeltacht / Staidéar Cuimsitheach Teangeolaíoch ar Úsáid na Gaeilge sa Ghaeltacht (SCT) - are mixed with areas where Irish is the dominant language (A Areas) in the language-planning areas currently prescribed by the Department. Evidently politics, and not language-planning criteria as prescribed in the SCT, is in play.
"Everything will now depend on the criteria that the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltachta sets out - yet another politically-driven decision - instead of on objective language planning criteria, as applied in the STC. These language plans are an additional and indeed a heavy burden for the Irish-language community groups, which are functioning on a voluntary basis for the most part, but yet there are no additional resources to be made available to them; as such, it is hard to see how the State is serious about trying to save the Gaeltacht."
Conradh na Gaeilge and Guth na Gaeltachta believe that an administrative unit run through Irish should be established for An Garda Síochána and the Courts, in the Gaeltacht and for the Gaeltacht. Both organisations also believe that the Irish-language plans under the 2012 Gaeltacht Bill should be independently monitored, whereby their progress reviews would not be left to the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht but rather that the Office of the Language Commissioner, An Coimisinéir Teanga, would have a role in the effective implementation of the plans.
Donnchadh Ó hAodha, President of Conradh na Gaeilge says: "Too much in the 2012 Gaeltacht Bill depends on the goodwill of the Minister of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht in power at any given time to competently manage Irish-language and Gaeltacht affairs; the Minister should be obliged to execute all of his or her functions according to language planning principles and criteria.
"It is essential to have a strong and sturdy structure in place to effectively implement these language plans at the heart of the Gaeltacht Bill, a structure that will hold out regardless of who is in office, a structure that is open and transparent to the public, a structure that is independently monitored by a body in whom the public has absolute trust; there is no doubt that the Irish-language and Gaeltacht community have complete faith in the Office of An Coimisinéir Teanga."
"Another concern of Conradh na Gaeilge is that Údarás na Gaeltachta will no longer be representative of the community it serves under the Gaeltacht Bill as it currently stands, as members of the Board of Údarás na Gaeltachta will no longer be publicly elected. There is a very real danger that appointments to the Board of Údarás na Gaeltachta will become merely political appointments if the public have no say on the election of Board members, and no opportunity to put themselves forward as possible candidates even if they have expertise appropriate for the work of the Údarás."
Conradh na Gaeilge and Guth na Gaeltachta agree that money can be saved by electing less members each year, but are calling for public elections to the Board of Údarás na Gaeltachta to be run on the same day as local elections to ensure that a number of members are still elected by the public. The organisations are also recommending using the system of open appointments to the Board of Údarás na Gaeltachta for the other members of the Board, akin to the system in use by the Board of RTÉ.
Conradh na Gaeilge and Guth na Gaeltachta are calling on the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht to clarify what specific criteria and supports will be in place for the Irish-language and Gaeltacht communities preparing and implementing language plans under the 2012 Gaeltacht Bill.
Donnchadh Ó hAodha,
President, Conradh na Gaeilge
+353 (0)87 2421267 / +353 (0)1 4757401
Dónall Ó Cnaimhsí,
Guth na Gaeltachta
+353 (0)87 2491101
Conradh na Gaeilge is the democratic forum for the Irish-speaking community working to promote the language. There are over 200 branches of Conradh na Gaeilge and since its foundation in 1893, members of the Conradh have been actively promoting Irish in every aspect of life in Ireland and especially its use in their own areas. Conraitheoirí are at the forefront of campaigns to secure and strengthen the rights of the Irish language community. It is also possible to register as an individual member of the Conradh. Conradh na Gaeilge runs Irish courses in Dublin, Galway, Mayo and other places throughout the country as well. www.cnag.ie/courses
Guth na Gaeltachta is a non-political, cross-party campaign concerned with the Irish language and the Gaeltacht. This community campaign was founded in the Gaeltacht to inform the public on the effect the proposed cuts for the Irish language and the Gaeltacht would have and to oppose such cuts. This campaign will focus wholly and completely on Irish language and Gaeltacht issues only. www.guthnag.ie
Aontas Phobal na Gaeilge (APG) is an alliance of Irish-language organisations working to promote Irish across Ireland and the world through more strategic language-planning. Aontas Phobal na Gaeilge consists of Comhaltas Uladh, Comhluadar, Conradh na Gaeilge, Glór na nGael and Seachtain na Gaeilge, organisations dealing with different aspects of the promotion of Irish in the community that came together to form a working alliance that would ensure a better provision of services and more value for money.
APG will fulfil the all-island brief for the Irish-language sector following the North/South Ministerial Council's announcement on 02 December 2009 that Foras na Gaeilge would have to look for funding requests from the voluntary sector from "One organization (or perhaps a limited number of organizations, [...]), with a representative, circulating information, advocacy and resources and support provision role to the whole sector".
Aontas Phobal na Gaeilge will continue the work currently undertaken by the united organisations of the alliance, and that programme of work will be added to. APG will continue to organise a national festival of the highest calibre publically celebrating the Irish language; it will further develop its lobbying and advocacy programme; it will emphasise the importance of language transmission from generation to generation; it will run an Irish-language competition, nationally and internationally; it will ensure there are wide-ranging opportunities for people to learn Irish; and it will promote innovative new ways in which Irish can be used. Here follow the strategic objectives of Aontas Phobal na Gaeilge:
1. To provide a joined-up plan of action, a structure, and human and physical resources for the operation of the APG;
2. To develop and encourage the ability to speak and learn Irish, the transmission and acquisition of the language;
3. To increase the use of Irish in the community;
4. To acknowledge and extend the status, image, rights and awareness of Irish;
5. To nurture the transmission of Irish from generation to generation on an all-Ireland basis; to maintain and promote the Gaeltacht; and to develop new Gaeltacht networks as language sanctuaries.
Aontas Phobal na Gaeilge values the amount of voluntary work done in the sector and will ensure that consistent, expert professional assistance is provided to volunteers, along with offering an independent forum as a support for the invaluable voluntary work done, for the Irish language. www.aontaspg.ie