Paula Melvin re-elected for second term as President of Conradh na Gaeilge as ‘ambitious but vital’ Growth Plan 2024-29 launched, calling for €220m extra funding for Irish language and Gaeltacht communities
The Conradh na Gaeilge Ard-Fheis was in full swing on the weekend of 24-26 February 2023 in the Abbey Court Hotel, An tAonach, Tiobráid Árann. Branches, members and guests have convened over three days to discuss and debate the organisation’s priorities for the year ahead. Over 40 motions were discussed as part of proceedings on Saturday 25 February. Amongst the most pressing motions debated and passed by delegates, included:
- A motion regarding housing planning rights in the Gaeltacht, and Gaeltacht summer colleges;
- A motion calling for immediate implementation of the new language legislation north and south;
- A motion calling for a comprehensive policy for Irish throughout every stage of the education system, and new legislation in the north to protect and enhance Irish Medium Education;
- A motion regarding the opportunities and challenges facing the Irish language in a ‘New, united Ireland’
- … and many, many more. (Information and wording of every motion and their passage through the Ard-Fheis can be accessed at the bottom of this release).
The Ard-Fheis also affords delegates the opportunity to vote for the Presidency of Conradh na Gaeilge, and for the 12 members of the Coiste Gnó. This morning delegates voted once again for Paula Melvin as Uachtarán of Conradh na Gaeilge for a second term.
Speaking at the Ard Fheis, Paula Melvin, President of Conradh na Gaeilge, commented:
“It has been the honour of a lifetime to serve as President of Conradh na Gaeilge, and I reiterate that sentiment today as delegates have reinstated me for a second term. We now must turn our attention to the year ahead, and commit to doubling our efforts to ensure the priorities and motions agreed during this Ard-Fheis are realised in the coming time. We have made incredible progress across a range of issues, especially around language rights north and south of the last 12 months, as we continue to press ahead with major policy campaigns in the Gaeltacht, regarding education and, as discussed at length this weekend, funding and investment. We still have much more work to do to ensure equality for the Irish language and Gaeltacht, but we are ready for that fight and ready to get moving. I want to wish everyone involved with Conradh na Gaeilge, our members, our branches, our staff and the entire Irish language & Gaeltacht communities all the best for the year ahead. Together we can make a huge difference.”
As well as delegates debating and passing motions, the Ard-Fheis hosts an annual debate looking at pressing issues relating to the Irish language, this year looking at funding and Government support. Friday, 24 February, seen the launch of a new Irish language and Gaeltacht Investment Plan for 2024-29. Entitled ‘An Plean Fáis 2024-29’ (The Growth Plan 2024-29), the document sets out Government funding initiatives and commitments for the coming 6 years, alongside the major funding interventions needed to realise the growing needs and ambitions of the Irish language and Gaeltacht communities.
The discussion panel debating the merits of the Plean Fáis and the broader issue of investment and support for the language and the Gaeltacht included: Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD (Sinn Féin & Chair of Comhchoiste na Gaeilge, Gaeltachta agus Pobal Labhartha na Gaeilge), Ciarán Mac Giolla Bhéin (Language Planning Coordinator with Fís an Phobail, West Belfast), Senator Lorraine Clifford-Lee (Fianna Fáil, Vice-Chair of Chomhchoiste na Gaeilge, Gaeltachta agus Pobal Labhartha na Gaeilge) and Katie Halpin-Hill (Irish Language Representative with Aontas na Mac Léinn, Coláiste na hOllscoile, Corcaigh). Broadcaster Máirín Ní Ghadhra (Raidió na Gaeltachta) chaired the debate.
The headline investment calls set out in An Plean Fáis between 2024 and 2029 include:
- Increase Government funding in the south for the Irish language / Gaeltacht from 0.16% of state spending in 2022 to 0.4% of state spending by 2029. This will see an increase of €198m in the Irish language and the Gaeltacht across 6 years.
- Increase Government funding in the north for the Irish language from 0.023% of state spending in 2022 to 0.1% of state spending by 2029. This will see an increase in funding of £22m across 6 years.
Julian de Spáinn, Ard-Rúnaí, Conradh na Gaeilge, said:
“Although we have made substantial progress regarding state expenditure on the Irish language and the Gaeltacht since 2016, the funding levels for Foras na Gaeilge and Údáras na Gaeltacht remain below the level of funding for both bodies in 2008. During that same period the budget for the Arts Council in the south has increased by almost 60%. As a community we must be much more vocal and a lot more assertive in calling for both equality and equitable funding for our native language, if we are to achieve the growth and investment required to meet our ever-growing needs. The Plean Fáis launched at the Ard-Fheis this weekend sets out our priorities for the rest of this decade. They may seem ambitious, but they are vital actions and interventions needed to support the development of the language and our Gaeltacht communities. We are calling on elected representatives, on political parties and on our Government departments to include the provisions set out in the Plean Fáis in their planning and funding review processes over the coming months and years.”
“Of course, Conradh na Gaeilge could not function without our branches, our members or without the pioneering work community activists carry out voluntarily throughout the year. their energy, vision and drive continues to fuel all of the work Conradh na Gaeilge does. The Ard-Fheis affords us the opportunity to recognise and celebrate that work and those people. This year we have had the pleasure of recognising volunteering excellence across each province and nationally. We wanted to thank all of our members, and indeed all of those active in promoting the Irish language and Gaeltacht campaigns over recent years. We now turn our attention, le chéile, to 2024 and beyond.”
The Ard-Fheis also hosted the community launch of Seachtain na Gaeilge le Energia in An tAonach this weekend. Seachtain na Gaeilge le Energia runs from 1-17 March and we invite all communities to take part in this year’s festival of Irish language events, to use the language, to practice it, share it and learn it together. This year's ambassadors for #SnaG23 are TV presenter Maura Derrane, writer Manchán Magan and creator Eádaoin Fitzmaurice.
Gradam an Uachtaráin, The President’s Award was awarded to Rónán Mac Aodha Bhuí on the Saturday as part of the Conradh na Gaeilge Ard-Fheis. Although Rónán could not be present, all at Conradh na Gaeilge will be keeping him in our thoughts in the coming weeks and months.
Photos of the highlights from the Ard-Fheis can be accessed here.
All pictures include full permission to be published with attribution. Please attribute to: Pádraig Ó Flannabhra | Conradh na Gaeilge.
A report of all motions presented and voted on are included online here.
The full programme for the Ard-Fheis, including motions, reports and agenda, can be accessed in full here.
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