Sinn Féin call for greater North South co-operation on the Irish Language - Ó Clochartaigh
The importance of having greater North South co-operation in relation to developing the Irish language was the message that Gerry Adams TD and a Sinn Féin delegation gave Ministers Jimmy Deenihan and Dinny McGinley when they met during the week.
The Sinn Féín representatives voiced their concern over the damage that proposed budgetary cutbacks will do to the language and Gaeltacht areas.
“We explained that some government departments were jeopardising the 20 Year Strategy for the Irish Language in the way they are trying to make savings,” said Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh, who was part of the delegation.
“'We highlighted in particular the Department of Education and Science and its proposed changes to small rural schools, to the pupil-teacher ratio in Gaeltacht schools and to the loss of 'legacy' and resource posts in these areas among other cuts. We asked them to make a specific case with Ruairi Quinn to have these proposals reversed based on community and linguistic criteria and they said they would take our recommendations on board.”
The 20 Year Strategy was discussed in its own right at the meeting as well and Minister McGinley stated that an Interdepartmental Working Group was convened for the first time last week with representatives from all departments to discuss implementation of the strategy. The work that is being undertaken in the Assembly in relation to the promotion of Irish in the six counties, the 'Líofa 2015' programme and the preparation of a language strategy which could form the basis for a Language Act, was also outlined. The Irish Government was asked to use whatever influence it has with the British Government and other important stakeholders to support these developments and the ministers gave their commitment to do that.
Sinn Féin also called on the ministers to convince their cabinet colleagues to reverse the decision to subsume the Language Commissioner's office into that of the Ombudsman.
“We explained that the Irish language community are incensed by the recommendation of the Department of Public Expenditure and that they do not see any advantage to the state or the citizens to proceed with it. The ministers informed us that submissions in relation to the Language Act have recently been received and that they would bring recommendations based on them to the Cabinet table,” said Ó Clochartaigh.
The Sinn Féin delegation took the opportunity to inform the ministers that the party has set up a subcommittee to consult with Irish language organisations in relation to the new funding model proposed by Foras na Gaeilge. They told them that a majority of the organisations said that this was the first time anyone had engaged in meaningful discussions about the future of the sector and the funding they receive.
The importance of Údarás na Gaeltachta and the forthcoming Gaeltacht Bill was also discussed at the meeting. Minister Deenihan informed them that he hopes the Bill will be passed before the term of the present board comes to an end in October and that it was being drafted by the Department as a priority. The Ministers said this would obviously have a bearing on the future role of the Údarás and that of the Language Commissioner.
The issue of Meitheal Forbartha na Gaeltachta was also discussed at the meeting and the plight of community groups and creditors who were left in the lurch on the liquidation of that company. Minister Deenihan told the Sinn Féin delegation that he expects an announcement on LEADER funding in the Gaeltacht areas in the next week or so and that it appears that the funding could be made available through a Gaeltacht based organisation.
“'We understood from them that they hoped that projects which had been promised funding from LEADER previously would have those commitments honoured under the new funding mechanism,” said Trevor Ó Clochartaigh, “and we hope that they will be able to do so, as many had already started and were in some cases nearly finished when MFG closed shop. These people were left with unpaid bills and creditors looking for reimbursement and that is totally unacceptable,” according to Ó Clochartaigh.