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Immigrants must be given opportunity to learn English – Ó Snodaigh

11 September, 2007

Sinn Féin Justice Spokesperson, Aengus ÓSnodaigh, TD, has welcomed the report launched today by the Immigrant Council of Ireland, "On Speaking Terms". Speaking after the launch, Deputy ÓSnodaigh said:

"The Immigrant Council of Ireland and Dr. Claire Healy are to be congratulated for, once again, producing an excellent and thorough piece of work in their report on introductory and language programmes for migrants in Ireland. It would be remiss of this Government and, particularly, the Minister for Integration Conor Lenihan, if they did not take on board and implement the key recommendations contained in this report.

"As Minister Lenihan himself acknowledged today at the launch, the Government's approach to this issue has been "ad hoc" and piecemeal, as it has been to almost all aspects of immigration and integration. To date, the Irish State has played a minimal role in integration. Voluntary and community groups have been providing English language services to migrants, with little or no support from the State. In my own constituency, the Warrenmount Centre has been providing, among other services to the community, English language classes with voluntary tutors and some other classes that are largely subsidised by the centre. Warrenmount is one of the very few learning centres that provide childcare facilities - a component that will be vital to ensure accessibility to learning and training services.

"It is crucial that an integrated, coherent policy and nationwide structures for English language training are developed, implemented and adequately resourced. Migrants must be given the opportunity to learn English if, as has been proposed, the Government intends to require proficiency in English for citizenship or long term residency. Minister Lenihan now has a responsibility to ensure that adequate provision is made for the learning of English and for information courses that will enable migrants to learn about Irish history and society, their rights, responsibilities and entitlements as members of this society, and to enable them to feel part of our communities.

"This report includes a very thorough analysis of worldwide experience and best practice in other countries which should prove extremely helpful. At the launch, a presentation was made on Scotland's innovative language programmes for migrants, offering many good examples of what is possible with the right amount of political will. A wealth of information has been provided by the work done here. I hope that Minister Lenihan and the Government will take seriously the valuable recommendations contained in this report and not put it on the shelf to gather dust as they have with so many others." ENDS

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