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Opposition walk out leaves Gaeltacht Minister talking to himself – Tóibín

19 July, 2012

Sinn Féin TDs were today joined by Fianna Fáil and the Technical Group in a walkout protest against the Government’s Gaeltacht Bill.

According to Deputy Tóibín the language has reached crisis point with research showing that the Irish language has between fifteen and twenty years left as a spoken language in the Gaeltacht.

In 1926 the Gaeltacht Commission Report stated that unless the state engages with the Gaeltacht in Irish it will have an anglicising influence. In 1986 another Gaeltacht Commission said that the state was the biggest anglicising effect on the Gaeltacht.

Today on a daily basis when people want to engage with the state they have to use English. This happens with the Gardaí, the courts and government departments such as agriculture and social protection. Spending on the provision of Irish language services in the latter equals 0.0006% of its budget.

Deputy Tóibín said:

“This is the first Gaeltacht Bill in 60 years and it is being forced and guillotined through the Oireachtas. There have been well over 130 amendments submitted of which we in Sinn Féin have 76. Few if any of these would have been reached because the government forced the bill through on the last day. Despite this bill containing some positive changes its overall effect will be negative. All Irish language groups are calling for it to be suspended to allow amendments to fix the problems.

“One of the major issues is the government’s plans to end directly elected Údarás na Gaeltachta membership. From now on County Councillors will be nominated to a reduced Údarás board. Also and most significantly for the Meath Gaeltachtaí, Rathcairn and Baile Gibb will lose a full time Údarás representative. This will have negative implications for jobs, community development and the language itself in Meath.

“In surveys 25% of parents say that they want to send their children to a Gaelscoil. Yet Gaelscoileanna only serve 5% of children. Fine Gael and Labour got rid of Scéim labhairt na Gaeilge and replaced it with a support package for families. The package includes one CD and one book that are available already through other government funded organisations.

“The government has reduced the power of the Coimisinéir Teanga and a large number of its departments are breaking the law with regards to Irish language provision without sanction. The survival and indeed the growth of the language can be achieved. Irish needs more that empty platitudes.  Minority languages have been strengthened in the Catalonia, Wales and the Basque Country, through strategic planning, modest resources but most importantly political will.”

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