Monday, May 08, 2006


Fine Gael Ard Fheis - Irish language

An-mhaith? The following is a speech by Dinny McGinley TD, Fine Gael Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs Spokesperson at the Fine Gael Ard Fheis on improving the state of the national tongue.

Tell us what you think of Mr McGinley's views:


I wish to thank all those who have contributed to this motion.

Many of today’s speakers have spoken eloquently on this issue and it is crystal clear that there is a real desire to see the Irish language thrive throughout the country.

As a fluent speaker, the Irish language is an integral part of my identity. I communicate through it on a daily basis and receive a tremendous amount of joy in doing so. There are thousands of people that do likewise in Ireland but there are many more that do not.

Even lovers of Irish cannot ignore the fact that Irish is in trouble. The majority of the population do not use it in their daily lives and, despite, receiving over 1,500 hours of education in the language many of our young people are leaving school without any reasonable command of Irish.

The Fine Gael Leader, Enda Kenny has already kick-started the debate, outlining his vision to bring Irish into the 21st Century. His radical approach to reforming and reviving Irish is built around a simple goal, equipping our people, and particularly our young people, with a real, a useful, and a communicative knowledge of the Irish language. It is now time to bring that vision to the next level and specify the policies of how, when in Government, Fine Gael will reform and revive Irish.

We need a radically different approach to the Irish language, in both our education system and in society. Above all we need a Government that will produce a National Strategy for the Irish language.

Irish Language Strategy

A Strategy is needed that makes a clear and honest assessment of

• Where we are,
• What the Government wants to achieve for the language,
• What Government can do and what we want and expect others in society to do to support us.

At the moment no such strategy exists. It is true that the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Eamon O’Cuiv, has already established a Language Advisory Committee. However, this Committee has no real role. It has no power to issue a Report or recommendations. Instead it will report to him as to whether or not he should develop a strategy. How can the language survive and thrive if it has no long-term direction?

The future of the language cannot and will not be served by a toothless talking-shop. Irish needs a National Strategy will ensure that all bodies and all initiatives working for the Irish language have a clearly defined role and a clear sense of purpose.

This Strategy would be formulated by a Committee nominated by the Minister and would be representative of all interested bodies, from the Gaeltacht and non-Gaeltacht areas. The Strategy would set out recommendations to be enacted by the Government for the future development of the language, over the next 20 years.

In particular, the Strategy would be tasked with retaining and preserving Gaeltacht Areas, developing and promoting the Gael Scoil movement; marketing and promoting the language and bringing forward measures to develop the Irish language amongst the general public.

The Strategy will form the blueprint of our ambitious plans taking the long-view and bringing Irish firmly into the 21st century and beyond.

Irish and Our Education System

Our education system is the silver bullet in the fight to renew Irish. Enda Kenny has already talked about immersing primary students in the language, overhauling second-level syllabuses by introducing oral exams at Junior Cert level, offering Irish as an optional subject at Leaving Cert level, changing the focus of the language to a more modern and spoken tint and setting up a new subject, Communicating through Irish.

But we need to go further.

The Government needs to increase its investment to Gael Scoileanna. Too often the Dept. of Education will only become involved in providing school buildings and other educational facilities after communities have spent years struggling to get Gael Scoileanna up and running. This is not acceptable.

One of the long running difficulties with education through the Irish language is the critical shortage of educational publications in Irish. Very little progress has been made in making available a wide choice of educational material in the Irish language. Fine Gael in Government will address this as a matter of urgency.

Finally, I can’t emphasis enough the power a modern syllabus can have on the language. Modernising it to make it more relevant for students and teachers with more emphasis on ability to speak the language will be the first priority for a Fine Gael Government.

Promotion of Irish Among the General Population

While we encourage the use and promotion of Irish among our student population, we need to develop more innovative and imaginative means of encouraging the increased use of Irish among the general Irish adult population. Most Irish adults have basic Irish and they should be encouraged to use it more often.

We also need to recognise that Ireland has now become a multi-cultural place and with thousands of new immigrants coming to live and work in Ireland we need to think how we can promote the Irish language among such new communities. Many of these new arrivals on our shores are parents who would like to learn Irish, for their own interest and also to help their children. We need to examine how we can assist these individuals, with special classes and tuition if necessary.

Fine Gael has supported the campaign to have Irish recognised as an official EU language. We must now ensure that qualified personnel are available and trained to meet the demands of the EU in implementing the policy of having Irish as an official language. The last Annual Report of the Irish Language Commissioner highlights the failure of the Government to provide services in the language to its citizens. Fine Gael in Government will address this problem and ensure that every citizen will have the right of conducting his or her business in the language of choice.

Language Tourism

Our tourism market can also benefit massively from language reform. The Irish language also offers a huge untapped potential, in attracting both domestic and international tourism for those who wish to study and learn the Irish language. The expansion of language tourism must be targeted not just at school students, but also to adults, both Irish and international.

As a representative from a Gaeltacht area, I am aware of the massive problems with declining job opportunities in many of these areas. Increase tourism will allow for the development of spin-off businesses in Gaeltacht areas, particularly areas which have been badly affected by the decline in traditional manufacturing industries and this is a massive ancillary benefit.

Job Creation and Údarás na Gaeltachta

Finally FG believes that the powers and functions of Údarás na Gaeltachta needs to be reassessed and reformed. It must strive to promote job creation by moving with the times and creating employment, which is centred away from traditional manufacturing to more innovative and technology based creation. It also needs to do more to help smaller entrepreneurs. The plethora of job losses in Gaeltacht areas, particularly Donegal, highlights the need to move away from traditional industry to modern services based industries, such as telecommunication or pharmaceutical. Critical to this aim, I believe is the provision of reliable broadband and other IT services for Gaeltacht areas.


There can be a bright future for the Irish language but only if a Government has the courage and the vision to implement necessary reforms and pursue far-reaching policies.

Fine Gael has that courage and that vision.

We want to see a population in love with its language and a language thriving in its population. Fianna Fáil has had its chance to renew and revive Irish and refuse to do so, only a change of Government will see the vital reforms put in place.

Fine Gael’s radical, ambitious programme for Irish will see it change. Change, for the better.



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