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Vow to triple our Irish speakers

December 23, 2010

Government unveils its 20-year strategy. There is a strong focus on promoting Irish in the Gaeltacht amid warnings that the language will die out there in 15 to 20 years if action is not taken.

Taoiseach Brian Cowen admitted yesterday that even €1bn in strategic funding would not be enough to get everyone in the country speaking Irish.

His comments came at the launch of the State’s first ever 20-year plan for the development of the language, which aims to triple the number of daily Irish speakers from 83,000 to 250,000 by 2030.

Mr Cowen admitted the availability of funding for the strategy — just €1.5m next year — had been affected by the economic crisis. But he said the strategy’s success would depend on the people.

“If we had €1bn, it wouldn’t give us the result that everyone is speaking Irish,” he said.

The strategy’s key points include broadening the number of Irish language speakers and improving the Irish-language training of new teachers by giving them more time in the Gaeltacht. It also backs the existing practice of keeping Irish as a compulsory school subject up to Leaving Cert level.

There is also a strong focus on promoting the use of Irish in the Gaeltacht, amid warnings that the language will die out there in 15 to 20 years if action is not taken. As part of the strategy, Gaeltacht communities will have to prepare a language plan and will lose their Gaeltacht status (and the possibility to claim Irish language grants) if they don’t.

“The greatest reason for hope is, in my opinion, the number of young people who are interested in the Irish language. My own children attended a gaelscoil and it is wonderful to see their pride in the language,” Mr Cowen said.

The 20-year strategy has cross-party support, which means that both Fine Gael and Labour are committed to implementing it if they get into power.

However, Fine Gael Gaeltacht spokesman Frank Feighan, who is learning Irish, said his party was sticking to its policy of abolishing Irish as a compulsory Leaving Cert subject.
“There are a lot of people like myself who spent 13 years in school who just have the ‘cupla focal’. We need a lot of confidence and I think this plan is the framework for 100,000 people like myself,” he said.

In Government buildings in Dublin yesterday, Community and Gaeltacht Affairs Minister Pat Carey said the Irish language had survived the effects of colonisation, famine and cultural globalisation.

“For the Irish people, the language represents an unbroken chain that stretches back over 2,000 years. Today we are launching a modern plan for the Irish language in this millennium — a plan to ensure that chain will not be broken.”

Irish Independent – Michael Brennan