Govt delusional regarding numbers really using Irish language
Complete lack of honesty in Govt approach to sustaining Irish for the future
Enda Kenny TD, Leader of Fine Gael, has today (Tuesday) said that the Government Statement on the Irish Language is a window-dressing exercise that fails to even acknowledge the serious problems that face the language in the 21st century.
‘The continued failure of Fianna Fáil and the PDs to honestly address the problems facing Irish is evident from today’s published statement on the language. This statement is simply designed to plamás the public, instead of actually putting forward any detailed proposals to address the root causes of the decline of the language.
‘It’s telling that the Government parties continue to boast that 1.6 million people can speak Irish, when in fact only 70,000 adults use Irish on a daily basis. When Fianna Fáil proclaims that this number can speak the language, the only conclusion I can come to is that their delusion regarding the state of Irish continues to this day.
‘The Government Statement on the Irish Language commits that a twenty-year strategy for the language will be developed. Fine Gael has called repeatedly for a national strategy for Irish to be devised, but the starting point for this has to be an honest assessment of the state of the language right now. If the Government strategy for the language – to be worked-out over the coming two years – is built on the Fianna Fáil failure to be honest about the position that Irish is in now, it will not achieve the results that our language so badly needs.
‘No other issue highlights the hypocrisy of Fianna Fáil quite like their position on the Irish language. It was one thing to launch today’s Government Statement on the Irish Language, but Fianna Fáil can’t explain away the following quite so easily:
– The then Education Minister Michael Woods turned the sod for an all-Irish Education Centre at Ballyvourney, Co Cork, in 2000. This centre was to support the teaching of Irish in schools, and provide badly needed tools and materials towards this end. So far, at least €400,000 has been spent but the centre has never been provided.
– Earlier this year the Harris Report, which detailed a serious decline in the standard of Irish at primary school level, was published. Despite repeated requests from me, the Government has not set aside even one minute of Dáil time to debate this report.
– The Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Éamon Ó Cuív, is in possession of a draft report regarding the status of Irish in gaeltacht areas, but has refused to publish the recommendations in this report.
– In is little short of scandalous that even today children in all-Irish secondary schools still cannot get the textbooks that they need in Irish.
‘Over the past twelve months, Fine Gael has highlighted the parlous state of the Irish language, and has put forward concrete proposals including:
– The development of a specialist Language Support Corps to help individual primary schools which are having particular difficulties with the teaching of Irish.
– Devising a new second level curriculum that is loaded with topics that are modern, relevant and useful, the precise opposite of our current curriculum.
– Introducing an oral component at Junior Certificate level immediately, and a new subject for Leaving Certificate, Communicating in Irish, where 50% of the marks would be devoted to spoken Irish and the rest of the curriculum focussing on useful and applicable reading and writing tasks in Irish. The second Irish subject on the curriculum would focus on literature and heritage, for those with a deeper knowledge and competence in the language
– Introducing choice in Irish language learning for all post-Junior Certificate students, with a guarantee that Irish will be available in all schools, at both Higher and Ordinary level, for all students who choose to learn it.
– Developing a National Strategy for the Irish language, but one which makes a clear and honest assessment of where we are now, what we want to achieve for the language and what Government can do and expects others to do to support the language.
– Developing a State recognised proficiency scale, backed with a mix of progressive teaching tools especially IT, to provide a safe environment for improving language skills for all.
‘The complete absence of detail in today’s statement is not surprising, as until Fine Gael raised this issue in November 2005 Fianna Fail wasn’t even aware that there was anything wrong with Ireland’s approach to Irish language teaching and learning. This all goes to show that, for as long as Fianna Fail has their ‘blinkers’ on regarding the real state of the language, they will never be able to address the decline that seriously threatens Irish in the 21st century.’
Facts On Irish
Of the almost 1.6 million people who described themselves as Irish speakers in Census 2002, only 21% use the language on a daily basis with 9.8% using the language on a weekly basis. The remainder large majority of those stating that they can speak Irish, more than 1 million people, actually use the language less often than this or not at all.
Therefore, of the total number of respondents aged over three to Census 2002 (3,750,995) only 9% are classified as using Irish on a daily basis.
Looking in more details at this 9% (339,541 people), 266,707 of these people are between the age of 3 and 19. These are the key school-going years during which Irish is used every day. The figures show that as soon as people leave school the use of Irish plummets.