The Gaelic League Condemn Government Move to Downgrade the Gaeltacht

Seven years in to the “20 Year Strategy for the Irish Language 2010-2030", the Gaelic League have condemned the action of the new Irish Prime Minister’ to downgrade the Gaeltacht in a move that has set off alarm bells amongst supporters of the Irish Tongue. Conradh na Gaeilge (Gaelic League) have expressed “Serious Concern” that “Gaeltacht” is no longer specifically mentioned in the title of the state department with responsibility for Gaeltacht and Gaelic Language affairs.

The new Taoiseach (Prime Minister of Ireland), Leo Varadkar, who was born in Dublin to a mother from Waterford and a father from Bombay in India, announced on June 14 that the Department will now be known as the “Department of Culture”.  The current name of the department is "Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs". Varadkar is a member of the Fine Gael which is a political party that has been characterized as viciously indifferent to the survival of the Irish Language. 

In April of last year The Gaelic League called for the appointment of a Senior Government Minister for the Irish Language and Gaeltacht.  The League's announcement cited the results of an independent poll that measures the levels of support in the Irish Republic for the provision of State Services in Gaelic for Irish speaking communities (Gaeltacht). The poll also showed 62% of respondents agree that there are not enough opportunities for young people to use the Gaelic tongue beyond the formal education system.

The Gaelic League (Conradh na Gaeilge) is the main voluntary community organisation that promotes the Irish language in Ireland and abroad. The League’s primary objective is the reinstatement of the Irish language as the common tongue of Ireland.  Since its founding in 1893, members have been actively promoting Irish in every aspect of life in Ireland, from legal and educational affairs to the development of media and services through Irish.  Members of the Gaelic League are in the forefront of campaigns to strengthen the rights of the Irish speaking community.

Below is the full text from the web site of Conradh na Gaeilge on the action taken by Taoiseach Varadkar:

News From The Gaelic League

It is a cause of serious concern for Conradh na Gaeilge that the Gaeltacht is no longer specifically mentioned in the title of the state department with responsibility for Gaeltacht and Irish-language affairs. According to the announcement by the Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar TD, in the Dáil last night (14 June 2017), the department will henceforth be known as the Department of Culture.

Niall Comer, President of Conradh na Gaeilge says:

“Responsibility for the Gaeltacht involves so much more than questions of culture. The Gaeltachts of Ireland are areas where people live in communities with specific needs, communities that deserve decent and appropriate services as citizens of this country. These needs include infrastructure, employment, community development, and a range of other services that are vital if the Gaeltachts are to survive as areas in which Irish is spoken as the everyday language.

“The Trojan work already being undertaken by Gaeltacht communities as part of the language planning process shows just how fragile the language is in each of these areas. We must focus on the language issues and other challenges that these Gaeltacht areas face as a matter of absolute urgency, and there is no way that these responsibilities can or should come under the title of culture only.”

Peadar Mac Fhlannchadha, Advocacy Manager with Conradh na Gaeilge says:

“Gaeltacht funding will be under threat if the department reforms as announced by Taoiseach Varadkar go ahead. Conradh na Gaeilge’s research illustrates the huge disparity suffered by both the Gaeltacht and the Irish language when it comes to state funding to date. Compared to funding received by the IDA and Enterprise Ireland, for example, our research shows that Údarás na Gaeltachta was hit with a 70% reduction in its capital budget since 2008 while both of the other two agencies received significant increases.

“Without a specific reference to the Gaeltacht, there is a very real danger that Gaeltacht funding will be left high and dry yet again. Coincidentally, this is happening at a time when 80 Gaeltacht and Irish-language groups across the country have agreed an investment plan for the community together. Part of the plan calls for funding to create 1,000 more jobs in the Gaeltacht. Conradh na Gaeilge is calling on Taoiseach Varadkar to reconsider the title of the department to ensure that the Gaeltacht receives the specific recognition it deserves, and that funding for Údarás na Gaeltachta is increased.”

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