Pól Ó Muirí
G-Day would not be an inappropriate reaction to the new Gaeltacht Bill. The Bill groups traditional Gaeltacht districts into 19 Gaeltacht language planning areas; offers some towns the chance to become Gaeltacht service towns; recognises urban communities as Irish Language Networks and brings about change to Údarás na Gaeltachta’s role and number of board members.
Speaking to the Minister of State for the Gaeltacht, Dinny McGinley, on Tuesday, he was adamant that he was moving on with the legislation – and quickly. He wanted it enacted by the summer if possible, September at the latest. Gaeltacht communities would then have two years to present him with their language plans . And it was up to them to do the work. McGinley said that Government would help but that the plans were “not going to come from Dublin”; it was up to Gaeltacht groups to draw them up.
Not surprisingly, reaction to the Bill has been mixed. Irish-language groups and commentators have recognised the Bill is significant and have welcomed the emphasis on linguistic planning as the proper way forward. However, there are questions as to what resources will be available to help small Gaeltacht areas draft plans.
Questions too are being raised over the change in Údarás na Gaeltachta’s board – from 20 members to 12; five of whom will be nominated by local councils in Gaeltacht areas and seven of whom will be appointed by the Minister for the Gaeltacht. There are also questions about Údarás’s role in enterprise development. The Gaeltacht Bill also gives the Minister a lot of power to decide who’s in and who’s out and how will Údarás na Gaeltachta and Foras na Gaeilge co-ordinate their efforts. Former Gaeltacht minister, Éamon Ó Cuív (FF), has called the Bill “disastrous” and is very critical of the way in which the new board to Údarás will be appointed.
Add to that the ongoing saga of Foras na Gaeilge and its (not so) New Funding Arrangement and you have Irish groups – east, west, north and south – having to mobilise on all fronts.
Oh, well – at least that makes it an all-Ireland movement, I suppose.