An Coimisinéir Teanga Rónán Ó Domhnaill has warned that the State’s 2030 target of 20 per cent of public service recruits being proficient in Irish will not be achieved unless a strategic approach is undertaken to ensure the supply of qualified graduates.
Mr Ó Domhnaill, who is appointed to monitor compliance with language legislation by the State and its agencies, appeared before the Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Irish Language, Gaeltacht and the Irish-speaking Community on Wednesday to discuss his annual report for 2021 and to discuss the promotion of the Irish language in the public service in 2022.
Seen as a key factor in the eventual number of graduates qualifying from third-level with a good command of Irish, Mr Ó Domhnaill referred to the ongoing imbalance in transfer rates from Irish-medium primary schools to Irish-medium post-primary schools.
Referring to a recent report published by the Department of Education on the provision of Irish-medium education outside of the Gaeltacht, Mr Ó Dómhnaill said he had noted that “just over a third” of Gaelscoil pupils transferred to a Gaelcholáiste (Irish-medium secondary school), while “almost sixty per cent” of the pupils transferred to an English language post-primary school.
It is a stated objective under the Official Languages (Amendment) Act 2021 that 20 per cent of new recruits to the public service will be proficient in Irish by 2030. Mr Ó Domhnaill warned that unless a long-term planning strategy is adopted to ensure the supply of post-primary pupils proficient in Irish, it will be “near to impossible” to provide the sufficient number of graduates to meet the 2030 target.
Mr Ó Domhnaill said he believed a national, inter-institutional approach could be developed to design and deliver undergraduate and postgraduate programmes. The Institute of Public Administration, in conjunction with institutions of higher education, could play a part in the development of a common syllabus, he said. This could include intensive language training and modules in politics, economics, law and public administration.
He also said there is an “urgent need” for a systematic approach to recruitment in the public service. He said the Irish language should be a basic requirement in the case of any type of vacancy “especially from the top down”.