The Government has launched a five year “Action Plan” for the Irish language which sets out 187 measures in nine “action areas”, including Education, the Gaeltacht, Family Transmission of the Language, Services and Community and Media and Technology.
The plan is an effort to breathe new life into the Government's 20 Year Strategy for the Irish Language 2010-2030, a wide-ranging statement of intent which aims to promote and develop Irish in the Gaeltacht and outside it.
Minister of State for the Irish Language and the Gaeltacht, Mr Joe McHugh, said that the new approach was “the result of public consultation organised by my Department and is designed to build on the 20 year strategy for the language. Implementing this plan is critical to the survival of our language.
“It creates a spirit of co-ownership and working together across Government and puts our language at the heart of Government policy. The spirit of co-operation is central to this endeavour. By supporting each other, we, and the Irish language and the Gaeltacht, will thrive and prosper.”
The plan lays out a number of “achievable measures” and “sets out in detail the parties responsible for the implementation of each measure and clearly outlines the time-scale for implementation” in various departments, including, for example, the Department of Education. An annual report on the progress of the work will be published.
The proposals cover Irish-language services in traditional and non-traditional areas. Established sectors, such as Gaeltacht summer colleges, may be expanded to turn them into educational hubs to attract not only Irish children but also students from abroad. Another aim is to establish 42 new schools for Irish-medium education outside the Gaeltacht while two Irish-language Early Years posts will be created in the Department of Children and Youth Affairs to develop Irish-language provision in non-Gaeltacht areas. In addition, a new digital strategy is to be developed to ensure that Irish has an on-line presence. This is to include a new Irish-language section on RTÉ Player and a new RTÉ Irish-language app for children.
Mr McHugh said that he would “be on the look-out over the life cycle of the plan for more opportunities to build on the existing measures, as more opportunities and resources present themselves. The more this partnership and co-ownership – on which this action plan is built – are recognised and fostered, the more successful our efforts will be in benefiting our main concern in this undertaking: the Irish language and the Gaeltacht”.
Irish-language groups welcome plan The Irish-language lobby group, Conradh na Gaeilge, welcomed the plan. Its president, Mr Niall Comer, said that they were pleased with the scholarship scheme to allow disadvantaged children to attend summer courses in the Gaeltacht and the extra funding that has been made available for parents and children in the Gaeltacht too.
He said that is was good that “clear aims” had been laid out and that they had dates attached, something which would help in monitoring. He hoped that the Goverment would find the necessary resources to put every measure in the plan into effect.
The cross-Border organisation, Foras na Gaeilge, also welcomed the undertaking. The Chief Executive, Mr Seán Ó Coinn, said that momentum had been “lost in the early years due to the economic crisis, causing the public to become disillusioned with the progress of the strategy. But it is worth recognising that there has been a significant change in recent years and it is clear that the Government now intends to increase their efforts to tackle the challenge of developing Irish in the Gaeltacht and in the rest of the country”.