Kerry council plans to restrict housing development to Irish speakers

 

A local authority housing development in the Kerry Gaeltacht of Corca Dhuibhne will be restricted as far as possible to Irish speakers. Anne Lucey reports.

However, Kerry County Council has confirmed that housing officers have said they will stop short of formally testing applicants. An application to build the private housing scheme in the area has been asked to provide a "linguistic impact assessment" to show the houses would be sold to Irish speakers.

A council spokesman described the proposals as "a practical effort" to save the language and said both the Official Languages Act and the 2000 Planning Act had strengthened the council's hand in their efforts to preserve the language in Kerry's two Gaeltachts.

The 19-house scheme to be allocated in early 2005 is alongside the village of Ballyferriter. It is the first such scheme to be developed west of Dingle, where English is now mainly heard.

Applicants are to be assessed in a general manner as to their competency and their interest in Irish, Mr Philip O'Sullivan, director of housing, Kerry County Council has said. This assessment is to take place during the course of the normal interview which takes place in Kerry as part of the process of applying for local authority housing.

Up to now, those seeking local authority homes in their own areas were forced to leave for Dingle. While Dingle was strictly speaking a Gaeltacht area, the language was much stronger in Ballyferriter. The percentage of Irish speakers there is one of the highest in the country, the 2002 report on the Irish language by Choimisiún na Gaeltachta found.

However, that report also found that even in strong Irish-speaking areas the language was under threat from planning policies which failed to accommodate local Irish speaking people, thus driving them out of their communities.

At the same time an excessive number of holiday homes were being allowed in these mainly seaside areas.