Action not words needed to save Irish, say native speakers

Gaeltacht Parents group says research paints dismal picture of native language’s future

The time for reports and talking is over and action is now required to prevent the spectre of Irish dying as a living language, an Oireachtas committee heard yesterday.

Sorcha Ní Chéilleachair, of Tuismitheoirí na Gaeltachta (Gaeltacht Parents), said research painted a dismal picture of the future for Irish as a native language.

Calling for an urgent response, she said: “If an infant is hungry, there is no good talking about it. The child has to be fed.”

Ms Ní Chéilleachair was speaking at a meeting of the sub-committee on the 20-year Language Strategy. The committee was discussing a recent report by linguist Conchúr Ó Giollagáin which said that Irish may no longer be the daily language of any Gaeltacht area by 2025, unless urgent remedial action is taken.


Political will

He recommended, among other things, the establishment of an emergency commission to tackle the crisis.

A number of Irish organisations and State bodies appeared before the committee to respond to the report. They included Údaras na Gaeltachta, Conradh na Gaeilge, Gaelscoileanna Teoranta, agus Tuismitheoirí na Gaeltachta.

Údarás chief executive Steve Ó Cúláin said that his agency was responsible for the language planning aspects of the strategy and its ambition represented a big challenge for it.

Peadar Mac Fhlannchadha, of Conradh na Gaeilge, said the situation was urgent but believed it was possible to save the language as a living first language.

He contended, however, that the political will to achieve those goals was not there at present. “There is no senior Minister for the Gaeltacht and the Irish language has no voice in Government,” he said.


He said the budgets of Údaras na Gaeltatachta had been cut disproportionately harshly in recent years.

Sen Trevor Ó Clochartaigh (Sinn Féin) said it had been extraordinarily difficult to convene the meeting and said it was only the second time this year the Committee had met.

He wondered if it would be better to set the 20-year strategy aside and replace it with a more meaningful solution.

Harry McGee

Harry McGee

Harry McGee is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times