Death of Gaeltacht likely in next 10 years, warns expert

Academics critical of policy ‘status quo’ in Government efforts to save the language

The Committee on the Irish Language, Gaeltacht and the Islands was told of the State’s inaction on the language. Photograph: The Irish Times

The Committee on the Irish Language, Gaeltacht and the Islands was told of the State’s inaction on the language. Photograph: The Irish Times

 

A leading academic has warned of the death of the Gaeltacht within the next decade due to current Government strategy.

Dr Brian Ó Curnáin of the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies said a new approach was required for the language and that the status quo was no longer an option.

The Gaeltacht in its current state was in crisis and unsustainable, he said.

Academic reports had shown the number of Irish speakers in Gaeltacht areas was decreasing and young people’s ability in the language was declining, mainly because of their socialisation through English, he said.

Addressing the Committee on the Irish Language, the Gaeltacht and the Islands, Dr Ó Curnáin criticised what he called the State’s inaction on the Irish language and said the only area where there had been some action was in relation to primary education.

However, even there the recommendations of the Department of Education had yet to be implemented, he said.

Dr Ó Curnáin said the geographical areas of the Gaeltacht should be redefined where new support structures would be put in place including the creation of a strategy research body, a trust to manage socio-economic resources, and the promotion of community use of Irish.

Strategy

Another academic also criticised the Government’s 20-year strategy for the Irish language and said it was aimed at non-Gaeltacht areas.

Prof Conchúr Ó Giollagáin of the University of the Highlands and Islands in Scotland said there was a need for a separate strategy for Gaeltacht areas.

He said the needs of Irish speakers were very different from those of Irish learners but they were treated as if they were the same.

Prof Ó Giollagáin cited the common curriculum in all schools, which focused on Irish as a second language and not a mother tongue, which it was for those from the Gaeltacht.

Prof Ó Giollagáin told the committee that the 20-year strategy had achieved very little and would do little more in the remaining years of the policy.

He condemned Government cuts to Irish language funding and the Gaeltacht budget since 2008.

He said this proved that the strategy was a “status quo” approach because it only got half the funding it should have.

He also said too many State bodies had responsibility for the Irish language which meant language preservation ended up being dealt with ineffectively.