January 15, 2021
Cá bhfuil an sprioc earcaíochta 20% agus leasuithe eile a gheall an rialtas? – Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD

(Summary in English below)

Nuair a foilsíodh leasuithe an Aire Stáit Gaeltachta Jack Chambers ar Bhille na dTeangacha Oifigiúla (Leasú) 2019 oíche Chéadaoin, baineadh geit as urlabhraí Gaeilge, Gaeltachta, Ealaíon agus Cultúir de chuid Shinn Féin, Aengus Ó Snodaigh, toisc nach raibh roinnt de na leasuithe is tábhachtaí a bhí geallta ag an rialtas ina measc, an sprioc earcaíochta 20% a bhaint amach roimh 2030, ach go háirithe.

As an ocht leasú a bhí “glanta ag an gComh-Aireacht”, de réir comhfhreagras seolta ón Aire go dtí an Teachta Ó Snodaigh ar an 19 Samhain 2020, níl ach leath dóibh san áireamh eisithe ag Oifig na mBillí.

Is é Roghchoiste Dála na Gaeilge, na Gaeltachta agus Phobail Labhartha na Gaeilge, ar a bhfuil Aengus Ó Snodaigh ina Chathaoirleach, a bheidh ag plé na leasuithe go léir curtha isteach ag an Aire agus Teachtaí Dála eile ar an Aoine seo chugainn de réir cosúlachtaí, níl ach lá nó dhó fágtha ag an Aire cloí leis an méid a gheall sé.

“Ní mór don Aire míniú a thabhairt,” a dúirt an Cathaoirleach Ó Snodaigh, “cén fáth nach bhfuil na leasuithe a gheall sé i measc an méid atá foilsithe, ach go háirithe tar éis tacaíocht a fháil ón gComh-Aireacht? An é nach raibh sé ach ag iarraidh an dallamullóg a chur orainn go bhfuil suim aige i dtarrtháil na Gaeilge agus na Gaeltachta?”

Mheabhraigh an Teachta Ó Snodaigh gur gheall Fianna Fáil agus an Comhaontas Ghlais roimh thoghchán na bliana seo caite go ndéanfadh siad an Bille a láidriú ó foilsíodh é i 2019, toisc go háirithe go raibh spriocdhátaí de dhíth air. D’admaigh an Aire sa litir a sheol sé chuig Ó Snodaigh i mí na Samhna, go raibh spriocdháta ag teastáil. 

“Ba é easpa spriocdháta (don chuspóir gur cainteoirí Gaeilge a bheidh i 20% de na hearcaigh nua chuig an tseirbhís phoiblí) an ghné ba mhó den Bhille a cáineadh”, a dúirt an tAire. In ainneoin a gcuid geallúintí, tá spriocdháta fós in easnamh.I dteannta leis sin, bhí sé aontaithe ag an rialtas an deis a thabhairt don Aire na caighdeáin teanga, atá le teacht in áit córas lochtach na scéimeanna teanga, a fhorordú sula foilseoidh an Coiste Comhairleach Plean Náisiúnta, ach níl teacht air sin sna leasuithe foilsithe ach oiread.

Rinne an tAire Catherine Martin agus an tAire Jack Chambers na leasuithe a chur i láthair don bhfreasúra i mí Deireadh Fómhair, agus dúradh ansin go gcuirfeadh leasú eile dualgas ar Aire liosta na gcomhlachtaí poiblí a thagann faoina riar a uasdátú ar bhun rialta gach dara bliain. 

Tá Sinn Féin den tuairim gur chóir go dtiocfadh gach comhlacht poiblí faoin réim an Achta seo go huaillmhianach, ach ar a laghad bheadh céim sa treo cheart i gceist sa mholadh sin ón rialtas, agus ní bheadh leithscéal comhlachtaí nua a fhágáil ar feadh na blianta fada gan aon dualgais teanga orthu.Cháin an Teachta Ó Snodaigh go géar mar sin go raibh sé le feiceáil sna leasuithe curtha, ní amháin nach mbeidh an riachtanas seo ar an Aire, ach go mbeidh an deis tugtha don Aire comhlachtaí poiblí a bhaint as an Acht don chéad uair, gan cead a lorg ó Thithe an Oireachtais.

Dúirt an Teachta Ó Snodaigh:“Gheall an tAire go mbeadh 20% d’earcaigh nua sa státsheirbhís inniúil sa Ghaeilge roimh 2030, agus níl sé sin le feiceáil ina chuid leasuithe. Ina áit beidh ar an gCoiste Comhairleach céatadán a chumadh amach anseo, agus má tá cuma ar an scéal faoin mbliain 2030 nach mbainfidh an státchóras cibé sprioc – 20% 5%? 1%? níl a fhios againn – amach, beidh an deis ag an Aire sé mhí a chaitheamh suas go lár 2031 chun an sprioc a chur siar arís is arís eile – 2035? 2040? 2050? – gan cumhacht ar bith ag an reachtaíocht ina leith.

“Muna bhfuil sprioc daingean sa dlí, níl thiocfaidh biseach ar bith ar chás na Gaeilge sa státsheirbhís. Cur i gcuimhne nach raibh inniúlacht sa Ghaeilge ach ag 0.2% d’earcaigh nua le trí bliana anuas, in ainneoin go raibh sprioc 6% ag baint leis an gcóras nua earcaíochta a thug siad isteach. Rachaidh cúrsaí in olcas gan athrú as cuimse.

“Ní ar mhaithe le poist do Ghaeilgeoirí atá athrú de dhíth – toisc nach bhfuil daoine le Gaeilge in ann seirbhísí trí Ghaeilge a chur ar fáil don phobail, ní bhíonn an dara rogha ag Gaeilgeoirí ach iompú ar an mBéarla agus iad ag déileáil leis an stáit. Is mar gheall ar mheon mar seo ón maorlathas atá an Ghaeilge i gcruachás, agus tá rabhadh tugtha ag taighde an rialtais féin go gheobhaidh sí bás mar theanga labhartha na Gaeltachta muna dhéanann muid aon cheo faoi.

“Níl sé ar nós nach raibh an t-am ag an Aire na leasuithe seo a chur le chéile – tá muid ag fanacht 10 mbliana anois ar an mBille seo, agus chaith an tAire mí iomlán amú nuair a sheol sé chuig an Coiste Dála mícheart é, gan trácht fiú ar an teip iomlán a tharla nuair nach raibh seirbhísí an Oireachtais in ann deileáil le bille dátheangach roimh Nollaig – agus bhí cinneadh déanta ag an gComh-Aireacht gan cur ina choinne, mar sin níl leithscéal ar bith ag an Aire.

“Ní hamháin go bhfuil an deis caillte ag an Aire, ach chur a lán Teachtaí Dála eile a gcuid leasuithe féin isteach gan trácht a dhéanamh don sprioc earcaíochta toisc go raibh siad ag súil leis ón Aire. Is maith an rud é mar sin, toisc nach raibh muinín agam san Aire ó thús, gur chuir mé isteach an sprioc earcaíochta agus na leasuithe eile a bhí uaim ón méid a gheall an rialtas inár gcuid leasuithe féin.

“Mar sin, beidh an deis ag an Aire a léiriú go bhfuil sé fós den tuairim gur chomhair spriocanna bheith san reachtaíocht úr trí thacaíocht a thabhairt do mo leasaithe ar sprioc earcaíochta, agus dár ndóigh tá súil againn go dtacóidh sé le mo leasuithe eile a chabhródh le chur chun cinn na teanga.”

English Summary:

Where are the amendments promised by Government and the goal of 20% recruitment by 2030? – Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD

When the amendments submitted by the Minister of State for the Gaeltacht Jack Chambers to the Official Languages (Amendment) Bill 2019 were released Wednesday night, Sinn Féin’s spokesperson for Gaeilge, Gaeltacht, Arts and Culture, Aengus Ó Snodaigh, was shocked to discover only half of the eight amendments “agreed at Cabinet” last November were included, with no sign of the key goal that 20% of new recruits to the civil service be fluent in Irish by 2030. 

Aengus Ó Snodaigh chairs the Dáil Select Committee on Gaeilge, the Gaeltacht and the Irish-Speaking Community that appears set to begin discussing the amendments submitted by the Minister and other TDs next Friday, meaning there are only one or two days left within which the Minister can deliver on what he promised.

“The Minister must explain”, Chairperson Ó Snodaigh said, “why the amendments he promised are not among those published, especially as they received Cabinet Support? Was he trying to pull the wool over our eyes that he was interested in saving the Irish language, or that he would deliver on election manifesto commitment of Fianna Fáil and the Greens to strengthen this Bill by including clear deadlines and targets?”

“Instead of a clear deadline as promised,” Ó Snodaigh said, “of achieving 20% by 2030, the amendment specifies no percentage or date, leaving that to the Advisory Council, and if the targets – whether 20%, 5% or 1% – appear in 2030 unlikely to be unreached, the Minister can take until midway through 2031 to pick a new target – 2035, 2040, 2050? who knows?

“Without targets in legislation, we see what becomes of vague goals: in the last three years, only 0.2% of new recruits spoke Irish, despite the 6% target set down by Government. This isn’t about jobs for Irish speakers – because there are no recruits with Irish to provide services through Irish to the public, Irish-speakers have no choice but to switch to English in interactions with the State. This attitude is why the Government’s own research warns Irish could die off as the spoken language in Gaeltacht areas within a generation unless we act now.”

Minister Chambers sent Ó Snodaigh a letter on 19 November 2020 promising that much-needed target and deadline, along with an amendment to enable the Minister to introduce “language standards” without delay, and give him the responsibility to regularly update the list of public bodies covered by the Act – he and Minister Catherine Martin outlined when presenting their amendments to opposition TDs in October that this would mean adding to the list every two years.

Neither of these promises are included, and instead the amendment now proposed would allow the Minister actually remove bodies from the Act without consulting the Oireachtas.

The Gaeilge & Gaeltacht Spokesperson continued:

“Many TDs did not include the recruitment goal when submitting their amendments because they were promised it was agreed by Cabinet and would be put forward by the Minister, and there is no excuse because he had months to prepare – including a delay he himself caused sending it to the wrong committee.

“It is a good thing, therefore, that I did not put my trust in the Minister on this to begin with: I submitted the recruitment goal myself, along with others promised by the Government, and the Minister will have the chance to demonstrate that he still believes in enshrining goals in the new Bill by supporting my amendment, and of course I hope he will support my other amendments to protect and promote the language.”

A copy of the letter from the Minister of State to Aengus Ó Snodaigh sent on 19 November 2020 is available to view as a PDF at this link

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