December 3, 2020
Seans an Ghaeilge a tharrtháil atá i mo leasaithe – Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD

Glactar leis go bhfuil cás na Gaeilge agus na Gaeltachta thar a bheith leochaileach agus gur gá cinnithe agus gnímh raidiceach chun í a chosaint agus a tharrtháil. 

Mar chuid don cur chuige atá gá leis chun an sprioc sin a bhaint amach tá urlabhraí Shinn Féín ar an Ghaeilge agus an Ghaeltacht Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD, tar éis 180 leasaithe a mholadh chun Bille na dTeangacha Oifigiúla (Leasaithe) 2019 chun é a dhéanamh níos éifeachtaí ag cur ar an stát chóras an ról lárnach a chomhair a bheith aige a chomhlíonadh. 

Gan na leasuithe seo beidh an Bille chomh díomhaoin le laidhricín an phíobaire i gcosaint na Gaeilge.

Mar aon lena tuaraimí féin agus tuairimí a chomhleacaithe sa pháirtí, smaointe Chonradh na Gaeilge, Foras na Gaeilge, Údarás na Gaeltachta, an Choimisinéir Teanga Tuairisc, An Chonradh Ceilteach agus saineolaithe eile, lorg an Teachta Ó Snodaigh tuairimí ón phobail ar conas an Bille a láidriú chun é a chuir in oiriúint do ról a fógraíodh dó -cuidiú le seirbhísí tré Ghaeilge a sholáthair do lucht na Gaeltachta agus muintir labhartha na Gaeilge. 

Bunaithe ar na haighneachtaí sin, ar thaighde déanta ar dhea-shamplaí de reachtaíocht teanga i dtíortha eile agus an obair mhaith déanta ag an Coiste Dála roimhe seo a dhírigh aird ar laigí sa mbille chomh maith, thángthas ar na 180 leasuithe cuimsitheacha.

An príomh toradh a bheadh le na leasaithe ná go mbeadh an foclaíocht sa reachtaíocht níos daingne ar cuir dualgais ar Airí agus gach comhlacht poiblí gníomhú, seachas cead a bheith acu neamhaird a dhéanamh ar chuspóirí reachtúla atá sa leagan den Bhille ón Aire Chambers.

Leagtar spriocanna ama síos chun cuspóirí a bhaint amach, mar shampla, go mbeidh:

Gach seirbhís stáit ar fáil trí Ghaeilge sa Ghaeltacht trí Ghaeilge roimh 2026;

20% den earcú don éarnáil phoiblí inniúil i nGaeilge roimh 2026;

10% den líon foirne iomlán inniúil i nGaeilge roimh 2030;

Gach comhlacht poiblí in ann taifead i gceart a dhéanamh ar ainmneacha agus seoltaí Gaeilge – síntí fada san áireamh – faoi 2025. Cuideachtaí príobháideacha faoi 2027;

Cumhachtaí breise don Choimisinéir Teanga chun faireacháin réamhghníomhach a dhéanamh ar fhorálacha teanga in aon achtachán agus cead grinnscrúdú a dhéanamh ar aon bhillí sula n-achtófar iad.

Ag baint úsáid as mhúnlaigh na Breataine Bige agus an gCoimisinéir um Chosaint Sonraí anseo, chuirfeadh leasuithe eile an deis ar fáil smachtbhannaí agus fíneáil a ghearradh ar chomhlachtaí poiblí nach gcloíonn lena ndualgais reachtúla teanga.

Tá rangú leagtha amach againn do chomhlachtaí poiblí gur féidir leis an rialtas leas a bhaint as mar threoir agus iad ag fáil réidh lena scéimeanna teanga lochtacha atá ann faoi láthair.

Tá srianta curtha againn ar cheadú aon mhaolú dá gcur i bhfeidhm sa chóras rangú seo.

Chinnteodh na leasuithe seo ionadaíocht do phobal labhartha na Gaeilge a bheith lárnach ar an gCoiste Comhairleach atá le bunú faoin Acht, agus trí thoghcháin Údaráis na Gaeltachta a thabhairt ar ais.

Déanann na leasuithe seo iarracht freisin dul i dtaithí leis an ngéarchéim pleanála agus forbartha i gceantair Gaeltachta trí Mheasúnú Tionchair Teangeolaíochta a chinntiú sa dlí, mar atá déanta don timpeallacht.

Anuas ar sin go léir, tá leasuithe a gcuirfeadh cearta teanga don chéad uair ar lár sa téacs den reachtaíocht, le Cairt na Gaeilge – bunaithe ar Chairt na Fraincise i gCeanada – agus Saoirse chun an Ghaeilge a Úsáid cinntithe – mar atá Saoirse Breatnais a Úsáid cosanta sa Bhreatain Bheag.

Tá forálacha eile á leasú ag an Teachta Ó Snodaigh a bhaineann le dátheangachas i dTithe an Oireachtais, sna cúirteanna, ar chomharthaí bóithre, lipéadú tháirgí agus rabhaidh sláinte, sa seirbhís sláinte, san oideachas, sa chraoltóireacht, agus san éarnáil phríobháideach, go háirithe i leith seirbhísí airgeadais, fóntais agus cumarsáide.

Moltar freisin an Coimisiún Logainmneacha a athbhunú agus stádas an Chomhairle um Oideachas Gaeltachta agus Gaelscolaíochta a chinntiú sa dlí.

Tiocfaidh an Bille os comhair Roghchoiste Dála na Gaeilge, na Gaeltachta, agus Phobail Labhartha na Gaeilge ar an 10ú Nollaig, agus tá súil ag an Teachta Ó Snodaigh, atá mar Chathaoirleach ar an gCoiste sin, go n-éisteoidh an Rialtas leis na leasuithe a bheidh á moladh aige agus ag na Teachtaí Dála eile ó Shinn Féin a shínigh na leasuithe.

Dúirt an Teachta ar son Baile Átha Cliath Theas-Lár:

“Tá cás na Gaeilge agus na Gaeltachta thar a bheith leochaileach faoi láthair na huaire. Thug an Staidéar Cuimsitheach Teangeolaíochta rabhadh dúinn sa bhliain 2007 go dtiocfadh deireadh leis an nGaeilge mar theanga labhartha na Gaeltachta laistigh de 20 bliain gan athruithe as cuimse chun í a shábháil.

“Táimid níos mó ná leathbhealach tríd an tréimhse sin agus tá rudaí imithe in olcas, toisc neamhaird ón rialtas, agus líon na gcainteoir Gaeilge laghdaithe sna ceantair Gaeltachta don chéad uair ó bunaíodh an Stáit.

“Tá an easpa freastal ar riachtanais phobal labhartha na Gaeilge ag cur brú ollmhór ar mhuintir na Gaeltachta an Ghaeilge a thréigint agus iompú ar an mBéarla.

“Tá sé thar ama an reachtaíocht teanga a leasú, agus is deis iontach é go bhfuil an Bille os comhair an Choiste, beagnach 10 mbliana ó bheith molta ar dtús ag rialtas i 2011.

“Nuair a d’fhoilsigh rialtas Fhine Gael an Bille faoi dheireadh anuraidh, cháin Fianna Fáil agus an Comhaontas Glas go mór é toisc nach ndeachaigh sé i ngleic leis na fadhbanna bunúsacha, agus toisc nach raibh spriocdhátaí ar bith ann. 

“Tá sé seafóideach nach bhfuil ach seachtain fágtha go dtí go gcuirfidh muid tús leis an díospóireacht sa Choiste agus níl tásc ná tuairisc ar na leasuithe geallta ag an rialtas, nó ar na dréacht-chaighdeáin atá á moladh acu sa Bhille.

“Beidh deis ag an Aire Chambers léiriú an bhfuil sé dáiríre faoin Ghaeilge a tharrtháil nó nach bhfuil tré éisteacht leis an bplé agus ansin glacadh le na moltaí uaim agus óna lán daoine eile,

“Ba mhaith liom buíochas a ghabháil le gach duine agus gach eagraíocht a tháinig ar ais chugam le moltaí, agus leis an gComhchoiste sa Dáil deireanach faoi stiúir Catherine Connolly a d’fhoilsigh tuairisc ana-chuimsitheach ar an dréacht bille a bhí ós a gcomhair ag an am.”

We have a chance to save the Irish language, if Government accepts these amendments – Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD

180 comprehensive amendments have been submitted by Sinn Féin’s spokesperson for the Irish language and the Gaeltacht, Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD, to strengthen and fix the Official Languages (Amendment) Bill 2019.

Teachta Ó Snodaigh had appealed to the public to send him their ideas for amendments, and many individuals and organisations responded to show their interest in the process.

The amendments are based on these ideas, on research conducted into model examples of language legislation in other countries, and on submissions from Conradh na Gaeilge, Foras na Gaeilge, Údarás na Gaeltachta, an Chonradh Ceilteach, and the Language Commissioner.

These amendments would insert stronger wording into the legislation to ensure a responsibility on Ministers and all public bodies to act, rather than being allowed to ignore statutory goals.

They would also establish clear deadlines for achieving these goals. These include ensuring all services are provided in Irish in Gaeltacht areas by 2026, and aiming to have 20% of those recruited for the public sector competent in Irish by that year, with 10% of total staff competent by 2030.

Another goal involved public bodies being prepared to record and use names and addresses through Irish – with fadas included – by 2025, and private companies so prepared by 2027.

The amendments would give extra powers to the Language Commissioner, as sought by his office, to conduct pro-active monitoring of language provisions in any act (an amendment promised but not yet published by the Government), and to conduct pre-legislative scrutiny of all Bills before they are enacted.

Using the Welsh model, and the model of the Data Protection Commissioner here, other amendments would allow for sanctions and fines to be imposed on public bodies not fulfilling their legal language requirements.

While we await an example of the “Language Standards” due to replace the inadequate schemes currently in place, we have outlined a classification for public bodies that the government can use as guidance, as well as restrictions on when a delay on implementation can be allowed.

Representation for the Irish speaking community will be guaranteed at the heart of the Advisory Committee the Act will establish, and through restoring elections to Údarás na Gaeltachta.

These amendments also seek to tackle the planning and development crisis in Gaeltacht areas by securing Language Impact Assessments in law, as exist for the environment.

On top of that, there are amendments which would guarantee language rights for the first time in the text of the legislation, with a Charter for Irish – based on Canada’s Charter of French – and a Freedom to Use Irish – along the lines of the Freedom to Use Welsh protected in Wales.

Other amendments introduced by Teachta Ó Snodaigh involve provisions on bilingualism in the Houses of the Oireachtas, in the courts, on road signs, product labelling and health warnings, in the health service, in education, in broadcasting, and in the private sector, specifically with regard to financial, utility and communications services.

There is also a proposal to re-establish the Place Names Commission and to cement the status of the Comhairle um Oideachas Gaeltachta agus Gaelscolaíochta (COGG) in law.

This Bill will come before the Dáil Select Committee on the Irish Language, Gaeltacht, and Irish-Speaking Community on 10 December, and Teachta Ó Snodaigh, the Chair of that Committee, hopes the Government will listen to amendments proposed by him and by other TDs at that stage.

The TD for Dublin South-Central said:

“The Irish language and the Gaeltacht are in a grave state at present. The Comprehensive Linguistic Study warned us in 2007 that Irish would no longer be the spoken language of the Gaeltacht within 20 years without unprecedented efforts to save it.

We are now more than halfway through that period and things have only gotten worse, due to Government neglect, with the number of Irish speakers in the Gaeltacht falling for the first time in the history of the State.

Massive pressure is being put on Gaeltacht people to abandon Irish and convert to using English by the total lack of services put in place to serve the needs of Irish speakers.

It is high time for the language legislation to be amended, and this is an incredible opportunity to do so as the Bill comes before Committee after being called for by Government as far back as 2011.

When the Bill was finally published by the Fine Gael government, Fianna Fáil and the Green Party heavily criticised it because it did not deal with the fundamental problems, nor were there any deadlines outlined within it.

It is ridiculous that we are a week from the start of debate in Committee and there is still no sign of the Government’s proposed amendments or of the draft Language Standards being proposed in the Bill.

It is a crying shame that the Government has also completely ignored the pre-legislative scrutiny conducted by the Irish Language, Gaeltacht and Islands Committee on the Bill in 2018, after conducting comprehensive consultation with Irish language and Gaeltacht organisations.

It is not too late for the Minister or the Minister of State to accept the comprehensive amendments needed to save Irish. I have submitted recommendations from that Committee, as well as proposals submitted by many others to me, and even some amendments I tried to make to the Official Languages Act in 2003 that were not accepted at the time. Time has shown that those amendments were needed in order to ensure the State would fulfil its legal requirements in relation to language rights.

I would like to thank each and every person and organisation that responded to my call for ideas, and to thank the Joint Committee of the previous Dáil, chaired by Catherine Connolly, on their great achievement in compiling amendments.

I implore the Minister to give us a proper hearing and to accept the amendments needed.”

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