It is becoming increasingly difficult for the people of the Gaeltacht to obtain planning permission in their own localities. People have planning permission refused on the basis, according to the local councils, that they don’t have a ‘local need’ and the definition of what constitutes a ‘local need’ is continually narrowing and constricting. This means that young couples cannot obtain planning permission in their own local areas. Furthermore, this contradicts the Government’s policy in relation to language planning, as set out in the Gaeltacht Act 2012. If there are no people in the Gaeltacht to speak the language, what is the use in talking about language planning?
Housing planning in the Gaeltacht should be focused entirely on sustaining and strengthening the Gaeltacht community.
It seems to us that the most effective way to overcome this problem is to accept that a person who speaks Irish has a ‘local need’, thereby facilitating the planning process for the people of the Gaeltacht. Furthermore, we do not recommend additional barriers regarding the Irish language for a person who is from the area in obtaining planning permission in the Gaeltacht electoral division they are from. The damage done by housing estates built for the commercial market is clear to us, as is the excess of holiday homes in Gaeltacht areas, from a community and Irish language perspective, and the need to exercise great caution to this end. It is necessary to provide social housing and houses that are affordable for the local community in their own area – including single houses – rather than forcing them out and into the neighbouring large towns.
Why is a National Policy for Housing Planning in the Gaeltacht needed?
Decrease in the number of daily Irish language speakers in the Gaeltacht:
- The 2016 Census showed a catastrophic fall of 11% in the number of daily Irish language speakers in the Gaeltacht during the period 2011 - 2016 and the 2022 Census showed that this decline is still continuing, although the reduction in the number of daily speakers was down to 1.6% in the period 2017-2022.
- Exceptional positive action is needed to protect the Gaeltacht
Protect the rights of the Gaeltacht community to live in their home area:
- Currently, many young people have to move out of the Gaeltacht as they are unable to obtain planning permission on their own land
- There is a generation of young people from the Gaeltacht who are unable to buy a site or a house in their own area and who have to leave the Gaeltacht
- People in the Gaeltacht who are entitled to social housing are being pushed out of their own community as not enough social housing is being built in the Gaeltacht
Ensure that the Gaeltacht is not wiped out by large numbers of non-Irish speakers coming to live in the area:
- All research shows that the level of daily usage of Irish is damaged when a large group of non-Irish speaking individuals & families come to live in the Gaeltacht
- Irish is weakened in the community, in the education system, in community events and as a everyday spoken language
What are the benefits of a National Policy for Housing Planning in the Gaeltacht?
Certainty for the Gaeltacht community
- Ensure that the same approach is used in all Gaeltacht counties
Certainty for Local Authorities
- A common policy for every county in which a Gaeltacht area is located
- Formal recognition of the needs of the Gaeltacht in housing planning policy
- A policy that will support the language plans in each Gaeltacht area
Certainty for Developers
- Accurate information for developers on Gaeltacht planning policy
- Save developers time & money by not initiating planning developments that are not in line with national policy - compared to the current ad hoc system which often ends up before An Bord Pleanála or in the courts
Opportunity to develop the Gaeltacht and to halt ongoing depopulation:
- The number of Gaeltacht people living in their own community will be increased
- Fluent Irish speakers will be given the opportunity to move to live in the Gaeltacht
- Contribute to the local economy and the development of the Gaeltacht economy
Why are the directions in the following recommendations required and permitted by law?
The direction(s) in the following recommendations are necessary pursuant to section 31 of the Planning and Development Act 2000 which permits a direction from the Minister to amend a development plan in the case that - (ba) a plan is not consistent with —(ii) specific planning policy requirements specified in guidelines issued by the Minister under subsection (1) of section 28
The Minister’s guidelines under section 28 of the Act in relation to planning in the Gaeltacht are very strong but they are not being implemented in the development plans. Planning Guidelines No. 15 require that the following mandatory objectives be included in the development plan from a Gaeltacht perspective:-
- that the development in question would have a positive effect on the linguistic and cultural heritage of the Gaeltacht and that certain types of development and developments of certain sizes are to be discouraged;
- The needs of the community in land-use terms for housing, jobs, recreational and community facilities are clearly identified and provided for. Housing strategies should have particular regard to the needs of Gaeltacht residents;
- to strongly promote linguistic and cultural tourism; and
- to promote the use of Irish in business and public affairs.
More of these policies are set out in Annex C of these Guidelines and highlights that there should be a good mix in terms of age in the Gaeltacht community and that in-migration of non-Irish speakers is limited to a scale that would not impinge on the integrity of the Irish-speaking population. The commercial and cultural development of the Gaeltacht as an Irish speaking community is required with an emphasis on languagebased industries and the teaching of the language itself.
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