The Government still has the opportunity to do the right and fair thing for the Irish language and the Gaeltacht
Following feedback from the Irish-language and the Gaeltacht community since the announcement of Budget 2017 yesterday (11 October 2016), it is clear that the Government in the south has let the Irish-language and the Gaeltacht community down badly in the budget for next year. According to the announcement, the Government is refusing to fund even the first stage of an investment plan agreed by 80 Irish-language and Gaeltacht groups that would create 1,175+ jobs and many opportunities for the public to use Irish. The proposal had been made that the funding of this plan could be done by reversing some of the cuts made since 2008 to Irish-language and Gaeltacht authorities.
The Foras na Gaeilge budget and the capital investment fund of Údarás na Gaeltachta, the body charged with creating employment in Gaeltacht areas, have in total been reduced by over 50% since 2008. There was €0 of new extra funding announced by the Government for these vitally important budgets in 2017. This will mean that Foras na Gaeilge will have to continue with its cut backs of community projects, and the Údarás will not be able to create any new additional jobs in the Gaeltacht in 2017; the 2017 budget document states that an employment base of 7,000 jobs in the Gaeltacht will be maintained.
Cóilín Ó Cearbhaill, President of Conradh na Gaeilge, said:
“I recognise that the Minister of State Seán Kyne made a huge effort to encourage the Government to provide the funding for the investment plan agreed by 80 Irish-language and Gaeltacht groups. This plan would lead to the creation of over 1,175 jobs and would provide a huge amount of opportunities to the public to use Irish. The Government, unfortunately, has not provided a fair budget for the Irish language nor for the Gaeltacht by not investing in the plan and by not reversing some of the damaging cut backs imposed since 2008. They have announced some small additional funding in some areas, but the majority of this funding is not connected to the investment plan and it is a very small sum of money to deal with the crisis in the Gaeltacht and outside of it.”
Julian de Spáinn, General Secretary of Conradh na Gaeilge, said:
“The Government still has an opportunity to do the fair and right thing for the Irish language and the Gaeltacht. In the revised estimates that will be put in front of the Dáil over the coming weeks, in 2017 they can again provide the €1.4 million of extra capital funding that they are providing to Údarás na Gaeltachta in 2016, i.e. ensure that the Údarás has €8 million in its 2017 capital investment budget to create new additional jobs. Also, they can provide €2.5 million to Foras na Gaeilge to implement the first stage of the investment plan as agreed by over 80 Irish-language and Gaeltacht groups.”
WHY INVEST €18 MILLION IN OUR INVESTMENT PLAN OVER THREE YEARS?
- This investment would create more than 1,175 new jobs and would provide every constituency with opportunities to promote the Irish language
- Even with this investment, the Irish-language and Gaeltacht authorities would still have €5 million less than they received in 2008 (the budget for Irish-language and Gaeltacht authorities was reduced from €45 million in 2008 to €22 million in 2015)
- A majority of newly-elected Teachtaí Dála (84 TDs in total) agree that €18 million should be invested in the plan agreed by 80 Irish-language and Gaeltacht groups
- The plan is consistent with the Programme for Government, which states that the Government will increase investment in the Irish language
- The public agrees that additional support should be made available. A Millward Brown survey from Jan 2016 shows that 61% of people in the south agree that the state should provide additional support for the Irish language (only 18% were against)
- This investment plan will strengthen and build upon work currently ongoing and making a big difference on the ground
WHERE ARE SOME OF THE AREAS THAT THE INVESTMENT WOULD BE MADE IN?
- Funding would be available to implement language plans (to provide opportunities to use Irish and opportunities to learn Irish on a planned basis) – and as regards the Gaeltacht, funding would be available to fund the language planning system in every language planning area
- There would be a fund available to establish Irish-language centres in the main which would in turn provide a wide range of services for the community (classes, café, youth clubs, etc.)
- There would be an opportunity to employ people to coordinate language plans and manage the Irish-language centres
- This investment would provide opportunities to families – especially those from financially disadvantaged families – to access scholarships to help send their children or indeed the entire family to the Gaeltacht
- There would be an opportunity to provide funding to establish childcare centres to offer nursery and crèche services for children being raised through Irish, from birth to school-age, and there would be funding to support the Gaelscoil community
EXAMPLES OF THE CUTBACKS OVER THE PAST 12 MONTHS:
- Seachtain na Gaeilge’s organisational budget was reduced by 40% in 2016 from 2015, meaning that the same level of support was not available for the 200+ groups and 4,000+ schools who organise events in every county in Ireland and abroad as part of the biggest Irish-language festival in Ireland each year
- The Youth Events Scheme was reduced by 40% in 2016 from 2015
- There is a lack of funding to implement the language plans in the Gaeltacht, in the newly established specified Irish-language network areas, and in the Gaeltacht service towns
- The number of Irish-language summer camps funded was reduced 35% from 92 in 2015 to 59 in 2016
- Officers employed through the Irish in the Community Scheme have been reduced to a 4-day working week
- Baile Locha Riach, which is recognised as one of the 5 Foras na Gaeilge Irish-language network areas in the language planning process, has been left without an Irish language Community Scheme to manage the work