Straitéis 20 Bliain don Ghaeilge

Ba mhaith liom fáilte a chur roimh an Aire Stáit, an Teachta McHugh, agus ba mhaith liom a rá go bhfuil sé ag saothrú go díograiseach ar son na teanga. Tréaslaím leis as an dea-obair sin.

Tá áthas orm a bheith ábalta páirt a ghlacadh sa díospóireacht thábhachtach seo. Tá an straitéis don Ghaeilge bunaithe ar thuairimí gach páirtí san Oireachtas. Is í an chéad aidhm atá ag an straitéis ná an méid daoine a úsáideann an Ghaeilge de gnáth a ardú, ó 83,000 go 250,000; an méid daoine a labhraíonn Gaeilge sna Gaeltachtaí a ardú 25%; agus na daoine a úsáideann seirbhísí trí mheán na Gaeilge a ardú. Sa gcomhthéacs sin, ba mhaith liom a rá go bhfuil Teilifís na Gaeilge agus Raidió na Gaeltachta ag déanamh sár iarrachta agus ag cur cláracha den chéad scoth ar fáil. Molaim sin.

Ba mhaith liom cúpla focal a rá faoi chúrsaí oideachais agus an Ghaeilge. Fuair cigirí na Gaeilge amach go múintear Gaeilge trí mheán an Bhéarla i 33% de bhunscoileanna. Tá sé tábhachtach é sin a athrú agus cúrsaí inseirbhíse a chur ar fáil do mhúinteoirí chun go mbeidh muinín acu astu féin ag úsáid na Gaeilge an t-am ar fad. I Meán Fómhair 2016, beidh curaclam nua do na ranganna sóisearacha againn. Tá méadú ó 20% go 40% ar an mhéid marcanna don bhéal scrúdú sna meánscoileanna do scrúdú an teastais shóisearaigh. Tá cuid mhaith scoileanna agus micléinn ag baint triail as an áis seo agus is fiú sin.

Tá sé tábhachtach an ceangal idir an Ghaeltacht agus na coláistí oiliúna a choimeád. Ba chóir go mbeadh sé riachtanach d’ábhair oidí níos mó tréimhsí a chaitheamh sa Ghaeltacht, ionas go bhfaighidís grá, spreagadh agus líofacht sa teanga. Go ginearálta, caithfimid béim mhór a chur ar tréimhse a chaitheamh sa Ghaeltacht. Téann mo chlann féin ann agus baineann siad sult as an gcuairt. Is fiú go mór sin a dhéanamh. Caithfimid na deontais a choimeád chun go mbeidh gach dalta ábalta dul ann. Ba chóir go ndéanfaí iarracht sna scoileanna mic léinn a mhealladh go dtí na Gaeltachtaí. B’fhéidir gur fiú teastais nó marcanna breise a úsáid chun iad a mhealladh ann. Níl aon rud níos éifeachtaí maidir le hathbheocan na teanga ná tréimhse a chaitheamh sa Ghaeltacht.

Tá Teilifís na Gaeilge ag déanamh jab iontach agus ba chóir leanúint ar aghaidh le tacaíocht don stáisiún. Tá éagsúlacht sna cláracha a bhíonn ar siúl. Ba mhaith liom go mbeadh clár amháin sa seachtain ar gach raidió áitiúil trí Ghaeilge agus go mbeadh ár gcultúr agus ár dteanga mar ábhar lárnach ag an gclár sin. B’fhéidir gur cóir deontais a thabhairt do stáisiúin áitiúla chun seo a dhéanamh. Ba mhaith liom mo stáisiún áitiúil féin, Northern Sound, a mholadh, mar rinne sé iarracht seo a dhéanamh ó thosaigh sé. An rud is tábhachtaí ná go mbeidh meas agus grá don teanga i measc an phobail uilig. Sílim go bhfuil feabhas tagtha ar sin, ach caithfimid iarracht breise a dhéanamh. Molaim don Aire Stáit an cheist seo a scrúdú, go háirithe i gcomhthéacs chomóradh Éirí Amach 1916. Sílim gur fiú béim a chur ar an Ghaeilge agus ar an teanga labhartha ar an ócáid sin agus an seans sin a úsáid.

Ba mhaith liom tréaslú le Foras na Gaeilge agus le hÉamonn Ó hArgaín as an sár obair a dhéanann siad. Tréaslaím chomh maith le Conradh na Gaeilge, Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann agus Cumann Lúthchleas Gael as an obair a dhéanann siad freisin. Tá na heagrais seo ag déanamh sár obair agus molaim don Aire Stáit obair leo chun an Ghaeilge a fhorbairt. Tá tionchar acu agus dlúthcheangal acu le tromlach mhuintir na tíre. Tá an-mheas agam ar obair an tSeanadóir Labhrás Ó Murchú as an obair a dhéanann sé don chultúr agus don teanga. Is cúis áthais agus bróid dom go bhfuil mo sheanchara agus comharsa, Aogán Ó Fearghaíl, ina uachtarán nua ar Chumann Lúthchleas Gael. Tá an-mheas agus grá aige don teanga agus d’oidreacht agus do chultúr na tíre. Cabhróidh sé go mór leis an teanga sna blianta atá le teacht. Mar fhocal scoir, má oibríonn muid le chéile cosúil le meitheal, beidh torthaí iontach againn.

With the Chair’s permission, I will now make some comments in English as my political assistant has insisted I do so in order to get our message out. I have great admiration for the work the Minister of State is doing, for how he has hit the ground running and for how genuinely passionate he is about our language and culture. I wish him well with his efforts in that regard.

I made the point that we should have a weekly programme in Irish on every local radio station, with an emphasis on our culture. I suggest to the Minister of State that he should look into organising and supporting this initiative financially. Perhaps he could sponsor it to ensure it happens. I congratulate my local station, Northern Sound, which has from its inception attempted to run a successful Irish programme every week. It is vital we have this type of programme on local radio stations throughout the country.

I also pointed out that it is important we put a significant emphasis on going to the Gaeltacht, both for trainee teachers and school students. In the case of teacher education, trainee teachers should have to spend mandatory periods in the Gaeltacht and this should be supported and encouraged by the Department. Anybody who intends to teach Irish in either primary or secondary schools should have had significant immersion in our living Gaeltachts. I urge the Minister of State to work with the Minister for Education and Skills and teacher training colleges to ensure this happens. This immersion is vital. It is also important that young secondary school students spend time in the Gaeltacht on a regular basis. My own sons have done this with great effect. Spending time in the Gaeltacht is important and I commend this practice to the Minister of State. This will involve support for the mná tí, the women who take these students into their homes. The Department must offer support to make it financially attractive for mná tí to take in these students and to make it possible for children across the country to go to the Gaeltacht.

I suggest the Minister of State should, in conjunction with the Minister for Education and Skills, consider some form of certification or extra marks for students who attend the Gaeltacht. There should be recognition and support for them to encourage the take-up of such a scheme. A child who goes to the Gaeltacht will have and never lose a love of Irish and will retain a sense of his heritage and culture. There is no substitute for that. This cannot be simulated in a city classroom elsewhere in Ireland.

I made the point that we have wonderful organisations in this country that work for our culture and heritage, for example, the GAA. I am proud my neighbour, Aogán Ó Fearghaíl, has become president of the GAA as he has a great love for the Irish language. We also have Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann, through which Senator Labhrás Ó Murchú and the people working with him do excellent work. We also have Conradh na Gaeilge. These are all voluntary bodies.

There is more potential to propagate the language through those voluntary bodies. They have language officers etc. We should look to strengthen that because they have access to people in recreational conditions, which is very important. There should be more in-service for teachers who have difficulty teaching Irish, particularly at primary level and through the medium of Irish. In two thirds of classrooms, teachers teach through Irish but in the third where they do not, it is not that teachers do not appreciate the importance but rather that they are not confident or fluent enough to do it. They need support through in-service and Gaeltacht opportunities. That question needs to be addressed.
Respect for the language is growing and we should all work together as a meitheal or team. We must include the voluntary sector, Ministers, State agencies and people in education, and in doing so we can do much in the coming years. We should not consider this as a job that cannot be done, as we can succeed if we have the heart and will to do it.

Senator Joe O'Reilly representing Cavan & Monaghan 2010. | An ExSite website