Statement by Minister Cowen on the status of the Irish language, Dáil Éireann
Tá sé tábhachtach go bhfuil an diaspóireacht seo againn. I dtús báire, ba mhaith liom a rá go gceapaim go bhfuil meas ar an teanga sa tír seo inniu nach raibh ann le tamall. Tá sé le feiceáil, mar shampla, sna bunscoileanna lán-Ghaeilge atá ag obair leo go héifeachtach ar fud na tíre. Tá siad ag spreagadh daoine óga chun an teanga a úsáid go coitianta agus go nádúrtha. Dá bharr, sílim go bhfuil athrú mór tagaithe ar dhearcadh ár ndaoine óga ar an teanga.
Molaim freisin sár-obair Raidió na Gaeltachta agus T.G. Ceathair. Táimid uile bródúil as a gcuid oibre, agus go háirithe an "súil eile", difriúil ghéar a thugann siad ar chúrsaí – agus ní hamháin ar chúrsaí spóirt.
Is soiléir freisin go bhfuil obair amach is amach á dhéanamh ag na heagraithe Gaeilge. Ba mhaith liom mo bhuíochas pearsanta, agus buíochas an Rialtais uile, a ghabháil leo. Ní dhéarfainn go mbeadh an diaspóireacht seo againn murach a gcuid oibre agus a gcuid brú. Go mba fada buan agus éifeachtach iad.
Tá sé leagtha amach ag an Rialtas - agus chun na fírinne a rá, ag gach Rialtas ó bhunadh an Stáit - ár ndícheall a dhéanamh chun an teanga a choinneáil beo, agus í a neartú ar fud na tíre. Agus tá dea-scéal spreagúil le hinsint againn inniu. B'fhiú do ghach duine anseo dul arais agus ráiteas an Aire Gaeltachta sa Teach seo aréir a léamh. Is leor domsa a rá gur ainmníodh ar an Luan seo chaite an chéad Coimisinéir Teanga ariamh san tír seo - dul chun cinn stairiúil chun stádas na teanga a fheabhsú agus a neartú.
A Cheann Comhairle
The debate on the Irish language in the European Union has gathered pace in recent weeks. It is understandable that this should be so, with enlargement only months away and Ireland holding the Presidency of the Union. A variety of points are being made in correspondence with public representatives and through the media on the merits of the case to include Irish as an official and working language of the Union. I want to assure you that the Government is listening to these points. I want to echo another point made last night by Minister Éamon Ó Cuív. The fact that the Government has drawn attention to some of the practical difficulties involved does not signal in any way a lack of will on our part.
We have recently established an interdepartmental working group which is continuing to analyse all the options available to us. This working group is examining a range of issues – some of which involve complex considerations - with a view to identifying additional practical and sensible opportunities to enhance the status of the Irish language. Each option will be thoroughly examined.
A critical question which needs to be considered is the exact meaning and scope of an official and working language of the Union. It is generally understood that official and working language status allows for the translation of all official documents and the provision of a comprehensive interpretation service for a whole range of meetings. The point might legitimately be put by some in Europe that this might infer that at least a significant part of business conducted by Irish political and official representatives would be done through Irish. We would also have to consider the task of translating the estimated 85,000 pages that make up the EU acquis.
When the Taoiseach addressed this issue in the House on 28 January he confirmed that he was very open to efforts to improve the standing of the Irish language in the EU. He also recognised that our case might not be strictly comparable with others, and he expressed the hope that a middle way forward might be found.
Before any action is taken, we need to take a thorough, methodical and balanced approach. The interdepartmental committee should be allowed to continue with its work to consider, inter alia, the issues relating to translation, interpretation and intervening in Irish to which this issue gives rise. We will need to fully examine the exact scope of what we are discussing here tonight before we make any request to the Commission.
Our approach should be to move forward in a determined but sensible way, and along the lines that I have described. Until we have completed examining the issues involved, it would be premature and unwise to consider the precise basis on which we would approach the Commission. In short, and pending the outcome of the work of the interdepartmental committee, an attempt to define the timing, manner and content of an approach to the EU would be precipitate. It is for these reasons that the Government does not intend to act in the manner prescribed by the two amendments, although it will report to the Dáil on the possibilities of progress at the earliest feasible opportunity.
The Government accepts the spirit of this motion and will continue to work on enhancing the use and status of the Irish language in the EU. I want to reiterate my view that there is genuine goodwill on all sides towards the Irish language in the House. Cad thuige nach mbeadh? It is very strong on the Government side – agus bhí ariamh - and we have demonstrated this by making real strides in areas where successive Governments have struggled to register progress. Many of the issues touched on in this debate go to the heart of the discussion about how best to maintain and strengthen the language, a debate which we have had among ourselves for decades. But, logically, we must be careful that we are not perceived to be making demands on the EU that we would not make of ourselves. It is vital that the solutions we seek are positive for the standing and development of the language. Such solutions must be practicable and sustainable. The Government are determined to work hard to find them.
Mar a dúirt mé thuas, tá dream oibre ag plé na ceiste tábhachtaí seo. Go háirithe, beidh an dream ag díriú ar dheiseanna oiriúnaí a aithint chun an teanga a chur chun cinn san Aontas Eorpach. Tá fhios ag an dream go bhfuilimid ag iarraidh dul ar aghaidh go luath, agus go bhfuilimid ag tnúth le tuarascáil uathu chomh tapaidh agus is féidir.
Mar a déarfá i mBéarla, níl "aon rud ar an bpláta" sa Bhruiséal. Bheadh sé ciallmhar mar sin fanacht leis an tuarascáil sar a chuirimid tús le gníomh ar bith. Idir an dá linn, glacann an Rialtas le spriod an rúin seo. Mar tá fhios ag cách, táimid beagnach uile anseo sa Dáil ar aon bharúil faoin scéal, ach caithfimid na deiseanna a aithint i dtús báire. Níl an dara rogha againn. Nuair a bhéas siad againn, déanfaidh an Rialtas a dhícheall chun moltaí an dreama a chur i gcrích chomh tapaidh agus is féidir.Top