Strategy aims for 250,000 people to speak Irish daily

AN ambitious strategy seeks to increase the number of people using the Irish language in their daily lives from 83,000 to 250,000 over the next 20 years.

At the launch of the 20-year Strategy for the Irish Language yesterday, Gaeltacht Affairs Minister Pat Carey said if the strategy is followed, there was “no danger” of future generations stating that the Irish “chose to willingly abandon our native language”.

The strategy envisages co-ordinated action over nine areas in an attempt to revive the language both in Gaeltacht areas and across the island. In education, there will be an increased emphasis on Irish language teaching in initial teacher training.

Under a new Gaeltacht Act, each district will have to develop a language plan if it cannot comply with linguistic criteria indicating that Irish is still in daily use. If communities fail to develop “acceptable sustainable language plans” within a two-year period, they will lose their Gaeltacht status.

Údarás na Gaeltachta will be reconstituted as Údarás na Gaeilge agus na Gaeltachta, with responsibilities expanded from an enterprise function to also include Irish language matters throughout the state.

Foras na Gaeilge will continue to be supported in its role of promoting the language on an all-island basis.

Despite the strategy aims, only €1.5 million has been ring-fenced from within existing government resources to support it in its first year.

At the launch, Taoiseach Brian Cowen said: “Given the unprecedented economic difficulties we have faced in the last two years, there has been much debate… about ‘Irishness’ and what it means to be Irish.

“The Irish language is an important part of who we are. It’s an important part of where we have come from and where we are going.”

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