Wednesday, 26 October 2005
Dáil Eireann Debate
92. Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the details of the recently established Government-sponsored fund to cement and promote ties between Ireland and universities where the Irish language is taught around the world; the specific purposes for which this money will be used; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30704/05]
Éamon Ó Cuív: As the Deputy is aware, I recently announced the launch of a special fund of €300,000 that will support the development of Irish language programmes in third level institutions overseas. This will be provided through my Department’s ciste na Gaeilge fund, which supports various projects and organisations involved in promoting the Irish language.
Applications will be assessed relative to a number of criteria. These are the track record of the applicant in terms of the provision of Irish language courses and the promotion of Irish generally; the business plan of the organisation; the availability of co-funding from other sources; and the existence of courses that concentrate on teaching the language as distinct from courses that provide information on the language.
Priority will be given to applications which have arrangements in place for co-funding and which provide an accredited qualification as part of the programme. A substantial number of third level institutions overseas already provide courses in Irish language and culture. I anticipate that this new fund will lead to the consolidation and further development of such courses worldwide.
Mr. O’Shea: I thank the Minister for his answer. When I read the press report, my concern was that the €300,000 is probably some kind of token. On checking, I discovered there are between 50 and 60 third level institutions overseas that teach the Irish language, be they in the United States, Canada, Australia or Europe. This is obviously a reflection on the degree to which Irish culture is esteemed and valued. However, if one divided the €300,000 between the 50 or 60 institutions that exist worldwide, each would receive a sum of between €5,000 and €6,000, which is not very much.
I am aware that, of 139 primary schools in Gaeltacht areas, only 106 teach all subjects through Irish. Of 30 post-primary schools in the Gaeltachtaí, only 20 are classified as teaching all subjects through Irish. If money is to come from the Minister’s Department for the study of the Irish language, is it not much more important that it be spent in this particular area? It is a matter of grave concern that so many Gaeltacht schools are no longer teaching all subjects through Irish. Figures I have seen suggest there were 250,000 native Irish speakers when the State was founded and that only around 20,000 people now use the Irish language as a vernacular.
I worry about tokenism. The funding being made available highlights that Irish is taught in the colleges in question, which is to be welcomed, but, in order to consolidate, promote and develop the Irish language, surely to goodness the real emphasis should be placed on the shortfall in education in the Gaeltachtaí.
Éamon Ó Cuív: We are aware that we are starting the Irish language promotion scheme with a very modest sum of money. However, my experience shows that the small number of third level institutions to which we have been giving funding are very appreciative of what we regard as modest funding. We expect that the funding will act as leverage funding. In other words, for every euro we invest, another euro will become available from another source. This happened in the case of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, which was able to obtain funds because we gave funds. This practice is common among universities. Therefore, if our funds are matched, there is a potential fund of €600,000 for the teaching of Irish.
The maximum amount any university will be able to get is €30,000 while the minimum will be €10,000. Allowing for matching funds, this should allow for the employment of a person to teach Irish. When I visited the University of Notre Dame, Indiana, I met representatives from that institution and representatives from other universities in the United States who indicated they regard the funding as a valuable asset.
It is a well-known fact that if we want people to speak Irish at home, the standing of the language nationally and internationally will be of major importance. It will come as an eye-opener to many to find out there are universities in the United States, Canada, Australia, Sweden, Norway, Holland, Russia, Germany, Austria, Italy, England, Scotland, Wales, Poland and Japan teaching modern Irish. That will give people a sense that many in other parts of the world value the Irish language and assist our effort to put the Irish language in its proper international context. A side effect of this scheme is that many of the students who study Irish in these universities visit Ireland and the Gaeltacht where they provide an economic boost and encourage people at home to learn the language.
The budget for the Department of Education and Science runs to billions of euro and adding €300,000 to that budget would make little change in the number of schools teaching through English in the Gaeltacht. That is not fundamentally an issue of money but of policy, with which we are dealing in a different context. The Deputy might clarify whether his party if it were in Government would scrap this scheme and put the money into something else.
Mr. McGinley: Is scéim úr é seo, agus is é an rud is tábhachtaí ná gur comhartha aitheantais é do na hinstitiúidí sna tíortha a luaigh an tAire a bhfuil Gaeilge á teagasc agus á labhairt acu. Is cuimhin liom nuair a bhí mé in Harvard. Bhí ranganna Gaeilge ar siúl ansin agus bhí cailín amháin ansin as Honolulu nach raibh in Éirinn ariamh agus bhí Gaeilge le blás chúige Mumhan aici.
Ní easaontaím leis an mhéid a bhí le rá ag an Teachta O’Shea maidir le teagasc na Gaeilge sna scoileannna Gaeltachta. An bhfuil mórán iarratas istigh ar an scéim seo go dtí seo agus an mbeidh an tAire ábalta freastal ar na hiarratais go léir atá istigh?
Éamon Ó Cuív:
Bunaithe ar líon na
n-institiúidí tríú leibhéil atá ag múineadh na Gaeilge, tá chuile sheans go mbeidh an t-éileamh níos mó ná an ciste agus sin an fáth go gcaithfidh critéir a bheith ann faoi cad iad na tionscnaimh a roghnóimid. Ar ndóigh, tá buntáiste ag baint leis sin, mar tuigfidh na hinstitiúidí seo go mbeidh iomaíocht ann agus cuirfidh sé sin feabhas mór ar na hiarratais a thiocfas, mar beidh an-dúil ag daoine teacht ar an airgead seo ach beidh orthu iarratas thar a bheith foirfe a chur ar fáil leis an gciste a fháil. Tá spriocdháta den 8 Nollaig le hiarratais a chur isteach agus ansin déanfaimid cinneadh go luath sa mbliain 2006.
Níl a fhios agam an bhfuil aon iarratas faighte fós, ach táimid tar éis é seo a phoibliú go forleathan, go mór-mhór ag úsáid na
n-ambasáidíéagsúla. Chomh maith leis sin, rinne muid féin taighde ar na hollscoileanna atá ag múineadh na Gaeilge ar fud an domhain. Tá a fhios againn fúthu. Tá cinn nua ag teacht chun tosaigh an t-am ar fad, agus is rud maith é sin. D’fhéadfadh sé tarlú go mbeadh institiúidí nua ag teacht chun tosaigh — agus ba bhreá linn é sin — mar gheall ar an tionscnamh seo.
I ngach uile thír eile ar domhan, caithfear airgead ag cur cultúr na tíre sin chun cinn — smaoiním go mór-mhór ar an airgead a chaitheann muintir na Fraince ag cur na Fraincise chun cinn mar theanga. Is rud an-mhaith é go gcaithfidh muidne cúpla pingin ag cur oidhreachta agus teanga na hÉireann chun cinn ar fud an domhain agus tá tábhacht aige.
Is ceist eile ar fad í, nach bhfuil baint mhaith, olc nó dhona leis seo, an fhadhb i mbunscoileanna agus meánscoileanna na Gaeltachta. Mar a dúirt mé, is ceist polasaí níos mó ná airgid í sin. Is ceist do thuismitheoiríí, cosúil le go leor ceisteanna eile. Beidh mé féin agus an tAire Oideachais agus Eolaíochta, an Teachta Hanafin, ag déileáil léi agus beidh an ciste atá bunaithe le haghaidh na Gaelscolaíochta agus an oideachais trí Ghaeilge á dhéanamh sin freisin. Ní fheicim baint dá laghad aige, áfach, le hábhar na ceiste seo, ach mar a dúirt mé, b’fhéidir gurb é polasaí Pháirtí an Lucht Oibre go gcuirfeadh séé seo ar ceal dá mbeadh sé i gcumhacht.
Éamon Ó Cuív: Ní thuigim cén bhaint atá aige sin le hollscolaíocht trí Ghaeilge ar fud an domhain. Mar a tharlaíonn sé, tá ceist Dála eile thíos ar an gceist sin inniu, agus má bhreathnaíonn an Teachta ar fhreagra na ceiste sin, gheobhaidh sé an t-eolas.
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