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Official Languages Bill (Amendment) 2019 before the Dáil

The Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, Catherine Martin TD  and the Government Chief Whip and the Minister of State for the Gaeltacht and Sport, Jack Chambers TD today welcomed the news that the Official Languages Bill is discussed at the second phase in the Dáil today and they have vowed that the Bill would be enacted before the end of the year.

Minister Martin said:

"I am delighted that the debate regarding the Official Languages Bill (Amendment) 2019 has commenced. While publication of the Bill was welcomed last year, many, including the Language Commissioner and Conradh na Gaeilge, insisted that a stronger Bill was required.   This was recognised by the Government and it was promised in the Programme for Government that a stronger Bill would be brought forward and that it would be enacted before the end of the year.  Government support has now been received to propose some amendments which will strengthen the Bill and the Minister of State Chambers will later be able to present those amendments to the Dáil. 

"As I've previously states, it is a great honour for me to be appointed as Minister for the Gaeltacht, and I would like to promote, strengthen and grow our native language, not only in the Gaeltacht, but throughout the island of Ireland.  In order to achieve this, the language needs the official support of the State. We all understand that Irish has a particular status in the Irish Constitution, as the first official language of the State.  But it is through legislation that the function of this status is exercised and this is the reason that this Bill is so important.  I believe that through this Bill, we will be able to create an environment where the provision of services through the Irish language can be improved, appropriately, and will properly serve Ireland's Irish language community." 

Minister of State Chambers said:

"The lack of deadlines mentioned with some of the policies was the greatest criticism made with regards the Bill when it was published. An attempt has now been made to address this with these amendments being proposed by the Government at Committee Stage:

  • The Bill allows a statutory Irish Languages Services Advisory Committee to be established to increase and improve the provision of public services through the Irish language.    The Government will be proposing that the Advisory Committee be established no later than six months after the Bill has been enacted.
  • The functions of the Advisory Committee are laid out in the Bill, including the publication of a National Plan with the aim of increasing the amount of public services provided through the medium of Irish. The Government will be proposing that the National Plan be prepared and provided to the Minister no later than two years after being established;
  • This Bill will see to it that the overall objective is achieved, with 20% of all new recruits in the public service being Irish language speakers.  The lack of deadlines for this was the greatest aspect of the Bill which was criticised.  The Government will now be proposing that 20% of new recruits in public bodies be competent in the Irish language no later than December 31st 2030.  In light of the concern regarding the lack of Irish speakers being available for these roles, the Government will be proposing to allow the Minister to extend this date with an Order, after assessing the results of the first National Plan.   This should happen approximately in the year 2028.

"In addition to this, the Government needs to give additional power to the Language Commissioner in order to monitor provisions in other enactments relating to the use or status of the official language and to provide commentaries in the way that he or she sees fit. This would be progress and it would greatly help Public Bodies to fulfil their duties in terms of the language. "

"Minister Martin and I are of the same mind that this Bill, and the amendments which we will be proposing, are very important to the Irish Language and they will help to strengthen the Irish language in the State System so that high quality Irish language services will be available to the Irish speaking community and the Gaeltacht community.