Fine Gael has proposed that Irish become an optional subject for the Leaving Certificate and is getting huge criticism – even from within their own party.
Donegal candidates Joe McHugh and Dinny McGinley have been slammed on the doorsteps during the campaign.
Said Doherty today: “In contrast to Fine Gael, Sinn Féin is committed to the protection and restoration of the Irish language.
“Rather than taking measures that will contribute to the dissolution of Irish, we believe the state should in fact be taking constructive steps to strengthen, support and encourage its growth.
“Unlike Fine Gael’s proposal to de- prioritise Irish by removing it from the second level education system as compulsory, we in Sinn Féin commit ourselves 100 per cent to its promotion.”
The Sinn Fein man claimed that if the subject’s mandatory status in the Leaving Certificate were removed, there would be a drop in the number of students taking Irish in school, ending the language as it is known.
“It will have a huge impact on the Gaeltacht economy,” he insisted.
“There is a €50 million local economy there in relation to the Irish colleges in which 25,000 students attend those rural communities every year to learn the language”.
The party published a list of proposals designed to protect the Irish language, including the appointment of an Aire Gaeilge agus Gaeltachta in Cabinet with responsibility to deliver on the 20 year strategy, a new statutory body to have sole responsibility for the development of Irish, and changes to the Irish Syllabus in schools.
“Equality is an integral part of a democratic society and this, as we have stated in our party’s manifesto, includes upholding the rights of Irish language speakers,” Mr Doherty said.
“We believe that the future of the Irish language depends upon the continuing existence of sustainable Gaeltacht communities where Irish remains the primary language of the community. These communities must be protected, supported and developed.”
Today’s protest followed one by students in the capital yesterday – and came ahead of a meeting in Gaoth Dobhair tonight.