Irish language campaigners are celebrating this week as Fine Gael and Labour agreed to keep Irish compulsory at Leaving Cert for now – but there are fears that a ‘value-for-money’ audit of language groups may lead to cuts.
Today’s Foine reports that the exam pledge is a victory for those who campaigned in recent weeks against an assertion by new Taoiseach that Irish could become optional for Leaving Cert students.
Labour and Fine Gael confirmed that steps will be taken to improve the quality and effectiveness of the teaching of Irish under the new government and that the removal of Irish as a compulsory subject for the Leaving Certificate will not be considered until these changes have been implemented.
Guth na Gaeltachta campaigner Eamonn Mac Niallais told today’s Foinse: “This is great news, the new government had decided to allow some time for changes to be made before they review the situation again. We are delighted also that they have decided to support the 20 year strategy, as we had advised.”
The Irish language proved to be a bone of contention between the two parties during the election campaign and has caused great controversy over the past few weeks
Enda Kenny campaigned for the removal of Irish as an compulsory subject while Eamon Gilmore felt it was important to keep Irish as a core Leaving Certificate subject.
The new government aims to double the number of Irish students sitting higher level Irish by 2018.
The latest figures show that of the 57,839 students who sat the Leaving Certificate last summer only 14,650 sat Irish at higher level.
The parties have agreed to reform the Irish curriculum and the way in which the language is taught in schools around the country. During Fianna Fáil’s time in power it was decided that 40% of the marks would be given for the oral exams. Labour and Fine Gael will to raise this to 50%.
Seán Kyne, Fine Gael’s newly elected TD in Galway West is happy with the new government’s plans for the Irish language. He told Foinse: “This policy should provide reassurance that Fine Gael and the new Government has the best interest of our native language at heart.”
The new government have vowed to review the Official Languages Act to ensure that the money spent on Irish is best targeted towards the development of the language.
Current investment and funding programmes that benefit Irish language organisations will be reviewed in an attempt to achieve the best possible value for money for Irish citizens.
Éamonn Mac Niallais raised concerns however about the absence of Údarás na Gaeltachta from the programme for government.
“The big question is now what will happen to Údarás na Gaeltachta? There was no reference made to the organisation in the programme.”
The coalition government claim their proposals will deliver new job prospects to Gaeltacht regions; they will invest in energy, broadband and water infrastructure in an attempt to attract new businesses to the regions. Job potential in tourism and marine activities will be supported as will the Irish language broadcasting and arts sector.