And Letterkenny General Hospital will play a role in a pilot of the scheme.
It was one of two schemes announced under the 20-Year Strategy for the Irish Language 2010-2030.
Handing out grants to support the language had failed, he said.
“We used to have the Gaeltacht grants for houses and doors and windows, which might have helped the infrastructure and quality of life, but did nothing for the native tongue,” he said.
“If we are going to increase the number of daily speakers, we need to give families more practical support, not money.”
Family Language Support Programme
“The Family Language Support Programme and the language planning process in the Gaeltacht involve a new approach that will make a considerable difference to the implementation of the 20-Year Strategy on the ground,” the Minister of State said at the launch in the Ionad Tacaíochta Teaghlaigh (An Crann Taca) in Indreabhán, Co. Galway.
The aim of the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht’s Family Language Support Programme is to strengthen the Irish language as the household and community language in the Gaeltacht in accordance with the 20-Year Strategy.
Under this programme, the Department intends to undertake 12 specific measures to support Gaeltacht families who are raising their children through Irish or who wish to raise their children through Irish.
The Minister of State announced that the Department has agreed with the co-operation of the Health Service Executive (HSE) to circulate an information leaflet, regarding the advantages of raising children through Irish, to expectant mothers and mothers of newborn babies.
This awareness campaign will be initiated through the maternity services operating through the HSE in Galway city, Letterkenny and Castlebar. It is also intended to broaden this campaign to maternity services which serve other Gaeltacht areas.
“This information leaflet is only the beginning of an awareness campaign to foster a better understanding among parents of the benefits of raising children through Irish. There is also a support pack, containing a CD and a book suitable for children, available to parents through my Department. All parents have to do to obtain the pack is to get in touch with my Department. It is worth mentioning also that the intention is to gradually add to this support pack,” the Minister of State said.
In addition to the awareness campaign, the Minister of State announced the following new measures which will be implemented in conjunction with key stakeholders under the Family Language Support Programme:
• The Department’s Summer Camps Scheme will be enhanced to focus separately on 3 to 6 year olds and on 7 to 14 year olds (as opposed to the current 4 to 7 year old age group);
• Special training courses will be held for Gaeltacht teenagers between 15 and 17 years old who speak fluent Irish to enable them to work as assistants in the Irish language summer colleges;
• Community-based Gaeltacht committees/organisations will be assisted in organising suitable activities, e.g. parent and toddler/child groups;
• The Department’s Language Assistants Scheme will be developed in order to better serve children in Gaeltacht schools with regard to enrichment or acquisition of the Irish language; and
• A portal website for the Irish language will be developed to provide easy access to the public to Irish-language materials and resources. As part of this portal website, content will be developed online which will assist parents raising their children through Irish.
“Although the Family Language Support Programme will primarily serve Gaeltacht families, the support pack and online content will be available to everyone. This is of particular importance in the context of the goals specified in the 20-Year Strategy to increase the number of Irish language speakers nationally,” the Minister of State said.
Language Planning Process
The Minister of State announced that the language planning process in the Gaeltacht is to begin.
“I am delighted to get the language planning process in the Gaeltacht underway today. Under the Gaeltacht Bill 2012 which is currently being drafted, the Gaeltacht will be given a new definition based on language criteria as opposed to geographical areas, as is currently the case. In accordance with the 20-Year Strategy, a language plan will be developed at community level in all Gaeltacht areas,” the Minister of State said.
Under the language planning process, the Gaeltacht will be delineated into 19 distinct language planning areas. Each one of these areas will be required to prepare a language plan in due course. In order to implement a comprehensive and systematic language planning process in the Gaeltacht, the Minister of State indicated that he has invited 6 language planning areas to begin this process immediately.
“This is only the first stage of the language planning process in the Gaeltacht. Clearly, all 19 language planning areas will be required to prepare language plans in due course,” the Minister of State said.
Údarás na Gaeltachta currently funds various community-based organisations in the Gaeltacht. It has been agreed that one primary organisation will operate in each of the language planning areas to implement the process on the ground, with assistance from the Údarás. It is intended that the other organisations in the same language planning area will operate in conjunction with the primary organisation with regard to language planning. The Údarás will be responsible for taking the appropriate steps, in conjunction with the various organisations, to implement this approach.
The Minister of State said: “The language planning process is an opportunity for Gaeltacht communities. I expect the Department, the Údarás and the community-based organisations to work together to deliver this process.”
The community-based organisations will be given practical training to assist them in implementing the language planning process in partnership with the public. In addition, the organisations will be provided with a language planning template, based on the recommendations of the Comprehensive Linguistic Study of the Use of Irish in the Gaeltacht, to assist them in preparing language plans.
Language Planning Areas in the Gaeltacht
Under the language planning process, the intention is to delineate the Gaeltacht into 19 distinct language planning areas of which 6 areas (listed in bold) have been invited to start this process immediately.
• Múscraí and Cléire
• West Kerry
• South Kerry
• North Donegal – Fánaid, Ros Goill, An Tearmann, Na Dúnaibh
• Gaoth Dobhair, Rann na Feirste, Anagaire, Loch an Iúir
• Cloich Chionnaola, Gort an Choirce, Toraigh, An Fál Carrach, Machaire Rabhartaigh
• Na Rosa, An Clochán Liath, Ailt an Chorráin, Árainn Mhór, Leitir Mhic an Bhaird
• An Ghaeltacht Lár
• South Donegal
• An tEachréidh
• Maigh Cuilinn, Bearna, Cnoc na Cathrach
• Cois Fharraige (Na Forbacha go Ros an Mhíl)
• An Cheathrú Rua agus Ceantar na nOileán
• Iorras Aithneach and Corr na Móna
• Oileáin Árann
• Acaill and Tuar Mhic Éadaigh
• Ráth Chairn and Baile Ghib
• Na Déise