The future of community services in the Gaeltacht and smaller Gaeltacht areas has come under question after it was revealed that it will not be treated as a separate entity under the new rural development programmes.
Concerns have been raised over this issue by the Fianna Fáil spokesperson on community affairs, TD Éamon Ó Cuív.
He highlighted the Social Inclusion and Community Activation Programme (SICAP ) and the LEADER programme as further examples of how the Government is ignoring the Gaeltacht as a separate area for implementing development plans and funding.
“In response to a parliamentary question, Minister Alan Kelly made it absolutely clear that the Gaeltacht will not be treated as a separate national entity for the purpose of the new SICAP and LEADER programmes,” commented Ó Cuív.
The SICAP programme, which launches next year, aims to reduce poverty and to promote social inclusion and equality for disadvantaged groups through local, regional, and national engagement and collaboration. The idea of SICAP is to improve the life chances, educational opportunities, and support of those who are marginalised in society, living in poverty or in unemployment.
The LEADER programme is funded by the EU through the European Agricultural Fund and the Irish Department of Environment, Community, and Local Government. LEADER programmes provide supports to community groups and innovative small businesses. The overall objective of the the LEADER programme is to improve the quality of life in rural areas and to encourage economic activity by implementing local development strategies.
According to Ó Cuív, the decision will mean that the provision of community services in the Gaeltacht, and particularly in smaller Gaeltacht areas around the country, will be conducted through English. “This continues the Government’s policy of forcing the English language on the native Irish speakers in the Gaeltacht, while at the same time the Government says it is determined to implement the 20 year strategy on the language.”
Ó Cuív believes that the Government has once again failed to recognise the importance of Gaeltacht areas and the Irish language, following the appointment of two Ministers in the department who are not fluent speakers.
“It is time for the Government to come clean and say whether it has any interest in the Irish language and if it will offer practical support by promoting policies that will develop the language.”
Ó Cuív is convinced at present that this latest move by the Government puts this “in serious doubt”.