Seo dhá shliocht ó dhiospóireacht Dála na seachtaine seo chaite, sliochtaí inar tógadh ceist na Gaeilge agus ceist mharthanachta Foinse…..
Official Languages Act.
27. Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he will inform all of the bodies which come within the remit of the Official Languages Act 2003 that an electronic copy of the Irish version of the various documents which come within the remit of the Act is sufficient to meet the statutory obligation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23140/09]
Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: Deputy O’Shea is aware that since the enactment of the Official Languages Act 2003, I have made it clear that certain documents should be published on compact disc or on the Internet, rather than in hard copy, to the maximum extent possible. I refer to those documents, such as annual reports and strategy statements, which are required by section 10 of the 2003 Act to be published simultaneously in both official languages. They should be produced in a manner that is consistent with the over-riding requirement to meet the needs of all customers, including those who do not have access to the Internet or have genuine reasons for preferring a paper copy. I assure the Deputy that every organisation that comes within the scope of the 2003 Act is aware of this. An Coimisinéir Teanga advised all public bodies of the preferred approach in the guidebook on the Act that his office published and circulated to them in 2008. It is essential that both official languages are treated equally and the same quality of customer service is provided in both languages. It is not sufficient to publish an electronic copy only of one language version, for example, while giving the customer in the other language a choice of electronic or paper copy. It should be acknowledged that some documents, such as application forms that enable the general public to make applications or receive benefits, may require continued availability in hard copy format for the foreseeable future. It is important, in the interests of providing the customer with a quality service, that hard copies of such documents continue to be accessible in both official languages, ideally within the one cover.
Deputy Brian O’Shea: I thank the Minister for his reply. I would like to give an example of my concerns in this regard. I was contacted in connection with the recently published report of the Ombudsman for the Defence Forces. I am the Labour Party’s spokesperson on such matters. The person who contacted me, who could not be said to be unfavourably disposed to the Irish language, told me they threw the Irish language version of the report in the dustbin. Much of the stuff that is being published is of interest to very few people. The manner in which that is being done is leading to antagonism towards the Irish language. The approach of the Minister, Deputy Ó Cuív, to the revival of the Irish language is putting him at risk of being described as a “flat earth” Minister. He needs to examine what is happening. At a time when the only Irish language newspaper in the country is facing extinction, money is being wasted in this manner.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: That is the subject of the next question.
Deputy Brian O’Shea: Go raibh maith agat. It is not good enough for the Minister to say he has given advice – he needs to take stronger action to make sure this sort of thing stops before it gets any worse.
Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: Any waste of money is wrong. If money is wasted on printing, it does not matter whether the material being printed is in Irish or in English. I have complained in this House on many occasions about the number of unsolicited reports, etc., that are sent to my office. Most of them are in English only. They go immediately into my waste paper basket because I know I will not get a chance to read them. There are too many of them. Like everyone who checks his or her post, I can remember a time when every county enterprise board sent its annual report to me. I do not get any of those any more. The debate we have had on this issue has helped enormously to dissuade bodies from sending this type of documentation to us, in either of the official languages. All of us know that if we want to access a report, we can get it on the Internet. This is not a language-specific issue – it should be addressed as a waste issue. The document referred to by Deputy O’Shea had a particularly fancy cover. We have said time and again that all these issues should be examined. The number of documents that have to be translated is quite limited. I estimate that 90% of the cost of preparing documents involves preparing them and just 10% of the cost relates to translating them. The vast majority of documents in this country are produced, quite legally, in English only. I agree it is about time we cut down on the size and number of documents that are produced. Documents are eating up huge sums of money.
Deputy Michael Ring: The Minister could make a ministerial order to prevent such waste.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: I ask the Deputy to allow Deputy O’Shea to have his questions answered.
Deputy Michael Ring: I will.
Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: Deputy O’Shea knows I am more than willing to debate this issue in detail at the Joint Committee on Arts, Sport, Tourism, Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs. Two legitimate issues arise in the context of Deputy O’Shea’s question. The Official Languages Act 2003, which was introduced on foot of the Ó Beoláin judgment, which would have forced us to translate every document in the country into Irish, requires us to translate a limited number of documents. We need to consider how we can provide documents in two languages at a minimum cost. We can publish them on the Internet, we can reduce the size of documents and we can use standard templates for the purposes of translation.
Deputy Brian O’Shea: As usual, the Minister has gone all around the shop. We need to get down to the basic point. We want to promote the use of the Irish language. We are not helping the language by publishing a pile of stuff that very few people read. The point I am making is that money which could be better spent on other aspects of the Irish language is being wasted. The Minister needs to have a good look at this. The country is in a bad state at the moment. Things are not going well for the language, which is being hindered by delays. We have to stop wasting money. The Minister is well aware that this sort of thing is antagonising people and causing them to move away from the Irish language. It is about time the Minister got real by starting to eliminate waste and getting rid of some of his obscurantist ideas.
Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: I did not come up with any of the ideas we are talking about in this case. We are talking about the law of the land, as passed by the Oireachtas.
Deputy Brian O’Shea: The law can be changed.
Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: The Deputy can make proposals for a change in the law any day he likes.
Deputy Brian O’Shea: It is obvious that the Minister does not have any proposals of his own.
Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: Some English speakers seem to want to deny this country’s Irish speakers their right to read basic documents in Irish. The Act requires annual reports and policy proposal documents to be published in Irish. All other documents can be published in English only in this State. I believe Irish speakers have a right to access certain documents in the Irish language. The Deputy can disagree with me on that point if he likes. Those who are antagonised by the fact that Irish speakers, including native speakers, are being given their rights relating to a limited number of fundamental documents are entitled to their opinions. I do not agree with them. The majority of the Members of this House concurred with me, thankfully, when they voted for the legislation in question.
28. D’fhiafraigh Deputy Dinny McGinley den Aire Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta cad iad na hiarrachtaí atá á ndéanamh chun a chinntiú go leanfar d’fhoilsiú an nuachtáin sheachtainiúil Foinse, an t-aon nuachtán seachtainiúil Gaeilge sa tír; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina thaobh. [24035/09]
Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: I dtús báire, ba mhaith liom a rá go bhfuil sé fíor-thábhachtach don teanga agus don tír, dar liom, go mbeadh nuachtán Gaeilge ar fáil. Beidh mé ag casadh le Bord Fhoras na Gaeilge go luath agus beidh mé ag glacadh leis an deis chun é sin a chur in iúl dóibh.
Ar ndóigh, tá Foras na Gaeilge neamhspleách ó thaobh a gcuid gnó a bhainistiú i gceart agus deimhin a dhéanamh de go bhfuil luach ar airgead á fháil acu. Chomh maith leis sin, tuigfidh an Teachta nach féidir le hAire cur isteach ar phróiseas tairisceana ar aon bhealach.
É sin ráite, tá súil agam go mbeidh Foras na Gaeilge in ann an cheist seo a réiteach I dtreo is go mbeidh nuachtán Gaeilge ar fáil gach seachtain dóibh siúd atá á lorg.
Deputy Dinny McGinley: D’éist mé leis an Teachta O’Shea agus é ag déanamh tagairt do na foilsiúcháin Gaeilge a cuirtear ar fáil ag eagraithe an Stáit agus ag bord Stáit lá i ndiaidh lae, seachtain i ndiaidh seachtaine agus is beag duine a léann iad. Ar an lámh eile, tá páipéar seachtainiúil náisiúnta Gaeilge againn agus tá géarchéim – agus muid ag caint – faoi an mairfidh sé nó nach mairfidh sé. Tá an páipéar seo á chur ar fáil le 13 bliain agus tá sé á léamh go rialta gach seachtain ar fud na tíre. Níl aon guarantee againn go mbeidh an páipéar ann ach seachtain amháin eile, deireadh na míosa seo. Chomh fada agus a bhaineann sé linn, d’fhéadfadh deireadh a bheith leis an páipéar sin. An aontódh an tAire liom go bhfuil rud éigin cearr lena gcuid priorities nuair nach féidir leis páipéar seachtainiúil a choinneáil ag dul ar aghaidh ó sheachtain go seachtain – páipéar atá á léamh ag pobal na Gaeilge agus ag scoláirí Gaeilge sna meánscoileanna ar fud na tíre? Ar an lámh eile, tá tuarascála, mar a dúirt an Teachta, á chaitheamh isteach i gciseáin nuair a thagann siad. Ba mhaith liom go dtabharfadh an tAire tacaíochth iomlán don pháipéar seo agus nach mbeadh sé ag dul ó lá go lá. Ba mhaith liom go mbeadh leanúnachas ann agus go mbeadh deireadh leis an éiginnteacht.
Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: Tá me cinnte go n-aontódh an Teachta liom go bhfuil agus go mba ceart go mbeadh Foras na Gaeilge neamhspleách ón Aire ó lá go lá. Tá mé cinnte freisin go n-aontódh sé liom go mba ceart don Fhoras na gnáth rialacha maidir le tairiscintí a leanúint agus iad ag bronnadh conartha. Tá mé cinnte go n-aontódh sé liom nach ceart domsa cur isteach ar córas tairiscintí poiblí, mar dá gcuirfinn isteach air, bheadh mé mícheart ar fad agus is é an Teachta is túisce a sheasfadh suas sa Teach agus a deireadh liom nach bhfuil sé ceart ag aon Teachta ná Aire cur isteach ar thairiscintí poiblí. De réir mar a thuigim ón bhforas, is é an rud atá i gceist ná go ndeachaigh sé amach ar an margadh ag lorg tairisceana. Thairg sé conradh do chomhlacht áirithe agus tá comhráití fós ar bun agus go dtí go mbeidh na comhráití sin thart, ní bheadh sé ceart agamsa cur isteach ar an gcóras tairisceana. Tá mé tar éis a rá, ar bhonn polasaí de, go mba ceart go mbeadh nuachtán Gaeilge ann.
Deputy Dinny McGinley: Sílim go bhfuil ról níos mó sa cheist seo ag an Aire ná mar a fhógraíonn sé sa Dáil. An aontódh sé liom gurb é an deacracht mór atá ag Foras na Gaeilge ná maoiniú agus acmhainní a chur ar fáil sa dóigh gur féidir leis an bhfoilsiúchán seo dul ar aghaidh? An mbeidh an maoiniú agus na hacmhainní á gcur ar fáil ag an Aire d’Fhoras na Gaeilge sa dóigh gur féidir leis an pháipéar dul ar aghaidh? Is é sin ról an Aire – na hacmhainní agus an maoiniú a chur ar fáil sa dóigh gur féidir linn an ghéarchéim seo a sheacaint.
Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: Is é mo thuiscint, nach easpa airgid an fhadhb ar chor ar bith. Tuigim gur séard a tharla ná go ndeachaigh an foras ar an margadh agur gur lorgaíodh tairiscintí suas go teorann áirithe airgid, go ndearna an foras a bhreitiúnas agus go bhfuil comhráití ar bun. Tuigim nach easpa airgid an fhadhb ó thaobh an fhorais de agus níor ardaigh an foras riamh ceist liom maidir le heaspa airgid a bheith mar cnámh spairne.
Deputy Dinny McGinley: Laghdaíodh an deontas ó —–
Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: Níl sé sin fíor. Tiocfaidh mé ar ais leis an eolas cruinn. Ní raibh ísliú ó €400,000 go €300,000 nó cibé figiúr a bhí ráite. An rud a tharla ná, lorg an foras tairiscintí agus chuir sé síleáil le uasmhéid do mhéid na tairiscintí go bhféadfadh comhlacht a fháil. Nuair a rinne an foras scrúdú ar an tairiscint, facthas dó, bunaithe ar an tairiscint a bhí déanta, go mba ceart deontas níos lú ná an uasmhéid a bhféadfadh sé a bhronnadh a bhronnadh. B’shin ceist gnó don fhoras, bunaithe ar na tairiscintí. Bhí an conradh deiridh níos lú na sin. Freisin, bhí sé 16% níos lú ná an tairiscint a rinneadh. Ach is ceist gnó a bhí ansin; ní laghdú deontais a bhí i gceist.