Fianna Fáil remains firmly committed to the implementation of the 20 Year Strategy for the Irish Language which we brought forward while in government.
The headline goal of the strategy has been set of increasing over 20 years the number of people with a knowledge of Irish from the current 1.66 million to 2 million; and the number of daily speakers of Irish from the current level of approximately 83,000 to 250,000.
We also put in place the Official Languages Act 2003, which gave a statutory basis for the first time to the rights in respect of the language enshrined in the Constitution.
Sadly the current government lacks any real commitment to the language. Not only does the Minister for Gaeltacht Affairs not have a cabinet seat under this government, a non- fluent Irish speaker was appointed to the position last summer.
Fine Gael and Labour disregard for Irish language policy was conclusively proven by the reshuffle with neither senior nor junior Minster appointed in the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht able to conduct official business in Irish.
The decision by the Department of Public Expenditure to end the 6 per cent bonus for Irish in Civil Service entrance exams was another downgrading of the language.
Furthermore a programme for Government commitment to consider getting rid of obligatory Irish for the Leaving Cert is hardly encouraging.
Fianna Fail belives that we must increase on an incremental basis the use and knowledge of Irish as a community language. It is also our objective that as many citizens as possible are bilingual in both Irish and English.
We are also committed to protecting and nurturing the Gaeltacht and to providing linguistic support for it as an Irish-speaking community.
We also believe that the state must provide that as far as practical citizens engaging with the state should be able to do so in Irish.