Fianna Fáil spokesperson on Rural, Community, and Gaeltacht Affairs and Party Deputy Leader Dara Calleary TD has said that he welcomes the Government approval to publish the Official Languages (Amendment) Bill 2019.

“Despite the Review of Official Languages Act 2003 being carried out five years ago, the Fine Gael led government have kicked the publication of this bill down the road deeming it not a priority area.

 “The heads of a general scheme for an Official Languages (Amendment) Bill were approved on 30th May 2017 by government after the original act was reviewed in 2014.

“Extensive pre-legislative scrutiny took place in the Comhchoiste na Gaeilge, na Gaeltachta agus na nOileán, which included my party colleagues Éamon Ó Cuív and Aindrias Ó Muimhneacháin .

“This culminated in a 271 page report published in May 2018 after stakeholder consultation took place in the committee with groups including: An Choimisinéara Teanga, Oideachas Gaeltachta agus Gaelscolaíochta – Conradh na Gaeilge agus Chumann na nOifigeach Forbartha Gaeilge.

“The government’s commitment in the 2018 Autumn legislative programme was to publish the final bill in that session. Regrettably, this deadline was not met.

“My party welcomes the long over due publication of the bill and it will strengthen the provision of services through Irish. Significantly under the bill, 20% of new recruits to the public service will be Irish speakers; all public offices located in the Gaeltacht will function through Irish. This over time will enable public bodies to better respond to the demand from members of the public for services through Irish.

“Fianna Fáil has a strong record of delivery for enhancing the rights of our native language and the Gaeltacht. The Official Languages Act 2003 was a landmark piece of legislation we introduced. It sets out the duties of public bodies regarding the provision of services in Irish and the rights of the public to avail of those services.

“We also established the Office of An Coimisinéir Teanga and Foras na Gaeilge; and developed the visionary Twenty-Year Strategy for Irish.

“We look forward to examining the bill and swift passage through the Oireachtas and make any necessary amendments,” concluded Deputy Calleary.