Fianna Fail promises extra 18m euro for Irish-speaking regions
Fianna Fail has promised an extra 18 million euro to revitalise the Irish language and Gaeltacht areas.
The windfall would help increase the use of An Ghaeilge and create new jobs in Irish-speaking regions.
Island life in places like Inis Mor near Galway would be protected through guaranteed transport and improved broadband connections for business owners.
Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin said: “The Irish language is a key element of our identity but this Government has shown nothing but disdain towards it.
“Fianna Fail wants to undo the damage that has been inflicted on the language by Fine Gael by appointing a senior minister for Irish and for the Gaeltacht who is a fluent speaker.”
Last year a report said Irish is unlikely to be the majority spoken language in Gaeltacht areas in 10 years.
At one stage daily speakers had fallen below a two-thirds tipping point in many parts.
Mr Martin said he was positive about the language’s future as more young people were speaking it. He admitted that social networks like Facebook posed a challenge but said the language was in a better position than when he was growing up.
Eamon O Cuiv, spokesman on agriculture and food, said: “To further strengthen our commitment to the language, we will invest an additional 18 million euros in a specific Irish language and Gaeltacht plan, which will aim to increase the use of Irish as well as creating new jobs in Gaeltacht areas.”
Fianna Fail outlined plans for state-contracted ferry services to all the islands and well as the air service to the Aran Islands.
A senior minister would concentrate on broader community support and development in rural Ireland while a “guarantee” in government would set targets for the availability of schools, health and social services.
A state enterprise bank would lend directly to small and medium-sized businesses.
High-speed broadband would be connected to the 750,000 premises where it is not commercially viable while the mobile phone signal would be boosted across the country.
Mr O Cuiv said public services in rural areas should be of equivalent quality to urban areas. He added that social enterprises and co-operatives should be promoted as a proven self-help tool.
“Rural schools, health services, Garda stations, public transport routes, post offices and other facilities are facing direct cuts and closures because they have been labelled inefficient.
“Fianna Fail in government will ensure that as many services as possible, such as community welfare officers and health services, are based in rural communities.”
An “infrastructural guarantee” would roll out fibre broadband with download speeds of up to 1 gigabit per second to every home and business. There would be universal access to 4G mobile phone services.
Changes to the tax system and social protection would support the self-employed, like farmers, by allowing them to make PRSI contributions for jobseekers’ benefits, illness benefit and invalidity pensions.