MINISTER HEATHER HUMPHREYS has added ‘Gaeltacht’ to the name of her department after coming under pressure from Irish language groups.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar reappointed Humphreys to her ministry in a reshuffle on 14 June. But her portfolio was rearranged – from the ‘Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs’ to the new ‘Department of Culture’.
Responsibilities for community and rural affairs went to Mayo TD Michael Ring.
Irish language groups said that the omission of ‘Gaeltacht’ from any department’s title showed a disrespect to the Irish language, and argued that it was more than just a cultural aspect, and so didn’t fall under that title.
It has been highlighted on Irish language media outlets, and raised by some political representatives, including by the Minister of State with responsibility for the Irish Language, the Gaeltacht and the Islands, Joe McHugh (who was appointed to Chief Whip in the same reshuffle).
'An Ghaeltacht' le bheith i dteideal Roinn nua Heather Humphreys https://t.co/58xn4yGl7F
— Tuairisc.ie (@tuairiscnuacht) July 6, 2017
Now, three weeks after the name was changed, it’s being changed again to the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht.
Niall Comer, President of Conradh na Gaeilge said that “the importance of the Gaeltacht [had] been recognised in the appropriate Department title by the Taoiseach and by the Government”.
Responsibility for the Gaeltacht clearly involves so much more than just questions of culture.
The Gaeltachts of Ireland are areas where people live in communities with specific needs, communities that deserve decent and appropriate services as citizens of this country.
“Credit goes to everyone who took the time to speak with their local TDs about this issue.”
Bua buíochas le brú ón bpobal! #Gaeltacht le háireamh i dteideal na Roinne https://t.co/1wTveN4W1S Grmma as labhairt le TDs áitiúla #Gaeilge pic.twitter.com/fvHwGHmJ03
— Conradh na Gaeilge (@CnaG) July 6, 2017
“This is something that the Irish-language community have been calling for in recent weeks,” Minister of State McHugh said, “and I’m delighted to have secured this outcome following [Thursday’s] meeting.”
He also clarified that the committee dedicated to Irish-language issues would be split, and issues surrounding the Irish language and Gaeltacht affairs would be divided between two committees:
One will deal with Social Policy and Public Services (including matters relating to Education, Children, Equality, Social Inclusion, Justice and the Arts) and the other will deal with the Economy, Employment, Brexit and the Rural Development Action Plan.
Irish language groups have criticised Minister Humphreys in the past for not meeting their representatives to discuss funding and initiatives; and for forwarding the responsibility for Gaeltachts and An Ghaeilge to the now former Minister of State for Gaeltacht Affairs, Seán Kyne.
Kyne said that although he did have responsibility for Gaeltacht affairs, he doesn’t have a seat at ‘the Budget table’ and couldn’t promise any funding changes.
In a statement released to TheJournal.ie today, the Department said that it changed its title having considered “all stakeholders”.
The name for the re-configured Department reflects, in a balanced way, its core functions and responsibilities and was agreed upon following detailed consideration, having regard to all of the communities and sectors served by it.