1.1 In the final report of the Committee on the Restoration of the Irish Language which was laid before Dáil Éireann in January 1964 considerable mention was given to the use of Irish in the Houses of the Oireachtas. The Joint Committee feels that it is worth quoting the following extract from that report since it is as important today as it was when first written:
“It would help greatly the spread of the national language as the vernacular of the population if there was an awareness that the standing due to it was being given to the Irish language in the Houses of the Oireachtas and that it was being used on a regular basis in the proceedings of the Houses. On the other hand, the importance of the language in the eyes of the population and their devotion to it are diminished greatly when they are aware that it is heard only occasionally in the proceedings of the Houses of the Oireachtas.”
2. Modus Operandi of the Joint Committee
2.1 In accordance with Paragraph 2 (a) of its terms of reference the Joint Committee is empowered to review and make recommendations from time to time in relation to:
“the extension of the use of Irish in the proceedings of the Dáil and Seanad and in the environs of both Houses”.
As the Joint Committee was obliged by its terms of reference to prepare a report on that term as soon as practicable it was decided at the inaugural meeting (which was held on 29 May 1985) to concentrate on that aspect initially in order to achieve substantial progress without delay.
Having considered the matter the Joint Committee feels that the difficulties which must be overcome should be approached on a planned basis and actual progress made in stages.
3. Initial Recommendations of the Joint Committee
3.1 The Joint Committee deems it essential to make practical suggestions and to set out reasonable targets which are attainable within a short time span. Accordingly it is felt that the following recommendations are timely.
3.2 Spoken Irish
Irish is a living language and will survive only if it is spoken. It is understood that a considerable number of Members of both Houses are reasonably proficient in Irish. These Members and the staff of the Houses could speak a lot more Irish both in the Houses and outside them. People with a proficiency in Irish need to be persuaded to use it and that could be achieved by creating a suitable ambiance in the Houses. Were such an ambiance to be created it is felt that many people would not be reluctant — as appears to be the case at present, to make use of whatever Irish they have. It is essential to understand from the outset that every Member who has capability in Irish can help in the effort to create the required ambiance by using whatever Irish they have as much as possible.
3.3 Clear Recognition of Irish in the Houses
Members will be aware that under the Standing Orders of the Houses, the Order Paper, the Journal of Proceedings and certain appropriate documents are already issued in Irish and English. Indeed the proceedings in both Houses commence with the reading of the prayer in Irish. Consequently, the Joint Committee considers that it would not be unduly difficult to take certain further basic steps to foster a gradual increase in the use of the Irish language. Accordingly, the Joint Committee wishes to recommend as initial steps that the following specific proposals be implemented without delay:
Identity badges used in the Houses at present — such as those for Departmental Officials and visitors, are in English only. It is recommended that these badges be replaced by suitable substitutes in Irish.
A considerable number of signs are to be observed on doors and walls in the environs of the Houses but it is seldom that these are in Irish. The reasons for this are not clear as it is felt that the information contained on the majority of these signs is of such a fundamental nature that it could be understood as easily were it written in Irish as in English. It is recommended that, as far as is practicable, signs in the Houses should be in Irish.
3.3.3Organisation of the Business of the Houses
(a)When both Houses are sitting considerable use is made of a number of standard phrases and expressions such as Order of Business. These phrases could be in Irish and it is recommended that appropriate steps be taken without delay to achieve this.
(b)The various Committees which operate at present could use some phrases in Irish in the course of their proceedings — for example, “I propose that the minutes be adopted”. Members of the Committees are invited to consider this issue and act appropriately.
3.4 It is recommended in the strongest terms that the recommendations in the preceding paragraphs be implemented during the Summer Recess in order to have them in operation on the return of Members in the Autumn.
4. Future Policy
4.1 The following steps have been taken to assist the Joint Committee in the framing of proposals to be laid before both Houses in order to comply with the terms of reference mentioned above, viz:
(a)a circular has been issued to all Members of both Houses seeking any practical ideas which they might have in connection with (a) of the Joint Committee’s Orders of Reference;
(b)letters have been issued to the Whips of the Parliamentary Parties requesting them to direct formal attention to the contents of the circular mentioned at (a);
(c)letters have been issued to the Ceann Comhairle and Cathaoirleach an tSeanaid seeking their views on how a favourable ambiance in relation to the use of Irish in an administrative and procedural context, may be created;
(d)a letters has been issued to the Chairman of the Joint Services Committee requesting that consideration be given to ensuring that additional publications in Irish will be available to Members in the Oireachtas Library; and
(e)letters have been issued to the Authorities of selected Parliaments in order to obtain the benefit of their advice and experience in conducting their proceedings either bi- or multilingually.
4.2 In order to make worthwhile, practical suggestions which will have a major impact it is necessary to gather a considerable amount of information beforehand. The Joint Committee is optimistic that that information will be available without undue delay — obviously the suggestions to be made by those listed at (a) to (e) above will be particularly welcome.