The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Michael McGrath T.D., in partnership with the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, Catherine Martin T.D., and Chief Whip and the Minister of State for the Gaeltacht and Sport, Jack Chambers T.D., has announced a new era for Irish language courses in the civil service, with over 400 learners registered for the autumn term.
Courses provided by Gaelchultúr to Civil Servants on behalf of OneLearning (the Civil Service’s Learning and Development Centre) will now be certified by Teastas Eorpach na Gaeilge (TEG). TEG, provides a series of general Irish language proficiency examinations and qualifications and is the first certified system of its kind for adult learners of the Irish language.
This move is as a result of ongoing collaboration and cooperation between the two Departments to ensure the full implementation of the Official Languages (Amendment) Act 2021.
In the context of this and the overall objective of the Act, that 20% of recruits to public bodies will be competent in the Irish language by 2030, TEG qualifications will hold a particular value in the coming years for both learners and employers alike, as people with particular language skills will be sought for a wide variety of diverse roles across the civil and public service.
Both Departments are also looking at a number of other ways to further support Irish language learners within the system as well as to create more awareness around the language in general. One such additional measure to be taken is the addition of language awareness elements to some of OneLearning’s courses, focusing initially on customer service and junior manager courses - areas where language behaviour in the workplace could be greatly influenced.
Speaking at his Department’s headquarters today, Minister McGrath said:
“It is great to be able to share the news officially today that TEG will now be certifying the Irish language courses provided by OneLearning in partnership with Gaelchultúr. These courses will promote the Irish language amongst current civil servants and provide further opportunities for personal and professional development, which is the primary goal of OneLearning.
"I’m pleased to announce that my Department will also continue to work with our colleagues in the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media to seek other ways in which we can further develop our current series of courses, to include topics such as language awareness and obligations under the Official Languages (Amendment) Act 2021. I have no doubt that these types of initiatives will have a positive impact on increasing the level and quality of public services provided through Irish.”
Minister Martin said:
“The implementation of the Official Languages (Amendment) Act 2021 is a cross-governmental project and I am therefore delighted that we can announce this level of collaboration between our two Departments today. Between the new budget line announced last week for the implementation of the Act along with the commitment given in the Civil Service Renewal 2024 Action Plan to fully implement the National Plan for Irish Language Services when it’s published, the Government’s commitment to the Irish language is very clear.
"I am excited to see the increased level of interest among current Civil Servants to undertake the courses this term. Coupled with the fact that we saw over 1,000 representatives from public bodies attend our information seminars on the Act over the summer, I think this speaks to the fact that there is a genuine interest and willingness to improve the level and standard of public services provided through Irish across the Civil and Public Service.”
Minister of State Chambers said:
“It is great to see that the certification of Irish Language courses provided to Civil Servants has now been brought in line with the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages, as referenced in the Official Languages (Amendment) Act 2021. This move will now give a standardised basis to the advice and recommendations that are to come through from the Irish-languages Services Advisory Committee and in the language standards regarding the language competency required for certain roles and services – something that was sought as the Bill was going through the various legislative stages. This certification now presents a fantastic opportunity for both learners and employers alike as we all work towards our common goal of achieving the ambitious targets set out in the Act.
"Naturally I was delighted to announce the initial €1m secured for the implementation of the Act under Budget 2023. This will enable us to investigate other innovative ways we can look to increase the capacity of Irish language speakers in the system, from both outside and within.
"I wish this term’s learners every success and we hope to see you at the other end!”
Notes for the Editor:
- Relevant Section of the Act here.
- PR regarding the Establishment of the Committee here.
- PR regarding the First Meeting of the Committee here.
- PR regarding the Request for Tender for the preparation of the National Plan for Irish Language Services here.
- Teastas Eorpach na Gaeilge is administered by Lárionad na Gaeilge in Maynooth University and based on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages.
- Official Languages (Amendment) Act 2021: Specific mention is made in the Act to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages, whereby the Irish-language Services Advisory Committee, established under the Act in June of this year, 2022, is to provide advice to public bodies on the level of competency required for different roles and services. The Act also details that the language standards, which are to be prescribed by the Minister under the Act, may also specify the different language competency levels required for the provision of certain services.