Bid to treble Irish speaker numbers
The Government wants to treble the number of people who speak Irish on a daily basis under an ambitious 20-year strategy to boost the language.
Gaeltacht areas must come up with language plans within two years or face losing their status as part of a raft of new measures.
Up to a fifth of teacher training places will be reserved for students educated at Gaeltacht schools or gaelscoileanna, or who achieved high marks in the language at Leaving Certificate.
Pat Carey, Gaeltacht Affairs Minister, vowed the targets would be met, and said: "The vulnerable position of the Irish language in the Gaeltacht is a cause for concern for the Government, with language experts predicting that the language may only survive as a household and community language in the Gaeltacht for another 15 to 20 years.
"Therefore it is necessary to take immediate action to ensure that the state works together with Gaeltacht communities to protect the Irish language in the Gaeltacht."
Mr Carey said 1.5 million euro would be set aside from existing resources next year, but no figure was given for the cost of the overall strategy.
Key targets of the 20-year strategy include increasing the number of daily speakers of Irish, outside the education system, from 83,000 to 250,000; boosting the number of daily speakers of Irish in Gaeltacht areas by 25%; and increasing the number of people with a knowledge of the language from 1.66 million to 2 million.
It will also aim to extend Gaeltacht placements for teachers and encourage the use of Irish while teaching student teachers; to ensure that up to 20% of places in Colleges of Education be retained for students educated through Irish in Gaeltacht schools; and revamp Udaras na Gaeltachta as Udaras na Gaeilge agus na Gaeltachta, headquartered in the Gaeltacht, with responsibility for the Irish language.
Taoiseach Brian Cowen said the strategy is a source of hope and encouragement for the language, claiming it had enjoyed a renaissance nationally.
"The language, however, remains in a vulnerable position as the primary community language of the Gaeltacht," Mr Cowen said.