FG policy will kill off the Irish language -- Martin
THE abolition of mandatory Irish language studies to Leaving Cert level would sound the death knell for the language, Micheal Martin said yesterday.
The Fianna Fail leader hit out at Fine Gael's controversial policy as threatening to undermine all the progress that has been achieved with the language over the past few decades.
"To remove it now would, I believe, spell the death knell for the language," said Mr Martin. "I disagree with the Fine Gael policy on the Irish language. We support the retention of Irish as a compulsory Leaving Certificate subject.
"It is a core part of our heritage and I feel there has been a tremendous renaissance in cities, with young people in Gaelscoileanna, which has transformed the entire attitude towards the Irish language across the country."
Mr Martin added that Irish-language summer courses also played a vital role in terms of Irish cultural heritage and the development of young people.
"I have personal experience of this in the Corca Dhuibhne Gaeltacht and I think there's a real danger that the Fine Gael policy would undermine all of that," he said.
The Fianna Fail leader also said it was fantastic that the political party leaders would debate the election issues entirely in Irish on TG4 this week.
"(I am) looking forward to the debates. I think it's great that three leaders are willing to have a debate as Gaeilge.
"It's a very good signal to the nation and I think it's an indication of the growing stature of TG4. Both other leaders have very good Irish," he said.
Meanwhile, it was confirmed yesterday that the first general election debate in Irish between the three main party leaders will not be broadcast live.
It will take place shortly after 10am on Wednesday in the studios of TG4 in Baile na hAbann, Connemara.
Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny will be joined by Micheal Martin and Eamon Gilmore for the debate, which will be conducted entirely through Gaeilge.
The moderator with be TG4's news anchor, Eimear Ni Chonaola. The debate is expected to last 50 minutes.
Immediately afterwards, technicians and translators will begin the task of structuring subtitles for the broadcast.
The debate will be screened on TG4 in Irish, with English language subtitles, at 7pm and again at 10pm on Wednesday.