Regional development in minority language territories: state policies, structures and interventions in the Irish Gaeltacht
Ó Neachtain, Éamonn
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The primary aim of this thesis was to critically assess the capacity of the state to conceptualise and implement policies in support of the sustainable development of the Gaeltacht, and to do so through an integrated spatial model of development which is capable of stabilising and reinforcing processes of minority language reproduction. The central empirical focus examined the extent to which Irish state policy relating to Gaeltacht development has been successful when critiqued against stated policy objectives. Semi-structured interviews were used to elicit the views of a cross-section of elite participants drawn from the Public/Political, the Administrative/Executive, and the Policy Analysis/Academic domains. Findings from the data argue that the statutory Gaeltacht demarcation has a very limited and poorly articulated functionality in administrative and planning terms. The conceptualisation of the Gaeltacht as a development district has not been ‘embedded’, legitimised, let alone mainstreamed, within the public governance, development or institutional structures across the state system. The data identify the state’s failure (in the sense of a coherent, systems-wide response) to engage with the structural conditions underpinning the process of language shift and community dislocation within the Gaeltacht. There is a need for an overhaul of the Gaeltacht development model. A new and differentiated integrated spatial model must incorporate, along with economic measures, broader development priorities incorporating structural/sectoral, demographic and sociolinguistic dimensions. The twin concepts of Prior Ideological Clarification and Linguistic Return on Investment need to become foundational constructs underpinning a new approach to Gaeltacht Development Policy (GDP). Future GDP must establish, both spatially and structurally, an integrated state-wide strategy which will ensure mutually reinforcing measures for development across the planning and governance continuum. It must be subordinated to a compelling and implacable sociolinguistic imperative which will set out the specific and differentiated terms of the policy challenge for the Gaeltacht.
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