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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: February 17, 2011 @ 8:29 am

    TG4 debate

    Harry McGee

    Last night’s TG4 debate was the first time we have had a full debate between the main party leaders in Irish.

    It was also the first ever three-way debate and, as such, was a historic moment in Irish televisoin.

    For political anoraks and Gaeilgeoirí (and I’m both sadly) it  rivalled the Arsenal Barcelona champions league game on a rival channel.

    All three were very comfortable with their Irish and had clearly polished up their foclóir beforehand.

    I was very proud as an Irish speaker to watch and listen to the leaders of the three national parties debating the big issues confronting the country.

    All three speak good Irish. Kenny’s is probably the most natural. But all of them spoke very well and were able to maintain an adult and intelligent debate on air for an hour.

    At the start, threre were speeches that were learned ‘de ghlan mheabhair’ but they all had to busk for long periods and did it well.

    I’m not sure if we will be in a position to see that again.

    The language was casual, more casual than you would find in English.

    They described each other’s policies as ‘ráiméis’ and ‘amaideach’ – rubbish and idiotic. You would expect slightly more euphemistic phraseolody in English.

    Topics ranged from banks to the economy to tourism, agriculture, fisheries, Udarás na Gaeltachta and the Irish language. An unusual but interesting choice of topics, but TG4 was being mindful of the bulk of its own audience.

    It was good to see all three leaders on top of their tourism and agricultural policies.

    Labour’s Gilmore disclosed that his party is in favour of retaining the PSO for individual airlines. That was the only new line.

    The leaders

    Gilmore: His best debate. Found the correct emotional pitch that he struggled to find in the previous debates, between controlled indignation and statesman/more reflective leader. Scored good points on the bank guarantee.

    Kenny: Was strong. Effected the air of a Taoiseach in waiting. Reminded people why he had visited Angela Merkel and Jose Manuel Barosso – already in Taoiseach mode.

    Also impressed when refusing to make any promises on retaining the PSO.

    “The only thing I will make a promise on is the five-point plan”,” he said.

    That was strong and will do down well with many of the constituency who are demanding moderation and realism from leaders.

    Martin: A naturally skilled debater. Stymied a bit by the strict format from digging into issues. Most assertive of three as you would expect. But Fianna Fail’s stock is so low that even if Micheal delivered a few Obama like speeches it might make no difference.

    The format: Eimear Ní Chonaola did a very good job of moderating. TG4 took a decision to be far more pro-active and interventionist than the moderators of the other two debates, Pat Kenny and Vincent Browne. The effect was that at times, at the start particularly, it felt slightly more one-on-one than a three way debate. There wasn’t a huge amount of room for ‘free debate’. A lot of topics and a lot of ground were covered though.

    I would have liked a little more ‘free debate’ and interchange between the leaders (with the moderator taking a background role), as it was the first time that the three of them came face to face to critique each other’s banking and fiscal and tax and cutback policies.

    I know that focussing on banking and fiscal plans is retreading  the same ground but that’s what people  are interested in.


    Best exchange was on compulsory Irish when both other leaders rounded on Kenny and there was a very lively exchange. Kenny defended the policy on compulsory Irish on the grounds the party will improve standard of teaching and also offer bonus points for those learning Irish.

    Both other said it would destroy Irish.

    Kenny said Irish was only core subject. Both others said he was wrong. Analysts afterwards said he was wrong. As it happens, he was right.


    “Ta an tír scriosta. Ta sé scriosta ag Fianna Fáil. An cinneadh is measadh ná an bailout to Anglo [a tháinig leis an gcinneadh barrántas a thabhairt do na bainc].”

    Martin’s response:

    “If we had followed Labour’s advice to the guarantee it would have been ten times worse

    “You have to be honest with people. You cannot do that by yourself The other thing is that the biggest thing behind the guarantee was to protect 1.8 million working in Ireland.”


    “The €35 billion poured into Anglo Irish money would create 200,000 jobs.”

    “The IMF-EU deal needs to be changed on interest rates and the cost of banking. That’s why I spoke to Jose Manuel Barroso and Angela Merkel.”

    • Bellminx says:

      Have to repeat my earlier comment and repeat that Eimear Ní Chonaola was BRILLIANT
      OMG the TG4 leaders debate was the best debate so far and wasn’t Eimear Ní Chonaola just absolutely brilliant. Crikey, they all performed brilliantly, Eamon, Enda and Micheál and how wonderful to see the leaders of the three main parties debating as Gaeilge. The TG4 production was second to none and absolutely knocked spots off the RTE 1 effort, although the two-way debate on TV3 with Vincent was also brilliant. Can’t wait to brush up and expand on the cupla focal so that in future I won’t have to be relying so much on the subtitles for all the nuances, etc. For me Micheál was the winner but really there were no losers in this. Enda and Eamon were great. Wish they could all form the next government.
      Very good, well-balanced analysis Harry but I’m not so sure Micheál’s excellent presentations won’t reap rewards on P-Day (polling day)

    • Glenda Lough says:

      Interesting that all this pro Irish propaganda was written in…..English.

    • Anabroin says:

      Bhí sé ar fheabhas ar fad, údar mór misnigh amach is amach é, ní raibh Gaeilge na gceannairí gan locht agus bhí an-trua agam go na fotheidealóirí (ach is ceird agus ealaín ar leith a mbíonn ar siúl ag fotheidealóirí TG4 nach ionann é agus fíoraistriúchán dar liom..) ach den chuid is mó, más féidir 75% a thabhairt do na cainteoirí faoina gcuid Gaeilge, rinne siad thar cionn ar fad leis an méid a bhí acu agus tá súil ó chroí agam gur comhartha é seo go gcloisfimid iad ag plé cúrsaí na tíre seo, Éire na Gaeilge, as Gaeilge i bhfad níos minice i bhfóraim phoiblí as seo amach agus nach mbeidh ceannairí na tíre agus lucht an rialtais ina n-údar díomá agus ceann faoi dúinn a thuilleadh.

    • It was the best debate so far of the campaign. I thought each of the three leaders performed well though it’s llikely that Eamon Gilmore won among Irish speakers while Enda Kenny was ahead in the national sense. Mícheál Martin was and always will be on a sticky wicket – though he does well in debates, he’s not likely to win sufficient votes to stave off a landslide against FF.
      Eimear Ní Chonaola was the outstanding performer of the evening, displaying a command of a wide range of subjects and keeping a strict rein on the three male leaders (an object lesson for Vincent Browne and Pat Kenny).
      I declare an interest. I am a director of TG4 and was appointed following a public competition as a representative of the Oireachtas. During my appointment process I advocated there be such a debate as Gaeilge on TG4 and my views were well received by the Oireachtas members. I have no idea whether this is what prompted Micheal Martin to call for such a debate when he was elected leader of FF – but I don’t recall the question being raised in previous campaigns. Perhaps because there was no certainty that the then leaders would have been able to debate as Gaeilge. I hope this isn’t a one off and that we get further debates as Gaeilge for future general, local and European elections – even the Dublin mayoral election. It’s not too much to ask that candidates for high office should have a grasp of Irish
      Anyone wanting to cast a vote on who they thought won the debate can do so on the iGaeilge poll here – http://wp.me/pcxvk-17E – iGaeilge is the winner of the Irish Blog Award for Best Use of Irish in a blog in 2009/10 and has been shortlisted again for this year’s award.

    • Michael Burke says:

      Fair play to the three leaders for their performance trid gaeilge ….they set a good example . This three way format is better than the Frontline approach where questions posed by the audience were a diatraction and merely served to maintain that programmes format .So far Enda has not been cornered in debate as intervention from interviewer / presenter tends to prevent sustained exchanges .He fails miserably when exposed to direct questioning ..a la Richard Crowley on radio and even the mild Ryan Tubridy on TV ……it looks like he will get away with it before the election …or maybe not .Either way , barring assignation , he is home and dry . Then he will disappear from TV …

    • Tá sé suimiúíl, freisin, Glenda, nach bhfuil tú sásta d’fhíor ainm a úsáid ach go bhfuil tú ag postáil anseo faoi ainm cleite. Tugaimse ‘trolláil’ ar sin, ag dul as do bhealach chun bheith maslaithe nó masla a thabhairt.

    • dealga says:

      Personally I’d prefer three party leaders with a good grasp of French and German so they can tell Sarkozy and Merkel that their banks can sing for their cash.

    • Seán Ó G says:

      Díospóireacht mhaith a bhí ann. Bhíos tógtha leis an méid Gaeilge a bhí ag an triúr acu. Is léir go labhraíonn gach duine acu an Ghaeilge ina saol príobháideach ar bhonn rialta…is mór an trua nach ndéantar amhlaidh os comhair phobail na hÉireann mar a rinneadh aréir ach b’fhéidir gur tús nua é seo, má bhí ba thús mhaith é. Maidir leis an nGaeilge mar ábhar ‘éigeantach’ is léir go ndéanfar dochar don teanga. Is é mo thuairim nach ndéanfaidh a leithéid de pholasaí mórán difear dóibh siúd a labhraíonn an Ghaeilge go líofa ó thús a n-óige ach ní bheadh aon Ghaeilge ag mo leithéidse ná ag na mílte cosúil liomsa. Fuair mise D2 sa Ghaeilge, an marc ba mheasa a fuair mé san ardteist agus ba é sin an rud a spreag mé chun an teanga a fhoghlaim i gceart seachas gan a bheith ach ‘báúil don teanga’. Bhí dian-obair i gceist ach níor chaith mé ach dhá mhí chun líofacht a bhaint amach. Mura raibh 14 bliana de neamhfhoghlaim curtha isteach agam bheadh breis is 2 bhliain de dhíth agus ní thiocfadh na focail chugam go nádúrtha go deo.

      Má dhéantar rogha den teanga ní bhacfaidh mic léinn an teastais shóisearaigh léi ach an oiread. Ní dhéanfaidh sé aon dochar dóibh stalc ar an scrúdú Gaeilge a eagrú agus dar ndóigh bheadh sé ina leithscéal dóibh ‘seasamh’ polaitiúil a eagrú trí facebook srl. Ansin ní bheidh fágtha ach Gaeilge sna bunscoileanna. Má éiríonn páiste óg as an teanga ní bheidh siad líofa go deo gan an-chuid staidéar nó ní bheidh an focalstór acu ar chúrsaí nach dtuigeann siad ag an aois sin i mBéarla. D’aineoinn na laigí atá ann faoi láthair scríobhann gach éinne aiste maidir le polaitíocht agus na meáin chumarsáide srl. Fiú mura bhfuil ann ach foghlaim de ghlanmheabhair is fiú é don té a dhéanfaidh athfhoghlaim amach anseo.

      Is pianmhar an próiseas é teanga a fhoghlaim. Bíonn ar an inchinn atheagrú a dhéanamh ar néaróin. Bíonn cosaint áirithe dá réir sin ag an té atá dátheangach ó mheath intinne na seanaoise mar a bhíonn ag ceoltóirí clasaiceacha agus is cruthúnas é seo ar an athshreangú néarón a bhíonn i gceist. Is éard a bhí i gceist leis an bhfulaingt a chuimhníonn an té a theip air/uirthi an teanga a fhoghlaim ná fás néarón nua san inchinn atá ina ábhar buntáiste don té sin i ngach gné dá s(h)aol. Mar is eol duit féin, is teanga VSO í an Ghaeilge, is é sin le rá go bhfuil struchtúr na teanga agus comhréir na n-abairtí go hiomlán difriúil ón mBéarla. Ní hionann an fhorbairt intinne a bhíonn le déanamh ag Béarlóir a fhoghlaimíonn Gearmáinis nó teanga laidineach agus an malartú smaointe a bhíonn de dhíth chun Gaeilge a fhoghlaim. Táim den tuairim go bhfuil an bearna idir an dá theanga ar an gcúis is mó go luaitear cruthaitheacht leis na hÉireannaigh. Is Gaeil iad na hAlbanaigh agus na Manannaigh ach ní bhíonn an cháil sin ar bharr na teanga ag muintir an domhain agus iad dá moladh. Luaitear an t-ólachán mar a luaitear fúinn ach sin é. Is mó an buntáiste atá ag na Sínigh, na Rúisigh, na Seapánaigh agus na hIosraelaigh le foghlaim an Bhéarla mar spreagadh don inchinn taobhsmaointeoireacht a fhorbairt ná mar a bhíonn ag an mBéarlóir a fhoghlaimíonn Fraincis nó an Bhraisíleach a fhoghlaimíonn Spáinnis agus Béarla anuas ar a chuid Portaingéilise. Ní léir in aon chor an dochar a dhéanfar don tír seo má dhéantar an polasaí maidir leis an nGaeilge a iompú thart timpeall i dtreo na sprice atá ag namhaid na teanga; i. sochaí ina bhfuil na céadta mílte Éireannaigh nach raibh aon teagmháil acu leis an teanga riamh. Cruthaíonn aineolas eagla agus ní bhraithfidh éinne nár bhlas an teanga riamh gur leo an teanga. Beidh na Gaeil fágtha mar mhionlach eitneach in Éireann ní amháin i ngnáth-chúrsaí praiticiúla an lae ach i meon an phobail fosta agus cá bhfios agus an chéad ghlúin eile slán ó ‘fhulaingt fhoghlaim na Gaeilge’ a bhuíochas le Fine Ga(e/l)l ach ní bheidh na Sínigh, mar a luaigh an Mairtíneach agus a inchinn féin fágtha sa bhaile aige, den tuairim go bhfuilimid go maith mar innealtóirí bogearraí.

      D’fhéadfadh an Ghaeilge a bheith ina uirlis eacnamaíoch thar a bheith cumhachtach don tír. Níl geilleagar intíre an oileáin seo forbartha in aon chor. Ní raibh sé de sheans againn é sin a dhéanamh fadó cion is go raibh an daonra agus an margadh intíre ró-bheag agus is cosúil nach ag éirí linn é a dhéanamh anois d’aineoinn an rochtain atá againn ar mhargaí an domhain cion is gur annamh a éiríonn le comhlacht beag nua dul san iomaíocht le comhlachtaí idirnáisiúnta seanbhunaithe. Is sampla maith é an fhorbairt ar earnáil an aistriúcháin in Éirinn le blianta beaga anuas an buntáiste a ghabhann leis an nGaeilge. Tugadh deis do chomhlachtaí de dhroim stádas na Gaeilge comhlachtaí a fhorbairt atá san iomaíocht anois thar lear le comhlachtaí móra an domhain chun conarthaí aistriúcháin a bhuachan, rud a mheallann airgead nua isteach i ngeilleagar na hÉireann. Tá na cáipéisí siúd i nGaeilge a ndéanann cuid mhaith daoine gearán fúthu ina inneall don gheilleagar seo nó is deis iad do chomhlachtaí Éireannacha, atá slán go leor ó iomaíocht ghallda, forbairt a dhéanamh chun seirbhísí scríbhneoireacht theicniúil, aistriúcháin agus foilsitheoireachta a thairiscint do mhargadh an domhain. D’fhéadfaí leas a bhaint as an nGaeilge mar tharaif thrádála amach anseo agus é a úsáid mar seift mhargaíochta i measc na Gaeil i gcéin amach anseo. Cad chuige nach gceannódh Gael-Mheiriceánach gluaisteán nó guthán a bheadh déanta in Éireann. Bíodh an Ghaeilge ina nasc smaointeoireachta, cultúrtha agus eacnamaíoch i measc na nGael ar fud an domhain. Chruthaigh Samsung go raibh an Ghaeilge ina bhuntáiste dóibh, ní thuigim cén fáth nach féidir linne mar thír an buntáiste céanna a bhrath ach sin é le mo chuid bhéalastánacht don lá seo!

    • BB says:

      Yes, a bit more balanced reporting in the media would be nice and reading Sarah Carey’s column today led me to appreciate that the more I get a glimpse into the psyche of a Fine Gael die-hard, the more I realize the CJH phenomenon just had to happen. What I mean is, in the same way the Baroque style came about (late 16th Century ff) as an over-the-top response to the Protestant Reformation-so-called, so CJH went a little OTT to counterbalance the rather repressive (dare I say fascistic) tendencies of the more Anglo-Irish Protestant-orientated opposition, viz Fine Gale.
      Yes, great debate — Well done TG4 best yet.

    • Mick Farrell says:

      Go han maith ar fad. Well done in achieving a different debating style and to the moderator. Perhaps more as gaeilge debates in the Oireachteas is called for?

    • mamgay says:

      Ta tú i do Ghaeilgeoir a Harry. Cúis bhróid seachas brón a mhac.

    • liamascorcaigh says:

      Mise Éanna,
      séimhe mé ná an Chailleach Béarra;
      cearnógfad an ciorcal
      trasna bóird ó Aingeal Merkel.

      Mór mo dhóchas,
      IMF is hócas-pócas.
      Mór mo bhród,
      cuirfead an Ghaeilg’ i gceart faoin bhfód.

      Seo í mo ghraidhn,
      focal molta san Irish Times;
      Mór mo spraoi,
      im’ bhradán feasa ar RTE.

      Mo sceimhle bhuan,
      ag glacadh ceist’ ó Uinseann Brún.
      Olc mo chruatan,
      Fianna Fáil is Richard Bruton.

      Fáth mo bhuartha,
      an tír i bponc is mé á stiúradh;
      Fáth mo fhéile,
      glaine mo chroí is dath mo léine.

      Mise Éanna,
      suífead i gcathaoir de Valera.

    • gearoid oreilly says:

      It is a wrong that the leader of sinn fein was not included in the debate. Why was he not included when his party is within a horses head of over taking FF in the polls. I am of the opinion that the estiblishment in the Republic of Ireland are begrudgeing towards this party. The media estiblishment in the republic are out of touch with how things have changed on the island of Ireland. They think they can hang on to their old values like a comfort blanket, staying loyal to old political friends. The people of Ireland are intitled to full and inclusive debate. It is time for change.
      Shame on TG4 for not including Mr Adams

    • Jams O'Donnell says:

      RE Glenda Lough: Is dá scríobhfadh daoine a dtuairimí i nGaeilge é, bheadh daoine cosúil leatsa ag caitheamh anuas orthu…

    • Seosamhoc says:

      Enda was right in that it’s the only course that the Department’s rules say is compulsory(with the well known exceptions given out) but the fact of the matter is that due to it being necessary for many colleges almost every school makes Maths and English compulsory, since the actual obligation on students is the same I’d say it’s false to say that Irish is the only compulsory language.

    • Frank Jameson says:

      @Glenda It’s in English so you could understand it. There was also a commentary in Irish on the debate by Deaglan de Breadun.

    • pacsos says:

      What makes Ms Glenda Lough say this article was ‘Irish propoganda’?

    • JerryF says:

      Too bad the best Irish speaker in the race, Gerry Adams, was excluded. This was very undemocratic.

    • El Leader Maximo says:

      Riveting stuff. Country going down the tubes and we have a fake, hyprocritical debate in Irish with English sub-titles. Says it all about our priorities. World’s most hypocritical country.

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