No Irish for Seachtain na Gaeilge fortnight on Gaeilge day in the Dáil

Tokenism of the cúpla focail day turns a bit Oirish as Minister responds as Béarla

It was up to Minister of State for the Gaeltacht Dinny McGinley to whisper sweet translations in the ear of the senior Minister taking leaders’ questions

It was up to Minister of State for the Gaeltacht Dinny McGinley to whisper sweet translations in the ear of the senior Minister taking leaders’ questions


If it’s true that everything flows from the top down, well, then it’s bye bye Irish.

Certainly it’s so long, farewell and an ironic slán to respect for the ’aul lingo based on what happened in the Dáil yesterday.

It’s written in stone, well Oirish stone at any rate, that on one tokenistic day during Seachtain na Gaeilge(which an observer pointed out lasts more than a fortnight ), leaders’ questions are asked and answered through Irish.

But they couldn’t even manage the tokenism of a single Lá na Gaeilge. And this from a State that successfully campaigned for Irish to have costly official language status at EU level.

Where were the leaders (all of whom speak Irish) for leaders’ questions? Not one of them was in the Dáil. Certainly the Taoiseach was wearing the green and spreading the economic “is feidir linn” in the US. The Tánaiste was no doubt doing a more European version of it all, in Paris.

No sign either of the Fianna Fáil or Sinn Féin leaders but then they don’t get to set the dates for such ceremonial cúpla focail occasions. Nobody might have noticed the tokenism of it all had Irish day been on Wednesday when the Gaeilge-speaking leaders were in the House.

The senior Minister for the Gaeltacht, who doesn’t speak fluent Irish, wasn’t there yesterday. It was up to Minister of State for the Gaeltacht Dinny McGinley to whisper sweet translations in the ear of the senior Minister taking leaders’ questions.

Richard Bruton put his hands up straight away and ochón, ochóned for his lack of Irish. He conceded that his cúpla focail were not sufficient for him to feel comfortable answering questions about affairs of State as Gaeilge, even though the economist in him noted that 1,500 hours of Irish language tuition go into every student’s 14 years in the school system.

So he stuck to the Béarla to answer questions about the Garda penalty point controversy and Fianna Fáil’s Dara Calleary, who’s fairly fluirseach as Gaeilge, gave up the pretence that there was anything of the first language in the day, switching to English to ask his questions. He sought an apology from the Minister for Justice over his comments about the whistleblowers and asked was the word sorry “not in his dictionary”.

Sinn Féin’s Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked about apologies from both the Minister for Justice and the Garda Commissioner. Both questioned the Taoiseach’s defence of the Minister’s failure to apologise. Richard insisted the Minister “has been fully accountable”.

After the debacle of the Dáil’s Lá na Gaeilge, the Taoiseach and Tánaiste might both be asked to apologise themselves.

Aengus highlighted the mess. It’s “disastrous”, he said, that when the day was set aside for Irish there wasn’t a senior Minister available to take leaders’ questions or the order of business through Irish.

“I’m not blaming you, Minister,” he told Richard as Gaeilge. In fact, as a fluent Irish speaker, he stuck to the principle of the day and kept to Irish throughout. In Irish he expressed his outrage. It was the “wrong story for the world, and it’s an insult for those of us who are making an effort to have at least one day in the year to advance Irish in this chamber”.

But time passes. There’s a recess next week for all the St Patrick’s activities. And no doubt when the Dáil returns on the 25th, all the fuss and bother of ceremonial Irish promotion will be forgotten about – in English-speaking land – and it’ll just be business as usual.

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