Conradh na Gaeilge questions Madigan appointment to Gaeltacht position
Josepha Madigan has said she will not commit to taking Irish language classes
Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Josepha Madigan (right) with Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation Heather Humphreys at Áras an Uachtaráin last week.
Conradh na Gaeilge has questioned the appointment Josepha Madigan as Minister for the Gaeltacht after she said she did not feel it necessary to take Irish language classes.
Ms Madigan, who replaced Heather Humphreys as head of the Department of Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht last week, said on Sunday she believed her Irish language abilities were sufficient for her new position in Government.
Speaking on RTÉ’S The Week in Politics, Ms Madigan said she had studied Irish at honours level for 12 years, saying “I still have that Irish in me”.
She continued that she would not commit to taking additional Irish language classes.
“I’m not going to make a promise that I’m going to study Irish in case I cannot follow it through but obviously I’m very passionate about languages,” she said.
Ms Madigan studied French and German at university and described languages as “very important” to her. She also commended Taoiseach Leo Varadkar for taking the time to attend Irish language classes.
“I think your proficiency and fluency in a language doesn’t mean that you don’t love the language,” said Ms Madigan.”Obviously I would have been quite proficient some 30 years ago so yes, I probably will try and endeavour to make it a little bit stronger.”
Cuan Ó Seireadáin from the Irish language forum Conradh na Gaeilge defended the Minister’s decision to speak honestly about her level of Irish but warned that appointing a Minister for Gaeltacht without sufficient language skills would be unfair to people who choose to communicate with the department through Irish.
“It’s a disadvantage to her also, as it makes it more challenging for her to understand the concerns of the Irish-speaking and Gaeltacht communities,” said Mr Ó Seireadáin. “We’re very happy to meet with the minister and discuss the situation in the Gaeltacht with her. Things are very difficult there right now with high levels of unemployment, and a decline in population.
“An Irish Language and Gaeltacht Investment plan agreed by over 80 Irish-language and Gaeltacht community groups has been prepared as a response, and we’d like to discuss that with her.”
Mr Ó Seireadáin also questioned the Taoiseach’s decision to appoint a minister without fluent Irish to the Gaeltacht position. “Then there’s the question around why she accepted the position without the necessary language skills. And finally there’s the question about whether she’ll make an effort to improve those skills.”
Mr Ó Seireadáin complimented the Taoiseach on his recent efforts to improve his Irish, saying he had set “a very good personal example”.
“But you have to think about his Government’s policies and how they’re affecting the local Gaeltacht communities,” he added. “The Government can do much more to ensure that the most precious part of our cultural heritage is protected and strengthened going forward.”