Irish lessons not learned yet as FG women seethe
Miriam Lord: Enda Kenny skips off to Brussels after saying he has every confidence in Joe McHugh’s language skills
Minister of State for Tourism and Sport Michael Ring with Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Paschal Donohoe on Dame Lane, Dublin, during the announcement that Fáilte Ireland, Tourism Ireland and Dublin’s tourism industry want to give Garth Brooks fans a weekend to remember in July. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins
There’s a grim summer in prospect for poor Joe McHugh. The new junior minister with responsibility for the Gaeltacht isn’t very good at speaking Irish.
In fact, when Joe braved his ministerial debut in the Dáil yesterday morning, he made Gerry Adams sound like Seán Bán Bhreathnach. And that’s saying something. The Sinn Féin leader is very sensitive about his proficiency in the native tongue. He doesn’t take too kindly to criticism.
He’s known to be quite grumpy with journalists who poke fun at his occasionally painful attempts to engage in the cúpla focal with Enda. So he wasn’t going to be too hard yesterday on Joe or Heather Humphreys, who is the senior Minister in the department and also a bit of a duffer when it comes to speaking the teanga.
Nonetheless, Gerry is not happy with a state of affairs where the two with responsibility for the Irish language don’t have a very good grasp of it. Earlier, his colleague Peadar Tóibín steamrolled Humphreys and McHugh with a torrent of questions as Gaeilge which they found very difficult to understand. They apologised for their lack of fluency and promised they will work hard to get up to speed.
“I have no doubt about your commitment to learn the language at this stage, but the Ministry for the Gaeltacht is not an Irish language course,” said Peader, rather prissily.
He should tell that to his leader. At times, Gerry Adams has apologised in the chamber for his ability in this regard, pointing out that the only way he will improve is by learning as he goes along.
Where the two new Ministers are concerned, it might be said that Adams is that soldier too. Except this might imply active service of some kind and Gerry was never a member any army.
Journey of discovery
“I was asleep last night and I was thinking in Irish,” Donegal’s McHugh told the Dáil, in stuttering Irish. “I was thinking in the language for the first time in a long time” he added, in English. The new junior minister hoped people would follow him on his “journey” of discovery and learn along with him.
The Taoiseach has full confidence in his man. He said he’s advised him to go off and do a course at a very good school in Donegal, “cos he’s got the language inside of him, but it’s rusty”.
The Opposition thought this hilarious.
Michael Noonan wondered where Adams, who was enjoying this little exchange at McHugh’s expense, learned his Irish. Long Kesh, replied Adams, with no small amount of pride.
One way or another, the Taoiseach confidently told the Dáil that Joe McHugh would be back in the chamber after the summer recess, a fluent speaker. Actually, it sounded more like an order than a challenge.
No pressure there so, Joe.
While this little bit of bilingual knockabout was happening in Leinster House, another new Minister was getting stuck into his portfolio at a photocall in a dingy laneway off Dublin’s Temple Bar. Paschal Donohoe, aided and abetted by his shameless sidekick, Michael Ring, was working himself into his tourism brief by way of a bale of hay, a cowboy hat and a silly grin.
They were helping to announce a “City & Western” jamboree in the city to take place on the last weekend of this month as an alternative to the cancelled Garth Brooks concerts. Leaning on a bockety bolster of straw draped in the stars and stripes, they posed for the cameras between two whiskey barrels, a few empty beer kegs and some wheelie bins.
Then they gamely burst into a few bars of Friends in Low Places as the alleyway cats surrendered themselves to the DSPCA. We hear that High Plains Paschal (pleasing light tenor with a touch of falsetto) was removed from the scene by handlers after fears that the Ringo Kid, singing along with gusto, might rupture his senior Minister’s eardrums.
After their morning visit to the laneway in the heart of Dublin’s pub and club district, they must have stank of Jeyes Fluid for the rest of the day.
Back in Leinster House, Enda nipped away to Brussels and left the order of business in the capable hands of Michael Noonan.
This also meant that he didn’t have to put up with the murderous glances of many of his backbenchers, peeved at being overlooked in the Minister of State share-out.
Make no mistake, but the Fine Gael women are still fuming about the omission of any female representation in Enda’s eight.
“They’re like savages today,” said one male backbencher, going heavy on the hyperbole.
Just quietly seething.