Not all speak same language despite efforts in the chamber


IRISH LANGUAGE morning in the Dáil passed off uneventfully on Wednesday. Unfortunately, it was eclipsed by the launch of the Government’s progress report.

Typical, you wait ages for a damp squib, then two come along in the same day.

That’s not to say the outbreak of Irish was not without its highlights.

The press gallery was packed for the occasion, which must have been gratifying for the Gaeilgeoirs. However, the large attendance was down to the fact that simultaneous translation was only available in the chamber. It was known for weeks that the Dáil would be conducting its main business on Wednesday morning through Irish, yet there weren’t enough headphones for TDs and members of the media.

Chief whip Paul Kehoe could only follow proceedings when Gaeltacht Minister Dinny McGinley handed over the earphones from his desk. Joe Higgins, with his beautiful Kerry Irish, was most discommoded by this shortage of equipment. Having thundered magnificently about “austerity” agus “an blackmail”, Joe was miffed to find his performance didn’t get the hoped-for reaction. He said he knew by the silence that half the chamber didn’t know what he was talking about (at least that’s what our interpreter told us.) The lack of heckling – apart from the always game Jerry Buttimer – was noticeable, as was the slack-jawed expression on many faces as the Taoiseach, Micheál Martin and Joe Higgins talked away.

But the most delicious moment came during the opening exchanges. Gerry Adams, who has the annoying trait of speaking in Irish first and then repeating it in English, seemed to be in some difficulty while Enda and Micheál were in full flow. He looked anxious.

Meanwhile, Aengus Ó Snodaigh, when he wasn’t whispering in his leader’s ear, was writing furiously, pumping out helpful notes faster than a Dell printer.

For some reason, there was a sudden outbreak of smirking and sniggering in the chamber. The offenders appeared to be looking at the Sinn Féin leader. Gerry, to their huge amusement, had just slipped on a pair of headphones. When it was his turn to speak, deputy Adams apologised for the standard of his Irish. “The Dáil knows that I do my very best to use my little bit of bad broken Irish every day, here and inside the House.” Enda commended him for making the effort adding: “I agree, he’s right, he is practising his Irish here.” Fair play to the Sinn Féin leader for trying to improve his Irish. Now maybe Aengus of the helpful notes might enlighten his boss further by telling him Dáil Éireann is the national parliament, not a grind school.