Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 December 2014

Enda Kenny defends appointment of Gaeltacht Minister without fluent Irish

Fine Gael's Joe McHugh
Fine Gael's Joe McHugh

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has defended the appointment of two ministers to the Department Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht who do not speak fluent Irish.

Mr Kenny said it was an insult to suggest Minister Heather Humphreys and Junior Minister Joe McHugh could not learn Irish.

He was responding to Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams, who said the Taoiseach should address the lack of Irish among his ministers.

Speaking in the Dail, Mr Kenny said Mr McHugh had "the language inside him” but it was rusty.

He said the two ministers' efforts to improve their Irish would encourage others to learn the language.

Meanwhile, Mr McHugh has urged people to join him on his “journey” to learn the Irish language.

Mr McHugh defended his lack of Irish by saying he did live close to a Gaeltacht region in Donegal.

Under questioning from Irish speaking politicians, Mr McHugh said he understood their questions but did not have the confidence to reply in Irish.

The Donegal TD and the newly appointed senior Minister in the Department of Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht, Heather Humprheys, struggled with the native language during their first Dail debate.

Sinn Fein’s Peadar Toibin said for the first time Irish language documents would have to be translated into English for the ministers and the department's first language would now be English.

“You are saying to children ‘learn Irish, speak it among yourselves, speak it among your families but don’t speak it to us because we don’t have it,'” Mr Toibin said.

Mr McHugh said many people achieved good results in their Leaving Cert irish exams but do not have the confidence to speak as Gaeilge.

“I am asking people to maybe follow me on my journey,” he said. "There is a barrier to getting people involved in the language."

He added: “I was born outside the Gaeltacht but I live close to the Gaeltacht.”

Ms Humphreys said she was “committed” to the protection and enhancement Irish language.

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