New Gaeltacht ministers who can't speak Irish 'will become fluent'
Both Gaeltacht ministers will soon be fluent in conversational Irish and will show people that it is easy to learn the language, the Taoiseach has pledged.
Enda Kenny yesterday defended his appointment of both a senior and junior minister to Gaeltacht affairs who cannot speak Irish.
"The minister, Heather Humphreys, and the Minister of State, Joe McHugh, by their example of immersing themselves in the language to be conversationally fluent will demonstrate to a great number of people throughout the country that it is quite easy to learn the Irish language," Mr Kenny told the Dail.
"They will be fluent in a short time," he added in Irish.
Mr McHugh said he is beginning lessons at Oideas Gael in Gleann Cholm Cille, in his native Donegal, this weekend and he has also organised a tutor at Leinster House.
Ms Humphreys also pledged to "brush up her Irish" and do all she can to defend the language.
But Fine Gael TD Sean Kyne, who represents the Connemara Gaeltacht, circulated colleagues with a letter in Irish and English seeking submissions on the future of the language.
Mr Kyne, who re-learned the language and chairs the party's Irish language committee, said the correspondence was routine and he regularly sends out bilingual circulars.
"There is nothing more to this. A decision has been made on the appointments," he said in reply to a question from the Irish Independent.
Mr McHugh told the Dail that one person alone cannot save the language. "I think this is about ensuring that the job is done correctly and I'm certainly going to do the best of my ability," the Junior Gaeltacht minister added.
Sinn Fein's Peadar Toibin said he had no doubt about Mr McHugh's commitment to learn the language but the Gaeltacht Department was not an Irish language course.
Fianna Fail arts spokesman Sean O Fearghail recalled the protest by 10,000 people in Dublin last February to protest about the status of the language and what they see as this Government's lack of commitment.