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Islanders urged to revive Irish

The wheels were set in motion yesterday to turn the English-speaking population of an island off the west coast into Irish speakers in just 20 years.

Fine Gael's Gaeltacht spokesman Frank Feighan -- who admitted he would never be fluent in Irish -- visited the tiny Clare Island, off the west coast of Mayo, to outline his proposal to foster an Irish speaking community.

The Roscommon-South Leitrim TD's recent appointment as spokesman on Gaeltacht Affairs provoked criticism as he does not speak Irish -- and he admitted yesterday he will never master the tricky tongue.

But yesterday, he said his meeting with island chiefs went so well, he would spearhead a new campaign to transform other sizeable English-speaking outposts into Gaeltacht areas.

"I'm pleased to say things went very well. The islanders were very receptive to the proposal and a few things were agreed," he said after his return to the mainland.

Mr Feighan said he said he was confident that by 2030 Irish would be the common tongue spoken by the island's 160 inhabitants.

"I think that this can definitely be achieved over on Clare Island, because people there are very receptive to it.

"I think that in 20 years, Irish could be the dominant language spoken by islanders," he said.

"And I don't see any reason why the same cant be achieved on other islands of a similar size, like Inishbofin, Inishturk and Sherkin, off Co Cork."

"I left school after 13 years of being taught the language with barely a word of it.

"I've recently taken up lessons and I'm improving all the time. But I know I will never be fluent," he said.

Belfast Telegraph