first day

Here's how the new Gaeltacht minister got on answering a question as Gaeilge

Dúirt Joe McHugh nach bhuil sé muiníneach sa teanga go fóill.

Hugh O'Connell / YouTube

THERE WERE MORE THAN a cúpla focal flying around the Dáil today as new Gaeltacht Minster Joe McHugh was robustly challenged on his fluency in Irish.

Taking the first questions under his new brief, McHugh was defiant, saying that he has the ability to understand people and will be looking to improve.

“There’s no question of motivation, there’s a question of confidence, muinín,” he told Sinn Féin’s Peadar Tóibín.

When Donegal TD McHugh was confirmed as Minister of State with special responsibility for Gaeltacht matters yesterday his competency in the language was immediately questioned.

The newly appointed senior minister in his department, Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Heather Humphreys, also does not have fluent Irish and both were repeatedly asked Dáil questions in the language this morning.

McHugh began by reading a pre-prepared Irish language answer to a question from Fianna Fáil’s Michael Kitt. The Junior Minster did not deviate from the statement and appeared shaky at a number of points throughout the speech.

Tóibín followed the statement with a withering assessment of the suitability of McHugh and Humphreys for their respective jobs saying that, with them in charge, the “working language at the department becomes English”:

When people give out about English language documents being translated to Irish we’re now going to have to have Irish language documents translated to English so that the ministers can understand them.

McHugh accepted that he needs to improve and even sought to portray it as an advantage, comparing himself to the many people in the country who have some level of the language with a desire to use it more:

It’s about bringing the Irish language into people’s living rooms, into people’s houses, into people’s homes. Oíche aréir bhí mé ag smaoineamh an teanga, I was thinking the language for the first time in a long time. I think we have to get people thinking the language, ag smaoineamh an teanga.

“It’s about reaching out to people that people who got Cs, Bs and As in the Leaving Cert, don’t speak it but have a grá for the language and want to speak it more.”

“There is a barrier for people getting people involved in the Irish language,” he added.

Humpreys was also asked a number of questions about her department in Irish but she responded to them in English.

Hugh O'Connell / YouTube

Read: 70-year-old Irish language board closes >

Read: 11 songs that will take you right back to your days in the Gaeltacht >

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