FG Gaeltacht spokesman will resit Leaving Cert Irish exam
FINE GAEL'S non-Gaelic fluent Gaeltacht spokesman Frank Feighan is going back to school -- to resit his Irish Leaving Cert.
Mr Feighan, who admits he was bottom of the class in Irish at school, attracted stinging criticism from a group of Irish scholars when he was appointed the party's Gaeltacht spokesman earlier this year.
But the Roscommon-South Leitrim TD says he's determined to prove his critics wrong and earn a distinction in the Irish paper next year.
He has been taking private language lessons at a school in Spiddal, Co Galway, and swotting up on the tricky tongue for up to two hours a night.
And last night he said he felt confident enough to take his Irish Leaving Cert next year and not fail it -- unlike his first time around.
"I'm giving the Irish my best shot," he said. "I've conceded that I'll never be fluent, but I've been taking private lessons and studying myself most nights.
"My goal now is to take my Leaving Cert next year. I failed it when I was at school, but I'm starting to gain in confidence. The way things are going I hope to do the exam next year and get the right result this time round."
Aside from his own personal Irish-language goals, Mr Feighan has also taken the first steps in a novel initiative to turn English-speaking Clare Island into a gaeltacht area.
He met with officials from the Department of Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs last Tuesday and laid the framework for turning the Co Mayo outpost's only school into a gaelscoil next year, as Clare Island embarks on a 20-year journey to become Irish-speaking again.
Officials at the department told island representatives they would back an initiative to make Irish the common language by 2030.
And they underlined the proposed gaelscoil as the first priority on the long road to making Irish the common tongue spoken by the 162 islanders.
Mr Feighan said department representatives were delighted with results of a survey conducted on the island, which showed more than 90 per cent of the adult population had backed the idea of the island becoming Irish-speaking. He said: "The department was very encouraging and extremely upbeat about the results of the survey.
"We will have another meeting on Clare Island in November, where we will form a new committee and discuss how to get Irish-language bodies like Udaras Na Gaeltachta and Conradh Na Gaeilge involved in the project.
"But the first step has been agreed in principle and that is to turn the primary school, St Patrick's, into a gaelscoil next year.
"It shouldn't pose too much of a problem as the school's principal and assistant principal are native Irish speakers," he said.
"Because of that the costs involved in forming a gaelscoil there would be minimal."