New Gaeltacht minister aims to be star pupil in Irish
GAELTACHT Minister Joe McHugh has gone back to school to learn the language he has been charged with promoting.
The 43-year-old, who was appointed last week, wore jeans and an open-necked shirt like most other students when he arrived at Oideas Gael college in Glencolmcille, Co Donegal.
Despite the criticism he faced when appointed as chief minister for the Irish language, he was put in a high-grade class for this week's studies. College director Liam O Cuinneagain was impressed enough to put him in level three of a four-level categorisation.
The minister, who has twice before attended the college, admitted he had actually tried to get into a lower-grade class.
He said: "I tried to push myself into Level Two but the director wouldn't hear of it."
Mr McHugh added: "I understand the criticism on my appointment. There was a fear that I wouldn't be able to do the job if I was solely communicating in Irish.
"My parents didn't speak Irish, and you have to speak Irish in the home to be fluent at it.
"But I can work bilingually and I have a wonderful translation service in the department."
Meanwhile Mr O Cuinneagain said: "Joe McHugh is like most typical Irish citizens that went through 12 years of Irish language.
"He had a job that didn't use Irish, so he has gone rusty. But he will do really well.
"I know it is his job to promote the language, but the most effective way of promoting it is to be a speaker as well."