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Monday 22 September 2014

New Gaeltacht minister Joe McHugh: 'We've started reading Irish language books to our children'

Geraldine Gittens

Published 23/07/2014 | 14:20

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Donegal TD Joe McHugh

GAELTACHT Minister Joe McHugh has started reading Irish language books to his three children as a way to “fully immerse” his family in the language.

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The 43-year-old, who was appointed last week, arrived at Oideas Gael college in Glencolmcille, Co Donegal this week to learn the language he has been charged with promoting.

The new Minister of State with responsibility of Gaeltacht Affairs told RTE’s Today With Sean O’Rourke that he is at the start of a personal journey.

Mr McHugh’s wife Olwyn, and their three children who are under five years of age, have thrown themselves into the Irish language.

“We bought our first Irish book to read de na páisti. We’ve been reading bedtime stories as béarla but this week we bought our first Irish book.”

“I’m at the start of my journey towards improving [my Irish] and while the language is obviously the talking point, it’s the Gaeltacht portfolio that I’m fully immersing myself in.”

Is é mo thuairm, tá an bother fada ach tá mé ag obair.” [“It’s my opinion that it’s a long road, but I’m working at it.”]

Mr McHugh says people are already putting pressure on him to speak Irish, since people who even have broken Irish are speaking “cúpla focal” to him.

“Once I got the news on Tuesday, once Gaeltacht was mentioned, and I had the discussion with the Taoiseach on what I had to do, I knew in my own heart the job I have to do is fully immerse myself in Irish. That will mean spending time with my own parish.

“People are speaking to me in Irish. People are coming to me with the cúpla focal, and they’re putting the pressure on me, putting me “faoi bhrú” to speak Irish.”

“I’m trying to fully immerse myself in this language and I’d just like to thank all the people from my own county and throughout the country, and further afield, for the good will that has been expressed, to help me along.”

Despite the criticism Mr McHugh faced when appointed as chief minister for the Irish language, he was put in a high-grade class for this week’s studies.

“[The classes] are going great. I must say Oideas Gael in Glencolmcille is a great spot. While I’m learning is ag foghlaim sa rang, bim ag caint leis na daoine... ta me ag baint le suilt as. I’m enjoying myself,” the minister said.

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