Opposition anger at 'farce' of tongue-tied minister
Published 14/03/2014 | 02:30
THE Opposition has slammed the "farcical scenario" where the Government could not provide a single minister fluent in Irish to take Dail proceedings during Seachtain na Gaeilge.
There were bizarre scenes in Leinster House after Jobs Minister Richard Bruton admitted that he could only respond in English during a debate that was scheduled to be conducted in Irish.
The Government had agreed to a request from Sinn Fein that yesterday's Leader's Questions would be conducted in Irish to mark Seachtain na Gaeilge.
But it emerged that Mr Bruton, who is not a fluent speaker, was the most senior minister available to represent the Coalition due to the annual exodus of ministers abroad for the St Patrick's Day celebrations.
Mr Bruton was forced to receive translations from Minister of State for Gaelteacht Affairs Dinny McGinley as Sinn Fein's Aengus O Snodaigh bombarded him with questions on the fallout from the Garda Inspectorate report.
During the debate, Mr Bruton admitted that he didn't feel "competent" enough to conduct the debate in Irish.
"Unfortunately I can't, I wouldn't like to mislead in answering the questions inaccurately in any way," he told the Dail.
Mr Bruton later defended the Government's record on promoting Irish, which he said has improved in recent years.
"Like many others who have been through our school system, I think we probably sat through 1,500 hours... of teaching of Irish. But I wouldn't feel competent to answer questions with the sort of exactitude that would be necessary in this house – as Gaeilge – and as a result, I wouldn't do that.
"I acknowledge clearly there are others who can and I think to be fair to the Taoiseach and Tanaiste and ministers, there's a far greater amount of Irish used in this house now than there was in the many years I have served here." Mr O Snodaigh said the absence of an Irish-speaking minister was "disastrous".