First priority for new Gaeltacht minister is to brush up on his Irish
THE new Minister for the Gaeltacht is on his way to the Gaeltacht – in hopes of learning Irish.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny yesterday appointed a second minister who has no functional Irish speaking skills to the department responsible for Gaeltacht affairs.
But Mr Kenny pledged that the new junior minister, Joe McHugh, had already signed up for an Irish language refresher course at a centre in his native Donegal.
However, former Gaeltacht Minister Eamon O Cuiv was scathing.
"If you were hiring a lorry driver would you hire someone and send them to driving school? Or, would you hire somebody who could drive?" the Fianna Fail TD for Galway West said.
Mr O Cuiv said it was an insult to Irish speakers and Gaeltacht communities which could have been easily avoided by a simple switch of personnel.
He said Aodhan O Riordain of Labour was an Irish speaker, appointed a junior minister for equality and culture, and also assigned to the department which includes Gaeltacht affairs.
The secretary general of Conradh na Gaeilge, Julian de Spainn, said the appointment meant that meetings about the future of the language would now have to be conducted in English.
Deputy McHugh replaces veteran Dinny McGinley, who is a native Irish speaker, and who has announced he will retire at the next election.
The Taoiseach, himself a fluent Irish speaker, appointed Heather Humphreys as Minister for Arts, Culture & Gaeltacht, last week and she admitted that she has "very little Irish".
"The cold fact is that politicians don't speak Irish much. Joe McHugh won't be found wanting in fighting the cause of the Gaeltacht, and the job involves more than just the Irish language," a spokesperson for Mr Kenny said.