Zappone: Why I now plan to learn Irish after 35 years here
Children's Minister Katherine Zappone has revealed why she has decided to overcome her fears and is determined to learn Irish in the Co Donegal Gaeltacht.
US-born Ms Zappone, who has lived in Ireland since 1983 and been an Irish citizen since 1995, said she was finally confronting an ambition she had had for a very long time.
She is now determined to learn "the language of saints, scholars and poets".
"This is something I have long thought about but never started, perhaps a little daunted because I am starting from a base of zero and, in the past, I have found new languages difficult," she told the Irish Independent of her plans to study in Co Donegal later this month.
Ms Zappone said she had for many years been inspired by the "grá" Irish speakers shown for the language.
"I first witnessed the love for Irish when I arrived in Ireland in 1983. Friends who were teaching their children a 'cúpla focal' from the very beginning deeply impressed me. Here was a living language spoken in family homes, among family, friends and colleagues," she said.
The Independent TD for Dublin South-West believes Irish is a language of the arts and culture in Ireland.
"As a lover of poetry, I could listen and feel but not understand the beautiful words of poets like Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill. Irish is the language of the arts, it raises our passions and our spirits," she said.
Ms Zappone, who also served as an Independent senator from 2011 until she was elected a TD in February 2016, said she had also been impressed by politicians, across all parties, who had shown a commitment to Gaeilge.
"The issues of the day come alive when Micheál Martin and Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin debate in our native tongue.
"Their passionate words fill the Dáil chamber," she said.
The Children's Minister said she looked forward to engaging with people through Irish if they wished to use it.
Her department had already taken some steps to facilitate greater use of the language.