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Stranded in a land of lies where the people worship dead language

DEAR Minister for External Relations with Other Lands.

DEAR Minister for External Relations with Other Lands.

Greetings, O Manly One! Listen - is there any chance I can come home now? Your humble ambassador has been in Ireland for four years now, and I understand it less every day. I long for the common sense of dear old Sierra Leone, and the civilities of my beloved Freetown. Some Irish men - and not a few women - apparently think the stroke of midnight is a signal to beat a stranger - any stranger - unconscious.

Fortunately, my hospitality budget - ?35 per annum: is it surely not time for a retroactive increase, sire? - rather restricts my opportunities for nocturnal safaris, and therefore the number of occasions on which I can be beaten into a macedoine d'ambassadeur.

However, the reason for my applying to return home has nothing to do with the violence or the bad manner of Dublin people, or that Dublin Bus apparently thinks that punctuality is something from The Sex Pistols. It is the fundamental dishonesty of the Irish people. They tell lies to themselves the whole time. Their politicians spin yarns, and call them speeches. Their broadcasters live in a world of depraved conceit. And as for their newspaper columnists - words fail me.

O Phallic Supremo, hear me now. This week Ireland is celebrating the accession of Irish as an official language of the European Union. But almost no-one in Ireland speaks the language. Indeed, Lord of all Jungles, Master of the Main, half a dozen East European languages, Urdu and at least two forms of Chinese, are more spoken in Ireland than Irish.

When a TD (Irish for MP, Your Tempestuous Serenity) speaks in the Dail (Irish for parliament, O Perpetually Tumescent Stallion) the rest of his colleagues flee like a herd of impala being attacked by hyena. Moreover, if a politician wants to say something he wants no-one to understand, he will get one of the few fluent Irish-speakers in the land to write out his speech in Irish, and will - using his finger - then fumblingly recite it to an empty house.

A Belgian television crew spent a morning recently asking people on Grafton Street in Dublin for directions to a pub, but in Irish. One person - one person - understood the question.

So even though the language is dead - Erse in a hearse is how I have heard it described: later, minister, later - the Irish government has managed to persuade the EU to accept it as an official European language. Thousands of documents are to be translated into Irish, at a cost of millions, though almost no-one will ever read them.

But the real irrelevance of the language, and its token-status in Europe, emerged in a footnote to all the witless brouhaha about its debut in Europe. In order to address the European parliament in Irish, and therefore arrange for translation into the English which the speaker already speaks, one has to give three months' notice.

Think about it. Three months' notice for a speech in Irish. So if an Irish-speaking MEP heard an EU proposal that in a week's time Ireland was to be the next Bikini Atoll, and wanted to address the issue in the country's first national tongue, the island would long since have been molten glass by the time he or she rose. Despite this utter frivolousness, Irish politicians have continued to preen themselves upon the new 'European' status of a language almost none of them can speak.

But of the politicians here, there is more. The office of a slightly risible junior minister of indeterminate duties, by the name of Tony Killeen, has been petitioning for the release of two men, a murderer and a serial sex-offender of children, from jail (imagine what Europeans would say about us Africans if a member of our Esteemed National Assembly tried to free a paedophile and a killer?). This creature sought exoneration on the grounds that his office writes 22,000 petitioning letters a year.

Twenty two thousand, Minister, twenty two thousand, and all paid for by the state: as are his poor secretaries, the wretches.

I presume - without being absolutely sure, Oh Slayer of a Hundred Leopards & Pleasurer of a Million Loins - that other TDs also write endlessly to people of influence. Which would suggest that Irish national politicians - never mind local councillors and other functionaries - send about two million begging letters a year. So how does government here function in such a corrupt culture of wheedling supplication and personal favouritism, and all of it, naturally, conducted in English?

O Erect Sublimity, I no longer wish to know. I yearn for the ethical simplicities and transparent honesty of Sierra Leone, where people only say they speak languages they actually speak, and where politicians do not each write about five hundred letters a week in a language they pretend is not their own.

Moreover, O Sage of The Tropics, I yearn too for the efficient free-flow traffic system of Freetown. To this end, humbly and desperately, I seek to return to my beloved country, away from this accursed land of pathological petitioners and bogus-Irish speakers.

Is mise le meas,

Toby Ornotobee