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A bit Irish

• What seems to have gone unnoticed in Ireland is that the removal of Bertie Ahern from his bunker in north Dublin represents a great loss to the Irish language. During his time there, Drumcondra became almost 100pc Irish-speaking as a result of his unrelenting enthusiasm for the language he loves. While other politicians were feathering their own nests, Bertie was selflessly creating the first true suburban Gaeltacht.

As the local seanachai, Bertie used his native tongue to great effect in spinning yarns about the heroism of Fianna Fail, and how, singlehandedly, he slayed the monstrous Celtic Tiger.

Bertie was never at ease in English but was a confident and fluent Irish speaker. He would reach for the idiomatic use of the language at the slightest provocation. He would regularly declare, "nil aon tintean mar do thintean fein" (there is no place like home), not worrying about the relevance of the utterance to the circumstances, but he loved the sound of it.

He used Irish with devastating effect when the Mahon Tribunal unreasonably implied he was a liar. Without a moment's reflection he reached for "aithnionn ciarog ciarog eile" ( it takes one to know one). I have it from sources close to Mr Ahern that members of the tribunal broke into a spontaneous standing ovation; there was no way they could put down this giant of a man.

Bertie's star performance was left for his resignation statement. He had to dig deep to find an appropriate translation for, "I had better do a runner before I'm done for". He settled for "Is fearr rith maith na drocsheasamh", taking this to mean "he who runs away lives to fight another day", though he preferred the more flattering literal translation "it is better to make a good run than a bad stand".

"Ni bheidh a leithead ann aris" (we shall never see his like again) declared a close friend -- Bertie adding a seriously misplaced "buiochas le Dia" (thanks be to God), unwittingly speaking for those who would be glad to see the end of him. It was the only occasion where his grasp of Irish misfired, being overcome by the sudden news of an unbelievably big win on the horses.

A sad footnote to all of this is that if you visit Dublin, as I have done recently, you will find that since Bertie's departure the people of Drumcondra have lost the will to speak Irish; some have lost the will to live, and house prices have plummeted.

Philip O'Neill
Oxford, UK

Irish Independent