THE new Minister for the Department of Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht Affairs put in a strong performance during his first ever Irish interview on Raidio na Gaeltachta which was broadcast on Friday morning.
Sinn Fein claimed “political expediency” was the primary motivation behind his promotion while others said it was another example of the Fine Gael government sticking up “two fingers” to the Irish language.
While the Carrigart native admitted his Irish was “not great”, he impressed many during his six-minute unscripted, but pre-recorded, interview with presenter Michelle Nic Grianna on the Barrscéalta current affairs programme.
According to a spokesperson for the station, Minister McHugh felt his Irish was not strong enough to do a live interview.
“We asked him a few times to come on air and he eventually agreed. However, he felt he was not confident enough to go on live, so we pre-recorded the interview,” the spokesperson said.
“In fairness to him, we did not provide him with the questions in advance, so he did quite well and held his own. But, he has a lot of work to do.”
During the interview, which you can listen to online at www.rte.ie/rnag/, Minister McHugh asked his detractors to “give me a chance”, adding that he was a dedicated student who was more than willing to learn the language.
He also claimed that, in recent nights, “when I’m sleeping, I’m thinking in Irish.”
In reaction to the interview, one caller to the station in Derrybeg said they had “heard worse” while others claimed his appointment was “a disgrace.”
The director of Oideas Gael, the Irish language and cultural centre in Glencolmcille, confirmed the Minister would be taking a ‘refresher course’ there next week.
Mr Liam Ó Cuinneagáin, however, defended McHugh’s appointment, pointing out that he wasn’t the first Minister for the Gaeltacht to start-out with little or no Irish.
“Fine Gael’s Tom O’Donnell from Limerick was appointed Minister for the Gaeltacht in the 1970s and he had little or know Irish,” Mr Ó Cuinneagáin stressed.