Joan and Gerry flunk Irish language debate, Enda says no thanks to Micheál…

Really, I’m not joking. Honestly, one minute there was going to be a four way debate. Now, at the very last minute, there’s not even going to be one.  And here’s how it happened, blow by blow according to the Irish Times…

…the proposal ran to ground after Labour offered Minister of State Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, a fluent speaker, as a substitute, and Sinn Féin suggestedPearse Doherty, a native speaker from Gweedore in the Donegal Gaeltacht.

The proposal was not acceptable to Fianna Fáil which argued that a leaders’ debate should be confined to leaders alone.

As an alternative the party suggest a two-way debate between Mr Martin andMr Kenny.

Fine Gael said the Taoiseach had always been amenable to a four-way, or to a seven-way debate. A spokeswoman said yesterday that when TG4 said that neither was possible, no other alternative was put forward by the broadcaster.

It’s not a surprise that Joan’s Irish is not up to the mark, nor even Gerry’s committed but limited Gaoltacht blas.  Most striking is Enda’s unwillingness to take on Micheál Martin in a TV debate that’s likely to have a very limited demographic impact on the election overall.

Perhaps it reflects nervousness over the party’s position across the west where any such debate is mostly likely to have an impact. We are down to a race in which absolutely every last unpredictable seat is going to be fought house by house, street by street, and clachan ar gclachan

Here’s what we’re getting instead…

The new arrangement will involve searching one-on-one interviews with Mr Kenny and Mr Martin, followed by a segment involving Mr Ó Ríordáin and Mr Doherty.

Sources in TG4 said the outcome was disappointing but it was the only realistic option it had, once two parties suggested substitutes.

Hmmm…

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  • Kevin Breslin

    Ireland’s a Parliamentary democracy, Fianna Fáil should allow the substitutes for the sake of Irish and the sake of democracy. Not everyone will be voting in Mayo, Dublin West, Louth and Cork South Central.

    Didn’t the North have Máirtín Ó Muilleoir vs. Doiminic Ó Brolcháin debate on radio, maybe that will happen between Enda and Míchael.

  • mickfealty

    The first clue is in the original title Kev (Leaders debate). The second is just how that frame fell apart. If you choose to pay attention it may be *very* telling.

    One, you can see why Irish went to the wall in NI. You might also ask why the Taoiseach doesn’t want to face Martin without a political foil, even with relative low numbers in a TG4 two way.

  • Kevin Breslin

    We had a “leader’s debate” in NI for Westminster where the only real leaders were Jim and Mike and neither were even standing for election.

    If Kenny is to blame for not wanting to face Martin head to head, Martin has his own questions about not wanting the stand ins.

    Not having the debate is probably the worst outcome. I’d have Eastwood and McGuinness debate with access to an Irish dictionary and an online iPad before this non-event.

  • mickfealty

    You’re obviously not an Irish speaker then? That would be an atrociously pandering affair that would satisfy no one.

    I don’t care particularly for leaders debates, but given we get spokesmen 30 times a day competing with each other for a voice, this is an poor but telling outcome.

    If you’re a political leader and fail to pass muster for an Irish language debate with other party leaders it should be publicly noted, given the [often false] emphasis it is often given.

    I’m surprised at Enda. The margins are small at this end of the competition, which tells us FG have serious concerns.

  • Croiteir

    And google translate linked into a speech recognition program – I can see that working

  • Nevin

    “If you’re a political leader and fail to pass muster for an Irish language debate with other party leaders it should be publicly noted”

    I’d have thought that eloquence or lack of it in Irish by these four leaders would already be well known; caterwauling in Irish would no more likely cut the mustard with the electorate than the caterwauling in English that the viewers were subjected to on TV3.

    “I’m surprised at Enda.”

    I’m not; IMO Micheál is a much more eloquent and self-confident speaker; Enda played the safety in numbers card. These ‘beauty contests’ shed little light on a leader’s ability to lead or to manage the important business of governance.

    “Honestly, one minute there was going to be a four way debate.”

    I don’t believe it got beyond the stage of a TG4 proposal. Had TG4 shown a little more imagination there could probably have been a four-party debate of at least the quality of the TV3 one.

  • Nevin

    I’m with you on this one, Kevin. Also, governance is a team sport, not an individual pursuit, and the MSM is driven by ratings, not the quality of democracy.

  • Kevin Breslin

    I got 35% in TEG at a Meanrang level, probably could make silver fainne level. My view is “Is Fearr Gaelige Briste”.

  • the rich get richer

    All this two/three/four…way stuff is kind of just political eroticism…. then throw in that sexy gaelic….and I am there for the taking !

  • Dan

    Anyhow, why isn’t Adams fluent?
    He’s had decades to learn.

  • Jollyraj

    Apparently it isn’t all that important to him, really

  • Barneyt

    Ye see, at first I thought this was cultural snobbery and I still think some of this is at work with regard to the native tongue. If you come from the North, there is a fair chance you will not have been exposed to an education system or general society that allows Irish skills to develop. You will suffer further if your parents and grandparents are also unskilled, which is not uncommon. Perhaps you have politically elightened parents and they decide to send you to a state school in the north, to perhaps integrate or learn about non-Irish cultures (British). Again, another nail in the Irish skills coffin.

    Now, whilst not so acute, I would say there are more opportunities in the ROI to become an English speaker (first language) than a native Irish speaker. The language should not be used to identify a cultural elite and therefore expose the “unabled” as being less than Irish due to this understandable impediment.

    There is a window for learning and unless you are personally driven and pursue the Irish subject, you are screwed without the right background.

    There is however some incongruity here, and I can see why many would like to poke fun, expose and humiliate Gerry for not commanding the language, given his parties public commitment to the language cause and attempts at establishing the language (or key phrases) in the Assembly.

    I personally believe there is mileage in giving the language presence and asserting the right of use, however personally I would want to back it up with hardened Irish skills, particularly if I was the leader of SF for example. Perhaps its a “too old for the dog to learn new tricks” scenario and I would still expect that to be understood.

    We know Gerry is from NI. We know the likelihood of being from the North and being Irish fluent is limited….so whilst my sympathy is somewhat limited, I regard this as elitism and on some level, cultural apartheid is at work.

  • Zig70

    Snobbery when it comes to the Irish language is unattractive and unwelcome. I struggle with any language. I forget them at a whim with lack of use. If this story ran it would look worse for the haughty Enda than for Gerry grafting at it. Anyone who has made the effort is always treated with courtesy in my experience. This just adds to the narrative that Enda knows he is weak in debates.

  • Ian Rate

    14 years learning Irish and I haven’t a clue what silver Fannie level is or what you have in inverted commas.
    Irish should be allowed to exist without state support and die gracefully.

    On the debate … if they debated in Irish nobody would listen and they would lie with impunity.

  • Gingray

    Is that right Zeno? Sorry, Jollyraj 😉

  • Jollyraj

    You think I’m Zeno? I’m sure there’s more than just Z and meself that’s amused by Gerry’s pidgin/prison Irish 😉

  • Jollyraj

    “On the debate … if they debated in Irish nobody would listen and they would lie with impunity.”

    Exactly. So might as well just do it in English then. Same result.

  • Jollyraj

    “asserting the right of use”

    Nothing nor nobody is stopping Mr Adams, beyond his own apparent lack of fluency. Can’t blame the unionists because he’s been too lazy to learn a language his party makes a point of insisting that others should learn.

  • Concubhar O Liathain

    It’s a false premise that led to the cancellation of the debate. Adams is fluent enough to speak Irish in the Dáíl regularly and to pepper his speeches with Irish and to use it in conversations. Back when I had conversations with him, he spoke Irish to me fluently. This withdrawal from the TG4 debate is tactical and strategic, not necessary.

  • Reader

    Barneyt: Perhaps you have politically elightened parents and they decide to send you to a state school in the north, to perhaps integrate or learn about non-Irish cultures (British). Again, another nail in the Irish skills coffin.
    Whereas most of my children spent most of their time in maintained schools in the north, and they don’t know any Irish either…

  • Sir Rantsalot

    Conc, in the Dail he has prepared his words at home. He, like the other chuckies, has a few words he can throw into a conversation. That’s about it.