Gerry, we missed you on TG4

Many many years ago, when I was about to moderate a long forgotten election debate on BBCNI, an eminent Irish speaker rang me up and offered to supply me with a tough question for Gerry Adams in Irish. To have accepted would have been entirely wrong from every point of view.  It would have shown up the BBC as biased against the Sinn Fein leader by using an obvious trick to expose what was then believed to be his very limited command of the First Official. And even more to the point than getting myself fired,  I would have been left stumped  when he replied in even the most basic Irish as he undoubtedly would have.  And by the way, I’m not in the least proud of my ignorance of Irish due to our divided educational system, it’s a real  deficiency).

Gerry Adams may flaunt his Irish at every public opportunity with a greeting and a few opening sentences, but how fluent in it is he really these days?  It’s not much more than a bit of fun, but I dearly missed his presence in the TG 4 leaders’ debate (not that I’d have watched it but I would have enjoyed the reports.)  I would like to know more about how the line up was shortened compared to the five person cast of the first RTE debate.  A credibility test was missed. Luckily for Gerry or not?

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  • Henry94

    I think the effort Adams made to learn Irish have given great encouragement to people starting off and trying to improve. Hearing a fluent native speaker is full flow is great but hearing someone willing to use the Irish they have even if it is less than perfect is inspirational.

    an eminent Irish speaker rang me up and offered to supply me with a tough question for Gerry Adams in Irish

    Adams is not the ignorant person in that story.

  • Kadfoomsa

    Actually he wasnt invited but he himself was up for it.

    He did give an indepth interview on RnaG on Friday morning.

    Important to get facts straight.

    Given that Margaret Ritchie has no Irish whatsoever I was surprised to see them kite flying the standard of Gerry Adam’s Irish on twitter

  • Antoin Mac C.

    Enda Kenny-I’m a teacher,i like irish,vote 4 me.I’m dumb,but i’m not as dumb as brian the wino.I go to mass.
    I can pray because i read.

    Enda Kenny made a quite startlin observation on tg4 the other night.Irish people cant string 5 sentences together

    1}Tiocfaidh Ar Law
    2]Taw ar law ag teacht
    3]Beidh An Law Linn
    4]Taw ar law anseo,ansin,anois,saor agus gaelach
    4.a]Taw ar law ag teacht aris
    5]Marig an tae a yenis olc is be-is bocht ina dhiaidh,ger,enda eamo and joesy smiggins-pog mo thoin

  • Kadfoomsa

    One more point, whilst I would echo Henry’s point that Adams’ willingness to use “líofa lofa” Irish is very positive I think that someone of his and Sinn Féin’s resources should get him some intensive one on one instruction and get his Irish polished.

    I say that only because he is a senior politican.

  • Antoin Mac C.

    Is feidir leis an rialtais sasanach go leir mo thoin a phoga ach sin sin,nil me ag iarraidh bata mor na poilini suas mo taobh fior,

    186 euro=186euro

    186euro unemployment benifit=186

    186 – 186 + 186 = 186

  • Antoin Mac C.

    is e an t-aon briongleoid a taw fucka agam naw na daw liathroidai a taw agam a chur i mbeail an bhanrion nuair a thagann si go dti bheal MO TI,an bhliain seo chugainn,
    scaoil amach an bubileen,

  • Antoin Mac C.

    oro se do bheatha bhaila,anois ar teacht an bhan-rion
    beidh oglaigh na ngael ag teach thar saille ag ruagairt poig
    o’n bheanrion…..scaoil amach an bubileen…..direach amach o bhaie na ngadai….scaoil amach an bubileen….anois ar theacht an bhanrion

  • serak

    It’s very easy to question Gerry Adams’ credibility but on this point I don’t think you’ll have much success.

  • oracle

    Henry94 Kadfoomsa

    Have you ant idea how silly you two look making excuses for Gerry Adam’s Irish.

    This man has been trying to speak Irish for 40 years or more, he speaks Irish like a beginner who only just started last year not someone who’s been surrounded by it for forty years day in day out with access to irish speakers on formal and informal levels, centres for irish courses, irish language learnng tapes and a never ending list or Irish teachers helping him.

    Why don’t you just admit that he is THICK anyone who has ever had a one to one conversation with him off the hymn sheet soon realise that he’s nowhere near as bright as everyone is led to believe.

  • oracle

    If at first you don’t succeed try and try again… but if it’s forty plus years of trying to speak a language…. GIVE UP you’re obviously too stupid to learn

  • oracle

    Unless it’s the special Connolly House Irish you must have seen the Sinn Fein election posters for years

    “Votail Sinn Fein”

    When da fuck did they ever put the letter V in the Irish alphabet, the Shinners immitating the Ulster-Scots people just making it up as they go along.

  • Zachariah Tiffins Foot

    I’ll say at the outset that I’ve no problem with anyone who wants to speak Irish, or indeed strangulate English until it submits as Ulster-Scots. But really come on folks to elevate it to the point where it actually matters if a public figure can speak it fluently is pretty silly.

    I’ll only mention the costs to taxpayers, North and South, to translate material from a language (English) that all understand to another (Irish) that few understand simply to say, IMHO, it is a waste of scarce funds.

    Language is the primary communication tool, and, as in most things people will vote with their feet (or in this case their mouths). English has won the communication war in Ireland and, like fair colleens dancing at the crossroads, Irish as the default spoken choice ain’t going to happen.

    As I’ve said earlier if speaking Irish floats your boat – enjoy. Everyone should have an esoteric interest in their lives. Indeed I was once sat beside a guy on a long-haul flight who assured me that when, as I thought, he was clearing phlegm from his throat he was actually speaking Klingon. I would also enjoy it if Turgon on this site posted in Sindarin or Quenya. But come on now the issues we all face in the real world are too important to get distracted over such nonsense.

  • Antoin Mac C.

    mor mo phian,mo clann fein a dhiol a mhathair,uagnai me na chaillach bhearra,me a rug cuculainn crowga,mise eire mise balor,mise lu leis an laimhfhada……propaganda spreadin over me name,say u wana bring another life to shame,man yer just a playin a game,but den u draw bad card,and u make wrong move,i make u draw bad card…an then u make wrong move…..ah yeh u draw bad card….more me naira,sibhse ciontach,a dhiol mo mhathair

  • Antoin Mac C.

    and then u draw bad card

  • Rory Carr

    “he [Adams] speaks Irish like a beginner who only just started last year…”

    And how fluent in Irish are you, Oracle, that you are able to judge?

  • ItwasSammyMcNally


    Very impressive indeed that the 3 leaders debated in Irish and surely that is main story here rather than speculation on Gerry’s fluency.

  • I quite enjoyed the TG4 debate and I called it for Gilmore though Kenny and Martin both put in strong performances. If, doubtful in Gilmore’s case, their English is better than their Irish, that gave them less wriggle room and thus a better debate. All boxed well however.
    Martin had the disadvantage of using Munster Irish, which has lost out on the offical stakes to Conamara Irish, which the other two used (assuming Mayo Irish is a deviant of the dominant Conamara dialect). As Kenny’s constituiency includes three Gaeltachtai, he would have to be more up to speed with it than the others.

    When considering the case of Mr Adams, Mr Gilmore is probably the metric. Gilmore’s education began through the medium of Irish and he was a member of the Official Republican Movement, led by such luminaries as Cathal Goulding who learned his native tongue partly through the legendary Martin O’Caidhean.

    Mary Robinson, who comes from an Anglo Irish collaborationist family, learned Irish after the dirty tricks against the late Mr Lenihan saw her elected President. Mr Adams has written some books and rarely if ever attended the parliaments he was elected to. Many former PIRA prisoners learned their native tongue in the Kesh, the Bog or H Blocks.
    Why, when Gerry Adams was banged up with Denis Donaldson, Darky Hughes and Bobby Sands, did he not study harder? Did he not have Mary Robinson’s weork ethic?

    A problem with the Irish language and the Catholic rites is they get hijacked for political expediency. This is most notable in Republican graveyard gigs when a few decades of the Rosary are recited to show that the assembled rabble are sound on the language question. Mr Adams would be no stranger to this scam.
    If Mr Adams was serious about the Irish language, he could tune into RnaG as he is choppered or chauffered around the Emerald Isle. Maybe his interest extends to only using it for graveyard advantage.
    As Gilmore et al show, if Adams wants to be in the big boys’ league, he will have to go back to school and learn economics, peeferably in both English and Irish.
    One suspects, however, when considering Sinn Fein’s leaders, they were not the best and brigtgest in the class. One thinks of schoolyard bullies, copying their exercise, bringing the teacher excuses and going home to their dysfunctional families.

  • ItwasSammyMcNally


    Excellent background there.

    ps really no extra value in the Sluggeresque style anti SF burst towards the end.

  • I remember Adams doing a presser at Hillsborough a few years ago during some talks or other, when he was asked a question in Irish at the end. Adams answered, although it was clear from the reporter’s irritated reaction that it didn’t make sense.

  • oracle

    Rory carr,

    I think your attempted defence of Adams through deflection (Typical SF ploy) speaks volumes. It was heartening for you to admit that Adams does speak Irish like a beginner who has only started recently…. as you didn’t deny this.

    Now if he is stumbling and bumbling his way through political interviews in monosalabic verse embarrassing the Christ out of every Gael in the land and no one in SF is prepared to say STOP hold on, this is a shambles worse than any Paddy-irishman joke…

    What does that say about the Quality of the SF rank and file, and why can he not master a language after 40 years, just how thick is he.

  • ItwasSammyMcNally


    I’m not sure whether you had intended or antcipated the usual round of Sluggeresque criticisms of Gerry when you penned this aricle – which substantively is a really good news story for the irish language?

    Belfast Gonzo,

    Although modesty seems to prevent Gerry from talking of his own role in the insurgency, I’m sure you will agree that actually running that insurgency was more than a full time job and perhaps we can forgive him some of his ‘alleged’ shortcomings in Irish.

    His fluency in his native tongue would put the majority of his fellow Irish politicians to shame – wouldnt you agree though?


    I presume you dont realise that Unionist puzzlement (and bitterness) towards Gerry shines out clearly from behind what are cleary generalised pejoratory remarks becuase of his success (in both languages) in communicating Republican and Nationalist views and gaining and retaining a greater audcience than could be hoped for by any Unionist politicans?

    Rory, Alan

    I dont know if you are familiar with Frongoch (see link below), some very interesting goings on there , and it is amusing at the suprise amongst the Irish insurgents that the local Welsh had a far greater command of their language than those actually fighting and dying for their country.

  • Oracle: A lot of Irish nationalists have not, of course, a word of Irish; well except for the TAL etc.
    The interesting thing about Messrs McGuinness and Adams is why they never knuckled down to learn it, even for expediency’s sake. Perhaps it is the same reason why they got no education and no stable job.
    Mairtin O’Caidhean is, alas, long gone and he did resurrect the linguistic fortunes of many a brave bhoy.
    Sean Lemass, I have heard tell, did not speak Irish. But he had street cred. (He also did his Leaving if my memory serves me correctly). Tommy McKearney has more than passable Irish. I guess Tommy McKeanrey, what with being raised in a burcher’s shop, is a knuckler downer. I guess the others are not.
    On proper debates, in any language, McGuinness and Adams are easy meat. A drover’s dog, as the Australains say, can parrot about Brits Out, securocrats and the rest. Gerry just does not do his homework.

  • ItwasSammyMcNally: What fluency? And how dare you smear poor Gerry with your unfounded allegations!

  • Chris Donnelly

    I think had you have followed the advice of the ‘Irish speakers’ then you would have rightly been viewed as acting in a petty manner. Indeed, many unionists do themselves a great disservice by constantly seeking to attack the language and its speakers, republican or otherwise.

    I don’t speak Irish fluently, knowing only a number of prayers, functional statements and basic conversational comments, but would applaud anyone who goes to the lengths to incorporate Irish (or indeed any other second language) into their life.

    In any case, perhaps a 5-party invite would have provided the party with the excuse to put up Pearse Doherty, who is clearly fluent in the language.

  • Cynic2


    You post reveals a lot. Embarrassing Gerry would have got you fired.

    Now why would that have been? Because at every stage the gates have been held open and the Securocrat sheepdogs have gently shooed him on


    But who will now do that in Dublin? perhaps the dogs down there have more teeth

  • PaulT

    I seem to recall Ms Foster of the DUP been lampooned recently for her poor grasp of English,

    Not forgetting that Ulster-Scots bodies seem to conduct business entirely in English,

    so perhaps Mr Adams deserves some praise

    I myself found to my surprise that with no education I was able to speak and read Ulster-Scots almost fluently (by speaking English with a Ballymena accent, for some reason)

    Perhaps for the Assembly elections we could have a Leaders debate in this er…..language, I for one would pay good money to attend

  • Mark

    The dogs down here have false teeth Cynic2 .

  • Munsterview

    Itwas…… ” ps really no extra value in the Sluggeresque style anti SF burst towards the end….”

    Is this not the object of the exercise with some posters and this one in particular ? The subject matter commented on is but the peg to hang an anti-Sinn Fein rant on !

    There are but two objectives in this type of post, the first and most blatantly obvious is to put the boot into Republicans at every available opportunity and the second is to do everything possible to prevent any meaningful public exchanges between Republicans and other political viewpoints where there is any possibility of an emerging consensus.

    If such attitudes were mainstream in both Republicanism and Unionism, then we would not have a Peace Process, limited and all as this may be. Far from attempting to expand and consolidate that Peace process, such posters would be quite happy to see Republicans excluded from the political process irrespective of their electoral mandate or indeed the increased militant activity that would inevitably fill the vacuum.

    It is to the credit of the Unionist electorate that when that proposition was put to them by Turgon et al, it was overwhelmingly and derisory rejected. Likewise the Sinn Fein majority electoral figures in the North and indeed the additional SDLP segment of the electorate show that the views of ‘maskey the unmasked’ do not even merit the derisory low single percentage support from the Nationalist electorate that Turgon and his party got from from the Unionist electorate.

  • perseus

    exactly MV these posts are as empty as a TUV ballot box

  • granni trixie

    I am astonished that anyone would criticise Arlene Foster for her grasp of English. She is comes across as one of the most intelligent and articulate MLAs in the DUP – one destined for top positions (eg First Minister). I do think that at times she uses expressions reflecting a rural up bringing – but,born and bred in Belfast, to me these are charming.

  • joeCanuck

    I am wondering where the ball is here so that I can give a relevant comment. Anyone know?

  • wee buns

    Ball left the pitch Joe, way back in….can’t be bothered to search for it. Would have perhaps dropped a comment myself.

  • 1. Brian Walker posted about the recent debate in Irish between, as the compere put it, the three possible Taoisigh. These three are the leaders of the three main respectable parties in Ireland. Mr Adams is not a possible Taoiseach and he is not the leader of a respectable party.
    2. Mr Walker, who admits he has more or less the same level of Irish as Mr Adams, admits he would not even have watched the debate.
    3. The debate may be watched here:
    4. I am listening to it again as I mis type and continuing to monitor the Irish of the three. As regards the Irish, Gilmore is in the lead but is nowhere near the blas of the compere. That said, all three are very credible, Kenny’s few stumbles have as much to do with the material as with the language. Few of them make major grammatical faux pas.
    5. It is obvious all three have worked on their Irish over the years, with Gilmore, for possible reasons I already alluded to, being the most liofa, with Kenny having the best blas.
    6. For true republicans like me, the blas, or polish or presentation of the language is important. Gilmore, in particular, is a solid performer in Irish but the other two are far from being disasters. They could front up on any Nuacht programme.
    7. Mr Walker lamented that Mr Adams was not on the show, that the tail was not wagging the dog. It was pointed out that Mr Adams is not a possible Taoiseach and that he is not liofa in the language. Mr Pearse Doherty, a proven liar on national television, is not a substitute as this was a debate between posisble taoisigh. Mr Adams does not belong in this debate or the real leaders’ debate. Like Mr Adams, Mr Doherty cannot be regardede as educated by modern standards.
    8 Mr Adams is a very divisive character for reasons that do not need much elaboration. Suffice to say he is suspected of a string of serious crimes and there seems to be very strong evidence against him.
    9. Yet his followers worship him as a god the same way the Thais worship His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej. Though I am a committed Connolly Socialist, I respect the blind love Thais have for their King and his family.
    10. Though the reverence Sinn Feiners give to their King closely resembles that the Thais give to His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej, many people think this is not deserved. (Both are suspected of murder by the way).
    11. Now it seems to be a fact that Mr Adams is not fully fluent in Irish and that a debate in Irish is therefore better off without him. However, pointing that out gets the Sinn Feiners to reach for their metaphorical shelelaghs. Sinn Fein have a record of physical and emotional blackmail and terror and Mr Adams has been implicated in the very worst examples of that. His minions feel they have to defend him the way the Thais would rightly defend the honour and integrity of their beloved king.
    12. Though Chris Donnelly freely admits he is deficient in Irish, he feels Sinn Fein have a right to be on any debate and, if their leader is not up to the jobv to send a yes man, even if the yes man speaks with forked tongue. Repsectable parties don’t send in substitutes. Leaders are asupposed to be on top of their brief. No copying the homework.
    13. Other Sinn Fein supporters suffer from psychoses and like to divert debates into their own autobiographical sideways and byways.
    14. These hijackers seem as ignorant about key loggers and related software astheir leaders are about Irish and economics. When time and opportunity allows, I might give a 101 but sin sceal eile. Perarls before swine I guess.
    15. 21 minutes in and Gilmore is still giving it a lash as is Kenny. Gilmore, who was able to say Anglo Irish Bank in Irish, made one or two English words by mistake but with some practice, all three of them woud be as good in Irish as they are in English. Maybe Gerry Adams would be too;)

  • ItwasSammyMcNally


    “I am wondering where the ball is here so that I can give a relevant comment. Anyone know?”

    The ‘problem’ is there are 2 balls on the pitch – both introduced by the referee Brian, the substantive story here is the debate in Irish by the 3 main party leaders – but Brian appears to have built-in a whataboutery-clause regarding Gerry’s fluency – both balls still in play – so take your pick.

  • billythekid

    There is no shortage of balls here.

  • Dewi

    All three leaders were very impressive – couldn’t match that in Wales to be honest. Labour and Plaid OK – Tory leader has a little Welsh and Lib Dem none.

  • ItwasSammyMcNally


    Its not often we have the ‘bate-ing’ of you on the language issue (unlike, of course, on the Rugby field)

  • EdgarDavids

    In fairness to old Gerry his Irish isn’t half as bad as his grasp of economic issues lol!