Minister for the Gaeltacht (Irish language areas) Joe McHugh is top of the class at his renewed effort to improve his Gaelic.
In his second term at the Irish language school in Glencolmcille, Co. Donegal, he is learning how to better his Gaelic from a native New Yorker.
Coilin O’Floinn, born on Long Island, learned his Gaelic in his native city from a Gweedore native, Padraig O’Cearbhaill, who taught Irish in New York University.
He loved the language so much that he has been teaching at Glencolmcille during summer for 10 years, and he is now also teaching Irish teachers the language. He recently joined the Irish department of St. Patrick’s teachers’ training college in Dublin.
“The minister’s Irish is very good. There was a lot of talk about him not being up to scratch,” O’Floinn said.
“He is constantly asking questions in class. He is very interested, not just in the Donegal Irish but making sure he understands Irish in the other areas as well and that makes my job easy.”
Before 44-year-old McHugh started learning Irish at the school last year a week after he was appointed minister, there was criticism that he was the wrong appointment to promote a language in which he wasn’t fluent.
His confidence in his Irish fluency after one year working with it has prompted him to instill new strength in weaker Gaeltacht areas.
“What we’re trying to do now with the Department of Education is to fully resource those weaker Gaeltacht schools to give them improved necessary and teaching resources,” McHugh said.
“Those policies are going to be put in place by end of the year. It’s up to us as a government to put those resources in place and I am confident that will happen.”
The minister’s week-long Glencolmcille course, which he started on Monday, is shared with 50 pupils at the school including arrivals from the U.S., Canada, France, Spain and Holland.