Josepha Madigan has not taken any Irish classes since becoming Minister with Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht almost a year ago.
The minister confirmed that she has not brushed up on her cúpla focail but insisted she got a ‘B’ in honours Irish in her Leaving Certificate three decades ago.
Launching the public consultation on the Government’s Heritage 2030 plan, Ms Madigan said: “I got a B in my honours Irish 30 years ago. I try to use it in all my speeches. I don’t think there is one speech I have ever made in almost a year now, at the end of this month since I started [as minister], that I haven’t used my Irish.
“I did a degree in French and German as well, so languages are something that are very close to me. When I get the opportunity, I try to speak a little bit of it and we are lucky that we have a very new Minister for the Gaeltacht in Sean Kyne who has statutory responsibility for the Gaeltacht, and I think he is doing a very good job in promoting the language,” Ms Madigan said.
Mr Kyne succeeded Joe McHugh as the junior minister in the department after the recent mini-reshuffle caused by the resignation of Denis Naughten. Ms Madigan also defended the amount allocated to the Irish language as part of Budget 2019.
Separately, she encouraged children to give their view on a new heritage plan being developed as “they have a valuable contribution to make and it is going to be their Ireland and their world”.
“Sometimes they are more at home with nature than we are as adults in terms of flora and fauna and doing their nature tables and all of those sorts of things.
“In some senses, they are a lot more aware of recycling and small climate change actions that they can take.
“They have an understanding in a way that we don’t.”
Heritage Ireland 2030 — which will be based on around the themes of national leadership; supporting stronger heritage partnerships, and building community and local involvement in heritage — will guide the Government’s heritage priorities in the next decade and beyond. This included the €285m commitment to heritage in the department’s 10-year investment plan.
Ms Madigan said she would like to see the teaching of heritage, currently taking place at primary school level, extended to secondary schools.