Current Affairs Politics The Irish Language - An Ghaeilge

Senator Dave, Deputy Mick, And The Native Tongue

With some interesting results in recent polls on the likely candidates for the Presidential election, I again return to the subject of would-be independent runner, Senator David Norris. Though the bould Senator seemed to have well and truly scuppered his election chances with some inopportune ‘wondering aloud’ (to be charitable) or ‘questionable views’ (to be rather more cynical), about the subject of ancient Greece, homosexuality, pederasty, the age of consent, incest and so on (all the bases covered there, Dave) he’s performed well in recent surveys with Seán and Síle Citizen.

Despite gaining the rather sudden enmity of some former bum chums in the Anglomedia establishment (some of a distinctly blue or red hue) he still seems a strong contender for the ‘liberal’ vote (no, I don’t know what that is either).

Rather unfortunately for Senator Dave his soapbox o’er the centre-left has got rather crowded with the entry of Labour’s Michael D. Higgins: politician, poet and all-round-do-gooder. Though Mickey D can seem a wee bit ‘country’ when placed besides Senator Dave’s ‘urban groove’, at least he doesn’t sound, um, you know… foreign (and not the good foreign either, if you know what I mean).

Though Higgins can be given to bursts of high-flung (and emotional) rhetoric, interspersed with all sorts of historical, mythological and poetical allusions, he is nowhere as plum-up-your-ass-bad as Norris, who could make a 50 euro hooker cringe with embarrassment (have you seen the Sen on TV around Bloomsday? Morto…).

However, that is not to take away from Senator Norris as a politician and a very active activist. He has, despite his comfy senatorial job, been a hell of a lot more dynamic, and rambunctious, than most denizens of Seanad Éireann. Indeed, most delights that did emanate from yonder place inevitably began with good ol’ Dave. And as an icon of Ireland’s Gay community he hasn’t done at all badly: a lovable, eccentric, vaguely Big House, and a rather non-threatening, teddybear radical (David Norris, everyone’s favourite Gay – which made the paedophile accusations all the more shocking to some).

Unfortunately for Seantor Dave and Deputy Mick they are very much selling the same wares to the same crowd. Only question is: who is VHS and who is Betamax? (that would be Blu-ray versus HD-DVD, for you younger types)

While Michael D’s ‘Irish’ credentials are fairly unassailable (the guy not only speaks Irish but actually writes poetry in it too), poor old Dave is not so fortunate. By all accounts, crib notes aside, his grasp of the national tongue would not exactly qualify him as the only Gael in the village (though who am I to throw stones?). Yet David Norris is standing for election to the office of Uachtarán na hÉireann, the President of Ireland. Not only that, but he is standing on a platform of being the outsider president, reaching out to the dispossessed, unrepresented, the plain folk of Irelan… er, weren’t we here before? Mary Robinson? Mary McAleese? Um, well anyway

In the pursuit of some of this ‘independent thinking’ that the Senator is selling I submitted the following question to the cheerily titled ‘Ask David’ section of his campaign website:

‘David, can you please tell us your views on the Irish language?

Do you believe in the full implementation of the Official Languages Act of 2003 across all state and semi-state bodies? What is your opinion of those state-funded departments or agencies that have attempted to derogate from implementation of the legislation and do you believe the Act goes far enough or should be broadened?

Additionally, in light of your long-standing advocacy for Gay Rights, and Human Rights in general, do you support full and equal rights between the Irish and English speaking communities on the island of Ireland, and how as the holder of the office of the President of Ireland would you lead the way towards a full and fair bilingual nation? What are the real and substantive steps that you would take while in office to support the national language of the state in comparison to the mere aspirational, fact-free sound bites that have been issued by others?’

Simple enough? A good question requiring a good answer and some of that new thinking Dave is promising to bring to the corridors of Áras an Uachtaráin. And the answer has been..?




Well, nothing actually. A big zero. In fact it’s been a total non-response. Maybe I was too radical, like asking a politician (who’s not a politician – he’s an independent… ahem…) what his real opinions are? Can’t have that now.

Or maybe, hey, when it comes to the Irish language and civil rights for all of Ireland’s people, good ol’ Dave just doesn’t give a flying fu-

Ok. Unfair? Maybe. He (or his team) can’t be expected to answer everything. But if he can handle touchstone issues like 1916, why hands off on Irish?

C’mon, Senator Norris! Step up and show us the kind of politician and candidate you claim to be. Ireland without the Irish language. What do you really think?

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