Saturday, December 23, 2017


COMHAR mór-eagrán na Nollag 2017
Click on any image for a larger version

I went to yet another launch in the RIA on 11 December last.

Part of my interest was in the launch of the bumper Christmas issue of COMHAR. It is hard to describe this publication and the contribution it has made to life and literature since its foundation but its Wikipedia entry gives an idea of what it is about:
Comhar has as its stated aims to be a journal of first choice for writers, scholars, critics and readers of Irish, to publish the best of new writing in Irish, to be a high-quality forum for analysis and discussion of current affairs, to provide intellectual stimulation and be a platform for debate.

It was founded in 1942, and has published work by some of the most notable writers in Irish, including Máirtín Ó Cadhain, Seán Ó Ríordáin, Máirtín Ó Direáin, Máire Mhac an tSaoi and Brendan Behan.
I have been twice published myself in its hallowed pages.

My first contribution in 1974 had the byline "by our political correspondent". That was me, but I was working in the Department of Finance at the time and did not think it appropriate to have my name appearing under a political article however innocuous. Among other things the article pointed out that the then current use of the SWINGOMETER for analysing interparty swings in UK elections was not suited to analysing the Welsh returns. At UK level the display showed swings between tories and labour whereas the real swing within Wales was between labour on the one hand and Plaid Cymru (the Welsh nationalist party) and the Liberals on the other.

My second contribution was in 2001 when I reported on some significant features of the Welsh National Eisteddfod of that year. It was at this Eisteddfod that the coveted Bardic Chair was first won by a woman and the festival generally had many features which could profitably have been taken up by the Irish language movement.

Also being launched that evening was the book Leathbháideoirí by Marie Whelton. I doubt if I'll get round to reading this as I have a pile of unread books a mile high at home.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar

In the interest of transparency, however, I should probably reveal the covert purpose of my attendance. The publications were being launched by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and the evenings proceedings would be in Irish. I was curious about his level of competence in the language.

After all, his predecessor, Enda Kenny, was renowned for his fluency in the language, though as I have pointed out, his grammar was not always up to scratch. Enda, it will be remembered, appointed a Minister for the Gaeltacht and the Irish language whose command of it was at best ropey at the time. Leo has appointed a Minister for Culture (including the language) whose Irish is ropey and who does not intend to do anything about it.

So what is Leo's Irish like? Well, to give him his due, it is fluent. The grammar could do with some polishing, though not having spoken to him myself, I'm not sure where to draw a line between his script and his oral performance. However, he seems enthusiastic, is unashamedly learning, and is committing himself to use Irish at every available opportunity. He won't save the language but may acquit himself well on this score.

In this summing up I think I am on the same wavelength as Breandán Delap who has written the following in this year's COMHAR:
"Tá smeadar Gaeilge ag Leo Vardkar agus bíonn sé toilteanach í a labhairt leis na meáin cé go bhfuil sé briotach go maith go fóill"
Comhar Márta 2017 lth8/9

"Bhí an Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, i measc 70 duine ar bronnadh teastais sa Ghaeilge Ghairmiúil orthu ag searmanas i dTeach an Ard-Mhéara i mBaile Átha Cliath i mí Meán Fómhhair. Cúrsa deich seachtaine de chuid Gaelchultúr a bhí i gceist."
Comhar Nollaig 2017 lth 18

Marie Whelton & Leo Varadkar

While I was there I spotted Aodh Ó Domhnaill on the cover of the March issue and my acuity earned me a free copy. I have reported elsewhere on the content relating to Aisteoirí Bulfin in this issue.

1 comment:

Póló said...

Incidentally, there is a good piece by Liam Mac Cóil on Tomás Ó Floinn in the Christmas issue. I sort of knew Tomás. He adjudicated our school debates and was one of my interviewers when I put in to go to Bruges in 1967.