These comments from March 2013, following the death of Hugo Chavez:

President Michael D Higgins:

“President Chavez achieved a great deal during his term in office, particularly in the area of social development and poverty reduction”

Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams:

“President Chávez worked tirelessly to improve the lives of Venezuelan citizens. He dedicated himself to building a new and radical society in Venezuela.  His progressive social and economic changes took millions out of poverty.”

And this from yesterday’s Washington Post:

“Venezuela is stuck in a doom loop that’s become a death spiral.    Its stores are empty, its people are starving, and its government is to blame. It has tried to repeal the law of supply and demand, and, in the process, eliminated any incentive for businesses to actually sell things. The result is that the country with the largest oil reserves in the world now has to resort to forced labor just to try to feed itself.”

Just sayin’.


President Michael D. Higgins, in his inaugural address said: “… it is time to turn to an older wisdom that, while respecting material comfort and security as a basic right of all, also recognises that many of the most valuable things in life cannot be measured.”

Hang on a minute: does everybody have a basic right to material comfort, to be provided by the state if one’s own resources or efforts fail to deliver? What about the incurably indolent member of society?

The provision for needy citizens of basic shelter, and the avoidance of real hunger, admittedly seem reasonable demands on the State in any civilised country. But actual comfort?

I can probably live with Higgins’s assertion that “security” is a basic right, on the grounds that security is ill-defined and can mean different things to different people.

But comfort? This is just careless waffle, surely?

Did I miss a United Nations Declaration to the effect that everybody has a right not to be uncomfortable?  (The nearest the Universal Declaration of Human Rights comes is in Article 25, which says “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.”)

So, coincidentally or otherwise, we have elected as President the only candidate who actually can converse in our first official language (that’s the Irish language by the way).

From Irish Times on 19th October, reporting on the televised presidential debate held on our national Irish-language TV station, TG4.:

Only one of the seven, Mr [Michael D.] Higgins, is fluent in Irish. The format of the debate had each of the candidates read a short prepared statement in Irish. The debate, chaired by current affairs presenter Páidí Ó Lionáird, was conducted mostly in English, with Mr Higgins speaking in Irish.

The other candidates (surprise, surprise) all spoke of their desire to be fluent in the language, and promised to promote Irish if elected.  Translation: more coercion for the plebs, more taxpayers’ money to be wasted, but I can’t be bothered myself to learn the language.  Such hypocrisy.

This is both revealing and embarrassing.  We are the only EU country whose first official language is not spoken by the general  population.  6 out of 7 candidates for the highest office in our country never thought it necessary or important enough, throughout their entire career, to be sufficiently familiar with the Irish language to carry on a conversation.  And yet we spend tens of millions of euros annually in maintaining the fiction that Irish is a living language.

Fewer than 1% of Dáil and Senate debates are conducted in Irish, but Fianna Fáil succeeded (sic) in getting Irish recognised as a working language in the European Union.  So taxpayers have to pay for a small army of translators to be available just in case an MEP wants to use a cúpla focal.

Bad as that is, the cost is probably small compared to the millions wasted as a result of the Official Languages Act 2003.  For instance, Section 9(3) says that “The public has the right to expect that public bodies will send information …. to the public in general or to a class of the public in general in Irish or bilingually”.  So every piece of official bumph is 100% larger than it needs to be because it’s printed in both English and Irish.  You don’t get to choose which language you want your copy of a particular booklet to be written in; instead you get a jumbo version printed in both languages, which is wasteful beyond belief.

Our new President claims credit for establishing TG4 fifteen years ago.  It costs €33 million annually to run, and has an audience share of under 3%, basically a rounding error.  Indeed I suspect many of those viewers are watching subtitled programming in the second national language, or catching up on televised sport (for instance, Wimbledon tennis,  which bizarrely is transmitted live by TG4 with an Irish language commentary).

Previous Puckstownlane posts on this topic:  here and here.  And Michael Lewis exposed the folly of our Irish language posturing in his Vanity fair article, referenced here.  Ouch.