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Poet questions Irish language skills of Adams

Ciaran Carson

A SENIOR Irish language poet from west Belfast voiced doubts about the linguistic proficiency of an Irish language deputation, which included Gerry Adams, to the Arts Council in 1985.

The concerns raised by Ciaran Carson, now Professor of Poetry at Queen's University, appear in previously confidential files from 1987.

Among his concerns were also doubts about the capacity of Sinn Féin to advise on the issue of Irish.

The remarks followed a meeting Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams led to the Arts Council in April 1986 as the campaign for greater recognition of Irish intensified post Anglo Irish Agreement.

During the meeting Mr Adams, the then MP for West Belfast, was supported by his party colleague, Maírtín O Muilleoir as head of the Sinn Féin Cultural Department.

He saw the language revival as "a populist working class phenomenon with no elitist overtones" and urged an injection of cash for Irish language activities.

In a memo to officials, Ciaran Carson made two observations, firstly that "the delegation was not fully representative of the Irish language movement in west Belfast. Neither Cluain Ard, the traditional focal point of the language (in the area) nor the Shaw's Road Gaeltacht was represented."

This suggested to him that "some groups did not wish to be associated with Sinn Féin".

Mr Carson was also critical of the linguistic proficiency of the delegation, telling officials: "Most of those present seem to have a barely competent grasp of the phonetics of the language."

Finally, he doubted Sinn Féin's "capacity to advise on these matter."

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