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Thread: Ahern's Historic Speech to the House of Commons

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    Post Ahern's Historic Speech to the House of Commons

    Mr Speaker, Lord Speaker, Prime Minister, Distinguished Guests, I am grateful for your welcome and I am honoured to be the first Taoiseach to speak here at the heart of British parliamentary democracy.

    But I speak not for myself today; I speak for the Irish people and for the history and the best hopes of our two island nations, yours and mine.

    Today, following as it does so many remarkable days, is a new and glad departure in an old and extraordinary relationship.

    Ours is a close, complex and difficult history. But now with energy and resolve this generation is leaving the past behind, building friendship and laying the foundation for a lasting partnership of common interests between our two islands.

    For over two centuries, great Irishmen came to Westminster to be a voice for the voiceless of Ireland and at times a conscience for Britain too.

    I am thinking above all of Daniel O'Connell and of Charles Stewart Parnell, but the tradition is long and noble. And their struggle to further the cause of the Irish nation in this parliament resonated across the Irish Sea through the lives of every Irish person.

    Those who travelled that sea to take a seat in this place believed in the proposition that democratic politics, however imperfect, is not, first and foremost, a career or a means of acquiring power. Rather it was, and is, the surest way to secure and advance a fair society.

    This year, Britain commemorates the 200th anniversary of the Act of this Parliament that ended the appalling wrong that was the Atlantic slave trade.

    This happened despite powerful interests that argued the financial costs of abolition. But in one of the most remarkable examples of a collective political act on moral grounds, those interests were overcome. It was a moment of great moral authority and one of the great stepping-stones to freedom.

    In the words of Daniel O'Connell who died 160 years ago today:

    'There is nothing politically right that is morally wrong.'

    And it was this faith too that was turned to the cause of the rights of the Irish people.

    It was O'Connell who built a mass civil rights movement to achieve Catholic emancipation, and then to take on the cause of the repeal of the Act of Union.

    The movement was founded firmly on principles of non-violence, and became an inspiration for peoples everywhere, confirming the power of an idea that again and again has changed the world. That idea is an inspiration to Irish people to this day.

    O'Connell was also the champion of a wider and generous liberal tradition which looked far beyond Ireland's shores to right injustice and support the weak and the poor.

    Two generations later, Parnell and his colleagues used their disciplined mastery of the parliamentary system to force the issue of Home Rule to the center of British politics and in so doing created the first modern political party in these islands.

    We remember too that it was Ireland that first elected a woman, Constance Markiewicz, to the House of Commons - although she chose instead to take her seat in the first Dáil as elected by the Irish people.

    Mr Speaker, Lord Speaker,

    The historical relationship of Ireland and Britain too often seemed as if it could be more accurately measured out in repression and rebellions, over cycles of decades and centuries. Conflicts have become synonymous with years - 1169, 1690, 1798, 1916 and into the recent agony of the Troubles.

    It is a litany that too often seemed to confirm the inevitability of conflict between us.

    But, it was never the whole story - and now in our day and generation, we have seen the dawning of a new era.

    In an act full of the symbolism of new days of hope and promise in Ireland, I had the honour last week to welcome the new First Minister of Northern Ireland, the Right Honourable Ian Paisley, MP, to the site of the Battle of the Boyne.

    This was a battle for power in these islands and also part of a wider European conflict. Its outcome resounds through the centuries of Irish and British history to this very day.

    That time marked the beginning of an unbroken period of parliamentary democracy in this country. But its legacy in Ireland has always been a matter of deep contention and division.

    It is surely a miracle of our age that the undisputed leader of Ulster unionism can meet with the leader of the Irish Government, on that battlefield, in a spirit of friendship and mutual respect.

    The intertwined history of Ireland and Britain was - let us not deny the truth - in large measure indeed a story of division and conflict, of conquest, suppression and resistance.

    But, of course, there are episodes in that story which are a source of pride - just as there are others that are rightly a source of regret and anguish.

    Last year, I was proud to commemorate the 90th Anniversary of the 1916 Rising. It was a hinge of history - and the turning of events has continued since.

    Those who fought did so in pursuit of a state which, in the words of the 1916 Proclamation, 'guarantees religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens and declares its resolve to pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation and all of its parts cherishing all of the children of the nation equally'.

    The Rising did not have immediate universal support, and was opposed, at least initially, by many of those Irishmen who served in this Parliament, just as many in Ireland were shocked by the heavy-handed exercise of power by the British authorities in its wake.

    Irish nationalism has its heroes as does unionism. We need to acknowledge each others pride in our separate and divided past.

    In 1998, in a groundbreaking act of recognition of our shared journey, President Mary McAleese and Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth jointly opened the Memorial Peace Park in Messines - a requiem to the 200,000 young men from across the island of Ireland, Catholic and Protestant, North and South, who fought in the First World War, side by side. Some 50,000 did not return.

    Last year, we renewed this tribute in Dublin - and paid homage at home to the spirit of an imperishable heroism - through a national commemoration of the 90th anniversary of the battle of the Somme.

    In another shining example of how we can engage with difficult chapters of history without descending into spirals of accusation, I remember the brave and generous initiative of the Prime Minister in acknowledging the failures of those governing in London at the time of the Great Famine in Ireland.

    Mr Speaker, Lord Speaker,

    Of course, the subject of Ireland was not always welcome in this Place. I recall the words of Gladstone, who in November, 1890, noted that:

    'Since the month of December, 1885, my whole political life has been governed by a supreme regard to the Irish question. For every day, I may say, of these five years, we have been engaged in laboriously rolling up-hill the stone of Sisyphus.'

    Prime Minister Blair and I can certainly empathise with this!

    The so-called 'Irish Question' was for a long time shorthand in these halls for a nuisance, a problem, a danger. A recurring crisis that was debated here, but not where its effects were most felt.

    Today, I can stand here and say that the 'Irish Question' as understood then has been transformed by the Good Friday Agreement.

    The Agreement has delivered peace and promise to Ireland by accommodating the rights, the interests and the legitimate aspirations of all. It represents the triumph of common interests over inherited divisions.

    It is not an end of history. But it is a new beginning.

    It is an unchallengeable consensus on how any future change in the status of Northern Ireland will be effected: only with consent freely given, and with full respect for the rights of all traditions and identities on the island.

    As an Irish republican, it is my passionate hope that we will see the island of Ireland united in peace. But I will continue to oppose with equal determination any effort to impose unity through violence or the threat of violence.

    Irish Republicanism is inherently democratic and seeks to unite - in their common interests - Catholic, Protestant and Dissenter.

    That is the principle on which I stand.

    None of what has been accomplished in Northern Ireland in the past decade could have happened without the most beneficial transformation in British-Irish relations in over 800 years.

    The depth and complexity of relationships between our islands generation after generation defy summary or platitudes.

    But now let us consign arguments over the past to the annals of the past, as we make history instead of being doomed to repeat it.

    Ours must and will be the last generation to feel the pain and anger of old quarrels.

    We cannot look back through eras far removed from the standards and promise of today, through the very pages of our common past, and tear out the bloodstained chapters.

    But that does not mean we should write them into the story of our future. Violence is part of our shared past that lasted too long. Now we close the chapter, we move on, and it will remain there as it was written.

    Mr Speaker, Lord Speaker,

    I stand before you as the elected leader of a young, modern and successful country. The gathering pace of change in Ireland since independence, and in this generation especially, has been extraordinary.

    We have seized our opportunities and honoured our heritage. Ireland is a small country, but today we are one of the most globalised and enterprising in the world.

    We have taken a place on the world stage in the United Nations and the European Union. We have built a country of ideas, energy and of confidence.
    Your Chairperson,
    Gavin
    Membership Advisory Board
    "Ex Bardus , Vicis"

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    Seasoned Pro GavinZac's Avatar
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    And it is this self-confidence that allows us, still conscious of our history but not captured by it, to build a new and lasting partnership of common interest that fully respects identity and sovereignty, with you our nearest neighbour.

    Today our partnership in the world is expressed most especially in the European Union. Our joint membership has served as a vital catalyst for the building of a deeper relationship between our two islands. Europe forms a key part of our shared future. The European Union has acted as a potent example of a new political model that enables old enemies to become partners in progress.

    On the world stage too we have a shared commitment to democracy, to human rights and to international development.

    And we stand together to make poverty history.

    I think of the power of our example - of the history we have written together in Northern Ireland. No two conflicts are exactly the same and no two solutions will ever be alike. But the world has watched as we grappled with our past and made our peace with one another. Now our two governments can share our past experience and newfound hope with others who are caught up in conflict and feel despair.

    Mr Speaker, Lord Speaker,

    Our relationship is a partnership of people first and foremost.

    No two nations and no two peoples have closer ties of history and geography and of family and friendship.

    Emigration was for too long a recurring theme of the Irish saga, from the horrors of the Great Famine, to dark economic times in the 20th Century.

    Many Irish people came to this country as emigrants. And today there are hundreds of thousands of Irish-born people living in Britain today. Theirs were stories of dislocation, and stories of aspiration, and then of new lives built, new families created, new strands woven into the fabric of both our national identities.

    Today, there are over a hundred members of this Parliament with an Irish background. And there are millions more like them in Britain, who have gone on to new levels of success with each new generation.

    And, of course, the tide was not all one way. There are over 100,000 British citizens in Ireland now, a most welcome part of an ever more diverse population.

    British settlement, organised and otherwise, has given the island of Ireland a British tradition too - not just in history and language, borders and politics, but in a thriving community of unionist people proud of who they are, where they came from, and what they hope for.

    They are a living bridge between us.

    The Irish Government fully respects their rights and identity.

    We value their voice, their vision and their future contribution to the life of the island of Ireland in whatever way it should develop.

    Our economic partnership has always been, and remains, a cornerstone of our prosperity and our friendship.

    Irish and British people are driving the economies of both our islands with efficiency and enterprise, regardless of politics or borders.

    The scale of our economic partnership is impressive and is immensely important for all our people.

    British exports to Ireland alone, are more than double that of British exports to China, India, Brazil and Mexico combined. And Britain takes almost half of our food exports and half the exports of our indigenous companies.

    And the achievements we have seen in Northern Ireland will open up still greater opportunities for economic cooperation between both islands and both parts of Ireland.

    The people of these islands have woven a rich tapestry of culture over the centuries. This has given rise to a partnership of culture that is renowned across the world.

    One of the most creative moments in human history was the meeting between the English language and the Irish people.

    It has given us some of the great works of world literature - of Jonathan Swift, Oscar Wilde, James Joyce, George Bernard Shaw, William Butler Yeats, Samuel Beckett, John McGahern and many, many others. Not the least of those was Richard Brinsley Sheridan, who served in this House, was born in Dorset Street in my constituency and is now buried nearby in Poets Corner at Westminster Abbey.

    They all found their genius in the English language, but they drew on a perspective that was uniquely Irish.

    Today, a vibrant cultural life is shared by both our countries across every imaginable field - in music, dance, education, theatre, film and sport.

    In culture, as in sport, we share and together enjoy so much.

    And in all these areas, too, our endeavours are not divorced from our history, but are built on it.

    Earlier this year, the Irish and English rugby teams met in the magnificent headquarters of the Gaelic Athletic Association at Croke Park in Dublin. It was a match played and watched on what is now a field of dreams, but was once the very earth of past bloodshed.

    But it was a match played in the spirit of sport. No one forgot the shadows of history, but everyone was living in the sunlight of that day.

    Of all these bonds - of family and friendship, of commerce and culture - the greatest of all is our partnership of peace.

    We have shown that even the seemingly intractable can be overcome - that peace is not impossible and conflict is not inevitable.

    We have learned, as Seamus Heaney wrote:

    'Even if the hopes you started out with are dashed, hope has to be maintained'.

    The Anglo-Irish Agreement, the Downing Street Declaration and the Good Friday Agreement: many of you here have been participants and makers of this history. All of you have kept hope.

    Peace in Ireland has been the work of a generation. Today, I salute all those who helped to lay the foundations for what has now taken shape. In doing so, I acknowledge the work over so many years of the British-Irish Parliamentary Body and also our great and valued friends in the United States who have been with us at all times on the long journey.

    When Prime Minister Blair and I started out together ten years ago, we were able to build on the courageous early steps that Sir John Major and his colleagues had taken with us.

    But the contribution of Prime Minister Blair has been exceptional.

    This was not a task he had to take on and not one that promised quick or easy rewards. He took it on simply because there was a chance that a great good could be achieved.

    Tony Blair has been a true friend to me and a true friend to Ireland. He has an honoured place in Irish hearts and in Irish history.

    Mr Speaker, Lord Speaker,

    Nine years ago, the people of the island of Ireland democratically endorsed the Good Friday Agreement, a clear command to all political leaders to advance the work of peace.

    In March this year, the people of Northern Ireland confirmed that command through the ballot box and set their seal on the path of political progress.

    There are certain days which define an era. More rarely there are days that define the next, that embody the turn of the tide.

    Too many Irish days have done so through tragedy and violence.

    Tuesday 8 May in Belfast was a day when we witnessed events that will truly define our time and the next.

    Shared devolved government, commanding support from both communities and all the parties in Northern Ireland, is now in place. Now at last the full genius and full potential of the Good Friday Agreement will unfold in the interests of all the peoples of these islands.

    Yes, there will be challenges ahead. But these challenges can now be faced in a climate of peace and from a foundation of partnership.

    There are real issues on which the people of Northern Ireland disagree. Some are the sort that face every government, and it is now the business of their politicians to find solutions based on practicality and compromise.

    Others are more fundamental issues of political and cultural identity.

    But we are now in an era of agreement - of new politics and new realities.

    The world has seen Ireland's economic achievements. There is no reason why a peaceful and stable Northern Ireland should not achieve similar success. We are ready to be a partner and friend on the path to economic growth. Both parts of the island of Ireland will gain and grow.

    The Irish Government has demonstrated its commitment by announcing investment in important and practical projects that will support development and growth in Northern Ireland.

    Chancellor Gordon Brown's financial package expresses Britain's clear commitment. Now let us move forward with strong practical support and increasing political confidence.

    The tide of history can both ebb and flow and with it our hopes and dreams. But last week's events are powerful evidence that we are moving with the tide of lasting change.

    There is now real strength in the consensus on the way forward.

    We know the unique and delicate balance that binds this process together and we are committed to doing everything in our power to protect what has been achieved.

    Mr Speaker, Lord Speaker,

    In our impatience to build a better future we must remember those who have died and remember those who mourn.

    The conflict has left over 3,700 dead and thousands more seriously injured during our lifetimes. This appalling loss has left deep scars which cannot easily be healed.

    I know that these are not empty words to Members of this Parliament, who have also experienced tragedy and personal loss at first hand. I remember those killed and maimed at Brighton and I remember Airey Neave MP, who was murdered so close to where we are today.

    There is a gnawing hunger for the truth about the loss of loved ones. The conflict has left many unanswered questions in its wake.

    Some of these are the subjects of ongoing or promised inquiries. In these days of hope and promise we know the deep hurt and pain that linger in the hearts of so many and for whom the journey of healing and reconciliation will never be easy.
    Your Chairperson,
    Gavin
    Membership Advisory Board
    "Ex Bardus , Vicis"

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    Seasoned Pro GavinZac's Avatar
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    Mr Speaker, Lord Speaker,

    The relationship between Britain and Ireland has changed fundamentally for the better. It is and will remain vital for both our countries. The success we have seen - in re-imagining British-Irish relations and in establishing peace in Northern Ireland - is not the end, but only the beginning of what we can achieve together.

    Our mutual relations merit priority at the highest level. We must sustain our hard-won achievements on Northern Ireland.

    Remembering where we have come from, we must never, ever, take for granted the stability and the hope that are now taking root in Northern Ireland.

    We have built a remarkable foundation for a whole new level of cooperation between our two countries.

    For decades our relations have been filtered through the prism of conflict. Now, building on the peace and progress of the last decade, we can begin to pay greater attention to the wider partnership of common interests between our two islands.

    Mr Speaker, Lord Speaker,

    We can all contribute to peace, in ways that are great or small, in acts of cooperation and respect, of dialogue and of resolve.

    This is a test for all of us.

    I call to mind the words of another great Irishman Edmund Burke, who served in this parliament: 'No one could make a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little'.

    So now we look back at history not to justify but to learn, and we look forward to the future in terms not of struggle and victories to be won, but of enduring peace and progress to be achieved together.

    In that spirit, I close by recalling the words of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the first American President to speak to the Dáil. He was an Irish-American who had deep connections of feeling and experience with Britain as well.

    On that day in Dublin, President Kennedy called Ireland 'an isle of destiny' and said that 'when our hour has come we will have something to give the world'.

    Today I can say to this Parliament at Westminster as John Kennedy said in Dublin, 'Ireland's hour has come'.

    It came, not as victory or defeat, but as a shared future for all.

    Solidarity has made us stronger.

    Reconciliation has brought us closer.

    Ireland's hour has come: a time of peace, of prosperity, of old values and new beginnings.

    This is the great lesson and the great gift of Irish history.

    This is what Ireland can give to the world.

    Thank you.

    ---
    First off, apologies for the three part message but there are restrictions on the length of a post.
    Apart from being called a "dissenter", i thought that was a fantastic speech. I know Calcio Jack has already taken issue with, not so much a statement but an omission, are there any other thoughts?
    Your Chairperson,
    Gavin
    Membership Advisory Board
    "Ex Bardus , Vicis"

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    Tear-jerking. Inspirational.

    Vote Bertie's speech writer!

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    ---
    First off, apologies for the three part message but there are restrictions on the length of a post.
    Apart from being called a "dissenter", i thought that was a fantastic speech. I know Calcio Jack has already taken issue with, not so much a statement but an omission, are there any other thoughts?[/QUOTE]

    Anyone know as to who wrote the speech... my money is on Martin Manseragh... or does anyone think Bertie wrote it himself... again before I'm accused of anything... I of course presume that Bertie like every other politician worldwide has a team of speech writers aka known as 'special advisors' whom we taxpayers stump up an annual salary of approx €120k each... pity such an eloquent speech was delivered in a ' dis, dat dese and dem style' the least one should expect is that our PM should be at least able to converse in a manner that is understandable

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    Seasoned Pro GavinZac's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Calcio Jack View Post
    pity such an eloquent speech was delivered in a ' dis, dat dese and dem style' the least one should expect is that our PM should be at least able to converse in a manner that is understandable
    Would you prefer he put on airs and fake an accent?
    Your Chairperson,
    Gavin
    Membership Advisory Board
    "Ex Bardus , Vicis"

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    Great speach...I couldnt find the Irish language part posted above but I may have missed it.

    Bertie delivered it well in his own querky way.

    The very fact that he spoke in Irish was very symbolic too with talk that the UK is going to officially recognise Irish as a working language in the North
    Oh no not them again

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    Quote Originally Posted by GavinZac View Post
    Would you prefer he put on airs and fake an accent?
    No but I would expect that he should be able to speak correctly and IMO what some might refer to as being his querky way is IMO just pure bad diction which is inexcusable and let's us down... if a head of another English speaking state addressed the Dail in such a manner we wouldn't be impressed

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    Quote Originally Posted by GavinZac View Post
    Would you prefer he put on airs and fake an accent?
    Hear, hear. Nothing wrong with the man's natural accent, or with any man's natural accent, for that matter.

    Class speech all right.

    One of the most creative moments in human history was the meeting between the English language and the Irish people [...] Jonathan Swift, Oscar Wilde, James Joyce, George Bernard Shaw, William Butler Yeats, Samuel Beckett, John McGahern and many, many others [...] They all found their genius in the English language [...]
    ...but this strikes me as nonsense. Of those, only McGahern and possibly Joyce and Sheridan's ould one were of a people who could claim to have ever had a "meeting" with the English language (where's O'Casey, an' he with more claim than annybody to have written Irish English? Or Austin Clarke, if you're talking of a meeting of styles?). The rest of them were of ancient Anglophone stock (or at least it certainly wasn't Ireland in which they first met the English language) and were indistinguishable from English writers, in style if not in quality or subject matter. None of them wrote in any kind of real Irish idiom, as far as I can see, unless for mimicry or for effect.

    Apart from Beckett, obviously, who mined his natural Hiberno-English before he got fed up and "found his genius in the French language". What were Yeats or Swift doing before they "found their genius in the English language"? What a remarkable thing to say.
    Last edited by Erstwhile Bóz; 16/05/2007 at 12:33 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by SÓC View Post
    Great speach...I couldnt find the Irish language part posted above but I may have missed it.
    Haha. To be fair to GavinZac the Irish Times never recorded it either. So it musn't have happened .

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    Talk about nit-picking from Calcio and Erstwhile. My over-riding thought is thank Christ it wasn't Inda Kinny representing us. Then again no FG taoiseach would have got us this far in the peace process so it wouldn't have happened.

    KOH
    No One Likes Us, We Don't Care

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    I'm just glad he didn't wear mustard coloured trousers again.......

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    Quote Originally Posted by WeAreRovers View Post
    Talk about nit-picking from Calcio and Erstwhile.
    Ah no, it was a great speech and fair play to them.

    You're right about poor old Enda, looking on the wings ... and Labour must be going spare that it was their own comrades gave Bertie this election boost.

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    Election boost? Only morons are impressed by a man being able to read from a sheet, judge the man on his policies

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    Quote Originally Posted by jebus View Post
    Election boost? Only morons are impressed by a man being able to read from a sheet, judge the man on his policies
    Morons are allowed to vote, too.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Erstwhile Bóz View Post
    Morons are allowed to vote, too.
    Thats a given when you realise how long Fianna Fail have been running this country

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    Quote Originally Posted by WeAreRovers View Post
    Talk about nit-picking from Calcio and Erstwhile. My over-riding thought is thank Christ it wasn't Inda Kinny representing us. Then again no FG taoiseach would have got us this far in the peace process so it wouldn't have happened.

    KOH

    My comments re the'famine' and what was left out I stand over.

    Have no problem with Bertie's accent or the the tone of his voice.... but do have a problem with the fact that he doesn't seem capable of speaking correctly as I say this, that, these, those and them etc should be pronounced correctly surely ?

    As for whether Inda Kenny or anyone else would of done a better or worse job yesterday... well that's pure conjecture and has nothing to do with the fact that Bertie when he open's his mouth is incapable of speaking in a acceptable manner.

    Whether or not Kenny would of done more or less to forward the'peace process' surely nothing to do with yesterday but something on which we can all vote on next week

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    If anyone doubts that Bertie didn't write the speach himself, you should listen to the audio file at RTÉ.ie (tá an piosa as Gaeilge ansin comh mhaith, ar Tony Blair agus an phróiseas síochána)

    For example, the sentence: "The historical relationship of Ireland and Britain too often seemed as if it could be more accurately measured out in repression and rebellions..."
    Bertie puts the pause in the wrong place, i.e. "...more accurately measured [pause] out in repression and rebellions..."

    There are other examples.

    Fair enough, all major politicians have speach writers, but he could at least have read through the text a couple of times before he delivered it to the members of the Houses of Commons and of Lords!

    Its a good speach, I'd be interested to know who did write it, but it does sound a lot like Manseragh. On a side note, I detest the widespread use of the term "island of Ireland"; if one wants to refer to the whole island what's wrong with calling it 'Ireland'? Its creeping use leads to stupid things like a friend of mine saying we were leaving 'Ireland' when we were driving from Monaghan to Armagh!

  19. #19
    First Team galwayhoop's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Calcio Jack View Post
    the least one should expect is that our PM should be at least able to converse in a manner that is understandable


    i think you'll find his title is 'An Taoiseach'

    and what is wrong with an Irish man speaking in his local accent with the colloquialisms that go with it.

    too many so called Irish people are embarrassed by their accents and dialect and much prefer listening to the queens English and accent.

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    New Signing Erstwhile Bóz's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Calcio Jack View Post
    Have no problem with Bertie's accent or the the tone of his voice.... but do have a problem with the fact that he doesn't seem capable of speaking correctly as I say this, that, these, those and them etc should be pronounced correctly surely ?
    "Correctly"? Received Pronunciation, you mean? Standard British English? Why the hell would he? Should he pronounce his own name "Bahtie Ahahn"?

    He is pronouncing them (those words there) correctly, in full accordance with the 'rules' of the type of English he speaks, which, like the majority of spoken English on this island, does not realize -th- as any kind of a fricative in any position.

    If he was writing d or t where there should be a th then you might have a point. The page needs universal rules much more than the mouth, face, and eyes do.

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