The BBC and Irish

Niall Ó Donnghaile

Niall Ó Donnghaile

THE recent spat over the All-Ireland Fleadh going to Derry raised a totally different issue for the Bluffer – the difficulty of BBC presenters in pronouncing anything in Irish.

Foghraíocht is the word for pronunciation and when you see that group of letters together it’s little wonder people panic.

Now, those nice folk off the telly and on the radio can pronounce Gérard Dapardieu as if they’d just come up the Seine in a bubble and are fluent in Farsi when it comes go Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but talk about Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann turns them into the French policeman in ‘Allo ‘Allo:

“This is Good Morning Ulster with Koorin Fatterseen and Kyner Breedfurd.”

Weendy Oostin pronounced Comhaltas two different ways in the one sentence on Talkback and I was told the attempts at Irish on an clár is mó sa tír – the biggest show in the country was awful.

The Beeb got over it by dropping the Ceoltóirí Éireann bit and just using “Comhaltas” but that’s like saying Carlos Tevez has joined United. Manchester United? Scunthorpe United? Ballymena United?

We have Comhaltas Dhoire – the Comhaltas Derry Branch and thousands of other branches throughout the world not to mention Comhaltas Uladh – the northern branch of Conradh na Gaeilge – the Gaelic League.

But what else trips the Beeb – and other broadcasters it must be said, not the mention the general public – what trips them up? Politics. The word Taoiseach was deemed so terrifying that “The Irish Prime Minister” was used rather than the official title while his deputy, the Tánaiste never even got a mention.

An Dáil on local radio and TV is pronounced like a true Dub – the dawl – but we in the north pronounce it daal. Imagine Sarah Brett pronouncing 33 as “torty-tree, bejaysus” on your daily news fix!

On one occasion, I nearly crashed the car one morning when I heard a male newsreader say, well, I don’t know what he said but he was talking about Óglaigh na hÉireann as if he were having a mild stroke just by saying the words.

And there must have been panic Broadcasting House when Niall Ó Donnghaile was elected Ardmhéara – Lord Mayor of Belfast!

Belfast, by the way, is Béal Feirste.

Anyway, the Bluffer got in touch with the Beeb and their response was: “Correct pronunciation is important to the BBC and its audiences. We seek to maintain the highest standards in this area and across all aspects of our output.Audience feedback on our performance, and the ways in which it might be improved, is always welcome.”

That’s your cue, folks.

But while we’re at it, what about what they do to placenames in English?

This has only happened in the past few years where they have put “the clash of the ash” – a horrible k sound – in the middle of names like Maghera or Magherafelt.

The Maghera- bit comes from the Irish word machaire meaning a plain and pronounced “mahera”. Where the k sound came from, I have no idea. But for now, a chairde, it’s goodbye from the Bloofer!

Now, I know I spoil ye, but below is a pronunciation guide:

Foghraíocht (foreeakht) -pronunciation

Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann (coe-altiss kyawltoree ayrin) - Irish traditional music organisation

an clár is mó sa tír (un claar is mow sa cheer) – the biggest show in the country

Comhaltas Dhoire (coe-altiss girra) – the Comhaltas Derry Branch

Comhaltas Uladh (coe-altiss uloo) – the Gaelic League’s northern branch

Conradh na Gaeilge (conroo ne gaylicka) - the Gaelic League

Taoiseach (teeshaakh) – the Irish Prime Minister

Tánaiste (taanashta) – the Irish deputy Prime Minister

An Dáil (un daal) – The Irish House of Representatives

Óglaigh na hÉireann (awglee ne herin) – the Irish Volunteers of 1913 now claimed by republican paramilitary groups

Niall Ó Donnghaile (neeal o donyilla) – Niall Ó Donnghaile

Ardmhéara (aardvayra) – Lord Mayor

Béal Feirste (bell farshta) – Belfast

machaire (mahera) – a plain

And finally, if that weren’t enough, here is an audioboo which will tell you how exactly these words and phrases sound…

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  • Paddy Campbell

    comhaltas uladh is ulster council of COMHALTAS

    • http://twitter.com/iriseoir Robert McMillen

      Indeed it is, Paddy, but Comhaltas Uladh, the northern Assembly of the Gaelic League, was founded in 1926 while Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann wasn’t founded until a quarter of a century later, in 1951. 

      In this case, it’s age before beauty!

  • Seancourtney22

    great read. thanks for posting. 

  • http://twitter.com/SeanOBriain Seán Ó Briain

    “An Dáil on local radio and TV is pronounced like a true Dub – the dawl – but we in the north pronounce it daal. Imagine Sarah Brett pronouncing 33 as “torty-tree, bejaysus” on your daily news fix!”
    Dawl is the pronunciation outside of Dublin also. All across the Munster Gaeltacht, pronounce it as ‘Dawl’. I’m pretty sure it’s the same in Conamara. There was nothing incorrect about their pronunciation. The rest of your article I agree with however. 

  • http://twitter.com/mikeysheehy10 mikeysheehy10

    I heard, with mine own two ears, Wendy on Talkback pronounce Mícheál Ó Muircheartaigh as ‘Michael O’Moriarty’, almost like he was the Sherlock villain.