Cúpla Focail AKA Lip Service Irish Language


What Does Cúpla Focail Mean In Ireland? 🇮🇪: Discover the meaning of the phrase cúpla focail here, how politicians use it and more in this blog. 


I really love the Irish language. You know – I really do. I love it more than other languages.


I may not grasp everything there is to grasp about language and talk about all the complicated jargon that linguistics has to offer, but I enjoy learning about it. Grammar, idioms and common phrases are something that I always look forward to in learning a language.


In the case of Irish (or Gaelic), I always like learn to learn some short phrases I did not know prior here and there to store in my vocabulary and use when I need it. I would then use it in an English sentence while talking to my family, who can talk a bit of Irish here and there like me, as well.


Just last week, we talked about a topic on the religious side, Irish language bible, and provided you with some resources to learn more about it. But today, connected with what I said above, I will cover something more on the political side and talk about cúpla focail and what it means for Ireland.


In particular, I will discuss the following:


  • what the term cúpla focail means
  • how politicians use it
  • discussing whether or not politicians such as Taoiseach (i.e., the prime minister of the Republic of Ireland) should have the ability to speak Irish and not just use cúpla focail


Let us delve deeper and talk about it below.




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What is Cúpla Focail and how is it relevant today?


Do you have any idea what cúpla focail means?


In Irish, cúpla focail means a few words – in Ireland, we also refer to them as the few words. Basically, it means using a few Irish words in an English sentence. There is also an Irish promotional badge called the Cúpla Focal. According to Stuart in a Flickr post:


The Cúpla Focal is a badge first issued by the Comhdháil Náisiúnta na Gaeilge in 1995 and intended to be worn to show support and goodwill towards the Irish language, as well as signifying that the wearer can speak a few words of Irish (Cúpla Focal, a couple of words). The Cúpla Focal complements the Fáinne (ring) badge which would be worn by more advanced Irish speakers (silver) and fluent speakers (gold). Tá cúpla focal agam.


Comhdháil Náisiúnta na Gaeilge was established in 1943 and its stated mission is to ‘strengthen and consolidate goodwill and support for the Irish language and its usage as a living language so that it may be used freely and widely in all aspects of Irish life’.


This is quite relevant today as it is quite an advantage in Irish politics. If one aims for the top in Irish politics, then they should have even just a slither of gasp of the cúpla focail in Ireland.


Should politicians know just a little bit or even more of Irish?


Now, using cúpla focail not just in Ireland, but everywhere and especially in an informal setting such as in your own homes is a good way to learn more Irish words and the language itself. But what if you use Irish cúpla focail in aiming for the highest seat? Is that a good plan?


As someone aiming for a seat in the government in Ireland, does knowing Irish – even just by a bit – help your case? Maybe it does. Or, maybe it does not. But, this article by the Irish Times written a while back (in 2017) certainly says it does! Read more below.


Having a grasp of ‘cúpla focal’ is advantage for a taoiseach


Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar was spotted wearing a fáinne on his lapel on Wednesday, having taken an Irish examination and completed language courses at the Donegal Gaeltacht in recent years.


“It’s getting better but I’m far from fluent. I have just completed the Gaelchultúr Level 4 course for public and civil servants,” Mr Varadkar said.


Minister of State for Gaeltacht Affairs Sean Kyne, a supporter of Mr Varadkar’s bid to lead Fine Gael and become Taoiseach, said the contender’s efforts as Gaelige were paying off.


“We were talking Irish last night at the dinner table in the Dáil restaurant. He’s after completing a course and had an exam yesterday. He was wearing the fáinne yesterday. That’s the first time I’ve seen it,” Mr Kyne said.


In addition…


Contrary to Leo Varadkar, Minister of State for the Diaspora Joe McHugh was met with controversies stemming from the fact that he did not speak even an ounce of Irish. His appointment in 2014 was, as mentioned, controversial because of that said reason.

In addition, Mr Varadkar’s rival Minister for Housing Simon Coveney is also the less-preferred choice because his level of proficiency in Irish is  “basic”, as mentioned in the article.


A stutter blighted his teenage years and impacted on his enthusiasm for languages at school. The only pass subject he did was Irish.


“I remember breaking pencils under the desk in frustration when trying to read as Gaeilge in Irish class,” he told Miriam O’Callaghan in a 2010 interview.


He focused on French, finding it an easier language to manage with his stammer.


Cúpla Focail in Ireland: just lip service?


Some people find all of this a sham, as mentioned from an article a while back written by the Finfacts.


A major evolution – yes if more lip service will serve any purpose.

“The aim of 20th-century Government policies was to reinstate Irish as the main language spoken by the people, but the Government now plan to focus firmly on the practical development of a bilingual society where as many people as possible use both Irish and English with equal ease,” Ahern said.

Decades of lip-service and payments of grants has left the language in a parlous state.

It is simply laughable that the Irish language would be used at EU ministerial level when most Irish politicians rarely speak the language apart from a few sentences if at all, at the start of a speech.

Irish language content is also rare in the main Irish daily newspapers and it has never been a requirement to use Irish when communicating with public officials.

So while this EU measure could be recognised as a belated recognition of an important part of Irish culture, it is sadly another example of what is wrong with the EU.

Ahern may not even be able to speak Irish at an EU meeting, never mind one in Dublin but he welcomes a measure that at least until Ireland becomes a net payer to the EU Budget, will be paid in full by German, Dutch and British taxpayers.


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Now that I have shared with you readers the meaning of cúpla focail in Ireland, we want to discuss how we can help you in everything Irish-related.


ba mhaith linn plé leat freisin conas is féidir linn cabhrú leat i ngach rud a bhaineann leis an nGaeilge.


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