During Cowen's first leaders questions as Taoiseach in the Dáil Enda Kenny spoke at length to him as Gaeilge; said that he would like to see more Dáil business conducted as Gaeilge and asked him a health related question as Gaeilge.
Brian Cowen answered him in Irish in relation to promoting Irish in a general way but did not say anything about having more business in the Dáil done through Irish or about the health question. I presumed he didn't answer the latter because it was a difficult question.
I've come to the conclusion over the last while since Brian Cowen became Taoiseach that he is not actually fluent in Irish. Like me he is competent in the language but he is not fluent.
I commend him for making the effort and unlike Brian Lenihan I do believe that he likes/loves the language and not simply uses it in a careerist way (if you know what I mean).
I judge him on the language issue(s) by what he does for the language. Speaking it is the first and a very positive step. Auditing the money spent on it like Fine Gael and Labour are in favour of would also be a positive move. As would making it optional for the Leaving Certificate given that half of the country agree and given that half of those (25% of the population) believe strongly that it should be optional. Of course see the glass as being half-full on this issue but I wish anybody in favour of the status quo on this topic good luck in convincing "the other half" (particularly the 25% of our population who believe strongly that it should be optional) that the policy should be continued.
I left Fine Gael because (although I have still never met either of them) I thought that I identified more with Brian Cowen from what I could see on a personal basis than I would with Enda Kenny. Although I was a committee member in Dublin of Irish language organisation Gael-Taca I am not stupid enough to believe that the Irish language issue in Ireland is the most important issue but having judged Brian Cowen so far on the language I find him- like his party- at best unimpressive.
Finally, the Government are going to announce a 20 year national plan for the language by the end of the year. This has never happened before. Oh wait- hold on it's November. Like others targets of the Government I think this one won't be met either. As far as the language issue goes this either will make or break Brian Cowen in the eyes of people who love the language. The ball is in the Government's court.