Not that he cares but Gregory Campbell MP’s recent remarks about the Irish language and his contemptuous dismissal of the campaign for an Irish Language Act has had some unintended consequences from those he may have imagined.
It’s very easy to see why Gregory Campbell, drifting as he was to the margins of his party having been left out of the Executive by his leader in successive reshuffles, would want to make some grand effort to get back in the public consciousness in advance of next May’s Westminster election. The almost forgotten MP would surely want to remind his constituents and other supporters that the Dinosaur wing of the DUP had not, in fact, become extinct.
Whatever Gregory’s aspirations or pretensions to leadership, his latest ‘toilet paper’ remarks have had the unintended consequence of re-invigorating an Irish language grassroots movement which had been reeling from cuts imposed by the cross border body, Foras na Gaeilge.
Now that Gregory has directed his ire at the Irish language community as proxies for an attack on his Executive partners, Sinn Féin, Irish speakers are preparing to fight back against this unwarranted assault on our language and culture. First of all we would remind Gregory that the language has survived famines and attempts to suppress it by former British rulers, going back to Elizabeth 1. The latest incumbent on the British throne, Queen Elizabeth 2, indeed has mastered the cúpla focail and demonstrated her prowess with the grace and majesty one would expect in sharp contrast to the crude efforts at parody of her ‘loyal subject’, Gregory Campbell MP MLA.
At an impromptu meeting at the Cultúrlann on Wednesday evening a large crowd of mostly young Irish speakers turned up to discuss how best to counter these latest attacks and promote the creative and exciting aspect of the Irish language community.
Meanwhile over in east Belfast, the Irish language’s most courageous advocate, Linda Ervine, is planning to directly confront the prehistoric attitudes represented by Gregory and his ilk by travelling to Stormont on Tuesday morning along with Janet Muller, CEO of the Irish language umbrella organisation POBAL, to hand a letter of complaint regarding Gregory’s unwarranted and unrepresentative comments re Gaeilge, to all the parties on the steps of Parliament Buildings.
I wonder too whether Gregory’s primitive views have percolated to the ‘mainland’ where political parties, apart perhaps from UKIP and the BNP, would surely baulk at entering any sort of post electoral alliance with a party whose views on diversity, cultural, linguistic, sexual and religious, are so out of step with mainstream views in modern Britain. The DUP’s kingmaking aspirations may be doomed rather sooner than Peter Robinson may have thought after his leadership speech last week, thanks to Gregory’s comments. And perhaps that’s what it’s all about. Was it just one more ill-fated leadership conspiracy within the personally ambitious ranks of the DUP in which our hero attempts to oust the current regime through an illthought political manoeuvre.
Unionist politicians have for a long time complained that the Irish language has been politicised by Sinn Féin – and sometimes with justification. In this instant they themselves are playing politics with the language. The Irish language is as much a part of British heritage as it is of Irish heritage, it’s the same language, different accent, as that spoken across Sruth na Maoile/the Straits of Moyle in Scotland’s Highlands and Islands. There Gaidhlig is as non sectarian and as non political as sliced pan.