Hoist on his own petard……

Curious, wasn’t it? Nelson McCausland’s choice of language to highlight his ‘concern’ over a letter sent to primary school principals throughout Northern Ireland, inviting them to consider including an Irish language study programme in the school curriculum.

According to Nelson, this was another effort by Sinn Féin to “weaponise” the Irish language and to use it as a tool, it seems, to entice unionists to be assimilated within an Irish identity.

Apart from the fact that the letter was sent by the Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment, hardly a hotbed of republicanism, the use of the loaded, ahem, term, ‘weaponised’ brought me back to the heady days of 2003 when George W Bush, Tony Blair and Colin Powell were issuing apocalyptic warnings about weaponised chemicals in Iraq. One costly invasion and an even more expensive occupation later, those weapons which had the potential to hit London within ’45 minutes’ remain unfound, if they were ever there.

It hardly seems likely that John O’Dowd, however omnipresent and omnipotent he is as education minister, saw the letter. Less likely still that he ordered the letter be sent as part of some overall Sinn Féin conspiracy to assimilate unionists into an Irish identity.

It was interesting to note that Nelson’s intervention actually backfired on him as BBC Talkback was inundated with angry Protestants – including Sammy from the Shankill Road – wanting to take up Irish classes as a response to the statement from the North Belfast MLA.

Nelson should note that the ‘Every word of Irish is a bullet’ mantra that was spouted by Sinn Féin in the 1980s, to the chagrin and distaste of most Irish speakers, is now only of historical importance – to him the relevance seems hysterical…

The hostile reaction of Protestant callers to his radio performance is unlikely to make the former Culture Minister desist from his ongoing onslaught against the Irish language. However it’s becoming more and more clear that his gambit is self-defeating. It’s not Sinn Féin that’s weaponising the Irish language at present – whatever could be said about that party’s activities in the past – but Nelson McCausland and his colleagues in the DUP.

In the coming days, however, (today, Tuesday, in fact)  as the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure begin a third consultation process on an Irish Language Act which was part of the deal made at St Andrews by Sinn Féin, the DUP and both the British and Irish Governments, we should see hear even more ‘weaponised’ language from Nelson.  He should take comfort in the fact that the new Gaeltacht minister in the Republic of Ireland, Heather Humphreys, has been caught trying to further downgrade An Ghaeilge in the planned celebrations next year of the 1916 Easter Rising.

 

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  • SeaanUiNeill

    I have every faith in the contrariness of the protestant community’s reaction to Nelson’s words. I was told after freeing a sheep that had got its head stick in wire up by Slemish, “it sees a hole, sees lush grass on the other side, and thinks that the hole is just there for it to get its head through.”

    Nelson is pointing to the hole, and saying no, so every transgressive instinct in the real in the bone bred dissenter wants even just a few words of Irish to wind him up with, as you’d pointed out with the “Talkback” comments.

  • PaulT

    Gosh Seaan, you’re having a go at derailing threads highlighting unionist misrule earlier and earlier.

    But just to say that any ‘bone bred’ Dissenter or Republican would not allow themselves to be define by any unionist and defo not a village idiot variety

  • PaulT

    ‘ahem, term, ‘weaponised’ brought me back to’

    It only goes back a few weeks from when Cameron claimed Red Ed said he intended to ‘Weaponise the NHS’ he withered on about it for a week but was generally ignored.

    Regardless, this is yet another example of political unionism trying to control education, any early shaping of an integrated eduction policy has to tackle this problem.

  • Nevin

    “Apart from the fact that the letter was sent by the Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment, hardly a hotbed of republicanism,”

    Perhaps someone can provide a link to a copy of this CCEA letter.

    The CCEA said it had written the letters – on behalf of the Department of Education.

    But Mr O’Dowd said yesterday Mr McCausland’s claims were “nonsense” and that he had no personal involvement with the letter.

    “Officials confirmed to me that as part of the normal day-to-day running of the Department of Education, and in engagement with the curriculum advisory body, they sent out a letter to all schools asking them would they be interested in this project,” he said. .. source

    We have so many layers of administration and such a lack of openness in governance that it’s difficult to establish the source of initiatives.

  • chrisjones2

    Clearly the wrong sort of Protestants

    🙂

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    “Less likely still that he ordered the letter be sent as part of some overall Sinn Féin conspiracy to assimilate unionists into an Irish identity.”

    Indeed, for that would lead to an increase in ‘Irish unionists’ which would ultimately be more of a problem for republicanism or nationalism than unionism.

    It would further help diminish the perception that unionists are just a group of British people trespassing in Ireland or as highlighted by Ali G ‘here on holiday’.

    I think your point Concubhar is correct on a number of levels.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    “But just to say that any ‘bone bred’ Dissenter or Republican would not allow themselves to be define [d?] by any unionist and defo not a village idiot variety”

    Glad that someone is more generous in their assessment of the capacity for free will and the self motivation of everyone here, as against the knee jerk cynicism of the likes of myself.

    But “derailing”? I thought I was entirely on theme here, but if you really want to see some real old style derailing……

  • Robert Shilliday

    CCEA supplied a copy of the letter to the BBC on Friday morning, embedded in the online story – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-31161394

  • Ernekid

    I hope that the village that’s missing it’s idiot will one day be reunited with Nelson McCausland.

  • Nevin

    Thanks, Robert. I’ve looked for a copy of this letter and details of the consultation on the CCEA and DENI websites but can find neither on either.

  • Joe_Hoggs

    I support the Irish language and would be keen to preserve it. It is a toxic language for many Protestants at present due to the way it has been misused by Sinn Fein in the past and at present to ruffle Unionist feathers. I agree that Unionists in general have played into the hands of Sinn Fein too much on this topic to the extent where another generation of Protestants are going to bypass this language.

    I am opposed however, to this language being added to any school curriculum for the simple reason that it is of no benefit to pupils/students in a practical sense once they leave school. I am much more in favour of improving standards at Maths, English, Science, History, Geography and language possibly French, German or even Chinese.

    I would encourage schools, societies and dare I say it the Orange institution to setup evening classes to cater for this language which is a very worthwhile and indeed important aspect of our overall culture.

  • streetlegal

    On the specific point McCausland is correct in pointing out how Sinn Fein have attempted to hijack the Irish language to serve their own political agenda. McCausland however has also attempted to hijack both the Irish language and that dialect which is known as Ulster Scots to serve his own political agenda. So there you go…

  • kalista63

    As he’s a former Oxbridge man, I assume Denis Skinner’s description of Gideon also applies to Nelson.

  • kalista63

    Might be handy to link last week’s Talkback (might have been Nolan but I’m sure it was TB) on this. Nelson was totally handed his arse but contributors and callers. Stick his name in to a Twitter search and the reaction isn’t far down the list.

    I’ve said before, the DUP/TUV types tend to associate very much with birds of a feather and their perception of the wider unionist community, never mind all of NI, has gotta be madly distorted.

  • Tacapall

    What does that say about the unionist character when they are reduced to being afraid of a language.

  • Concubhar O Liathain

    If you look again at the original post, I’ve added the link.

  • Concubhar O Liathain

    I think your idea that the language should be taught in Orange Halls is inspired Joe. I don’t agree with not including Irish on the curriculum as it is my belief, backed up by considerable research by academics, that learning Irish is useful in itself, and also useful as a prelude to learning other languages.

  • Robert Shilliday

    No problem Nevin – and just to be transparent – I work for CCEA. The purpose of the letter was to enable primary school teachers to express an interest in being involved in further consultation and discussion on this matter. It wasn’t a formal consultation as such, and thus the absence of web postings etc

  • Joe_Hoggs

    Hi,
    I’m happy to be proved wrong about this language being part of a curriculum – how has it been found to be useful?

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Joe, I know it’s current wisdom that everything learnt has to add materially to each pupils future paypacket directly, but I’d seriously question that Irish “is of no benefit to pupils/students in a practical sense once they leave school.”

    The very structure of Irish trains the mind for other subjects, in much the same manner as Latin does. Irish is such a very different language to English, it is an empaths language, being far less abstract than English, so the abstarct comparisons usual within English are impossible. Rather sharp flavoured similes are integril to the very form of the language, where one word vividly expresses something at times its apparent opposite. This opens the mind up to paradox, something we all need to jump us out of our “lines of battle”!!!

    Like Concobhar, I think that the Orange Institution setting up classes would be an excellent idea. I know of at least one Lodge that used to have its minutes in Irish. So its simply a return to a sadly lost tradition!

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Thanks Concubhar, I’ll go and see if my week broadband connection will let me stream it.

  • Alan N/Ards

    I’m not sure it’s about being afraid of the language. It’s more to do with (in my eyes) keeping up the impression that they are putting it up to the shinners. It’s saying to the loyalist extremes “look at us, we’re not going to let the enemy get one over us and we shall not compromise”
    Unionism is being badly led by these people. It’s time to reach out the hand of friendship to Irish speakers. It’s time to stop this nonsense that McCausland and his cronies are coming out with. To compromise does not mean that you are weak. It’s just common sense and good politics. It’s time the DUP wised up.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Now he’s afraid of Unionist Gaeligorí.

  • barnshee

    Disgust-disrespect- antagonism-ridicule yes
    Fear no

  • Kevin Breslin

    I agree, this is a nasty political relativism and while the UUP have concerns over the Irish language, particularly financing, they are well ahead of the DUP when it comes to accepting it.

    Well perhaps not Tom Elliot.

  • Kevin Breslin

    I am much more in favour of improving standards at Maths, English, Science, History, Geography and language possibly French, German or even Chinese.

    I don’t think it’s a case of either or:

    Aoibhinn Ní Shúilleabháin (Maths graduate)
    Gráinne Seoige(English graduate)
    Dara Ó Briain (Theoretical Physics graduate)
    Dáithí Ó Sé (History graduate)
    Bairbre DéBrun (French graduate)
    Deasún Mac an Easpaig (chinese learner)

  • barnshee

    “I think your idea that the language should be taught in Orange Halls is inspired Joe”

    Polluting OO halls with Irish classes?

    Yea republicans trying to burn down OO halls now to be aided and abetted by angry prods?? you could not make it up

  • chrisjones2

    To do that I assume students may have to first be relatively fluent in English and able to walk AND talk at the same time. Perhaps a bit of a barrier in many cases?

  • Joe_Hoggs

    Sorry you’ve lost me.

  • Concubhar O Liathain

    I doubt if you’ll gather a quorum to go and burn down an Orange Hall because of an Irish class among your brethren but I will note your comment lest it should happen…..

  • Nevin

    If I’m reading the BBC reports correctly the Minister says the letters were sent to teachers by DENI officials whereas CCEA says it sent the letters. Can you please clarify?

    If this was a DENI initiative, can you please outline the nature of the DENI request to CCEA?

  • Robert Shilliday

    I can confirm CCEA sent the letters. CCEA is the ‘they’ to which the Minister is referring in the BBC post. In the area of curriculum development the Department sets the policy and we develop programmes on the ground on their behalf in consultation with teachers and other stakeholders.

    In this instance, on the Department’s behalf, we’ve asked primary school Principals if they wish to express an interest in participating in initial consultation discussions which could help inform and shape any future programme in this area.

  • Barneyt

    My daughters school would be considered as “protestant” in general speak. Each time I go to parents evening, I see the word “welcome” written in every language under the sun, but there is no attempt at Scottish Gallic or Irish. For me this would not represent indoctrination. If it is, there there is clearly a Polish agenda at foot. It would normalise the language yes, but offer protection in the longer term should someone choose to weaponise the language. If someone elected to alienate me by throwing Irish at me (as they saw it) the best retort would be to return an intelligent response in the same language. Battle won!

  • carl marks

    I remember in the eighties reading about ( I think) the Irish Rangers stationed here would on occasion stop people at checkpoints who would make a point of speaking in Irish and were gobsmacked when the Ranger would reply in Irish and embarrassed when the couple of phrase’s they knew ran out.

  • Tacapall

    Alan while I do accept some of what you say, however, the facts throughout our history speak for themselves, those British types like Nelson have been afraid of the Irish language for centuries. What other reason other than fear drives a people to view anyone who spoke the native tongue of Ireland as being disloyal.

    “There has been great play made of the fact that the language has been politicised by nationalists. This thesis, however, refuses to acknowledge that it was the experience of invasion which first politicised the language when its eradication was seen as the political objective by the colonisers”

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Joe
    Encouraging stuff, bravo!

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Howdy Joe, if I may:

    “I’m happy to be proved wrong about this language being part of a curriculum


    This is not proof, just a perspective, treat it as you may.
    I spent a while learning a Slavic language, so when I turned my hand (briefly) to Scottish Gaelic I found it gave me a tremendous advantage over the monophonic English speakers who were attempting the same thing even though there are very very few similarities between them.

    Learning a language from a young age opens up a part of the brain that makes it much easier to learn other languages later in life.

    Yes, you could say “well, let’s just teach everyone French then” but, there are a tremendous amount of similarities between French and English, to the extent that one isn’t really thinking ‘outside of the box’.

    Gaelic on the other hand is so very very different that it further pushes the boundary of this part of the mind (brain?) that one would regard German or Italian a piece of cake in comparison furthermore, it is also reassuringly familiar in some aspects too as we’re so used to hearing parts of it from our very surroundings:

    e.g (off the top of my head so be nice, pedants) Bally/Ballyna – town/townland, place of, ard – high place (symbolically, not necessarily altitude), Beg – small (place), Carrick – rock, Clon/Cloon – dry place, Dun/Don/Down – fortified place, Drum/Drom – ridge, Kil – church, Mor -big/principal/chief….
    So on and so forth, I only know a smattering, others here will be much better placed to comment.

    So whist it is so different it nonetheless is familiar at the same time.

    This is kind of what many Anglophone learners of Scottish Gaelic would find appealing but without the perceived Sinn Fein after-taste which I agree is a problem at present.

    But, if we’re not involved then we have no say.

    BTW, check out the Orange lodge banners written in Irish in me blog: http://amgobsmacked.blogspot.com.au/2013/12/foreigners-lundys-and-irish-language.html

    (scroll halfway down, that way ye won’t get scundered reading it)

  • carl marks

    yep your right learning Irish makes prods angry and they are going to help republicans burn down OO hall’s, where do you get these thing’s from! is it voices or do you see patterns in the clouds?

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Tac, which colonisers?
    The Vikings, Normans/Angevins, Tudors, Stuarts, Parliamentarians, Dutch, Hanoverians? All of the above?

  • Joe_Hoggs

    Are you in the Orange? I am and quite a few of our members actively speak Irish, embarrassingly I cannot.

  • carl marks

    Pay no attention Joe, he’s Just trying to wind you up!

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Pay no heed Joe

  • Tacapall

    Maybe you’ve never heard of the plantations AG or the fact that
    Cromwell disapeared almost two thirds of the population of Ireland.

    By the way would you consider Australian Aborigines as being native Austrailians ?

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    No need to be sarky Tac, I’ve heard so many versions of who ‘the colonists’ were that I am forced to be more discriminating.

    So, you weren’t talking about the Anglo-Normans/Angevins. Cool.

    True, James I/VI was no fan of Gaels (hence his other plantations in the Outer Hebrides that were successfully repelled by the local Chieftains) but at the same time he was hardly focusing on ‘speaking Gaelic’ as his priority (more like pacifying the various hot-beds of the three kingdoms, 2 birds with one stone as far as the Borders and Ulster were concerned).

    As for Cromwell (again) if eradicating Gaelic was his priority then Scotland would have felt similar retributions given the large Gaelic population it had at the time.
    BTW, what size was Cromwell’s army and how many Irish people did he kill/expel/enslave?

    “By the way would you consider Australian Aborigines as being native Austrailians ?


    Well, if I didn’t I’d be mauled by the thought police down here, so I just keep my mouth shut.
    This is a very odd question as there is very little common ground between the Australian aborigines and the mongrel ‘nations’ of the Atlantic Isles (I prefer that name to the British Isles, just saying).

  • Tacapall

    What im saying AG is Austrailian Aborigines didn’t just grow in Austrailia, they arrived there before everyone else, so at what point do you become native. I can trace my family roots in Ireland back a thousand years before Cromwell landed, that would be before the Normans and like most Irishmen my DNA can be traced back to Northern Spain we’re kinda like origional cavemen does that not entitle me to claim Im a native of Ireland – http://www.sikharchives.com/?source=Patrick.net&p=8937

    Are’nt you cherry picking a bit AG, did I infer that James or Cromwell or those who instigated the plantations sole aim was to eradicate the Gaelic language, maybe I should have been a little clearer, do we have to go through the various bigotted laws that were passed allowing for the removal of natives from the land they pocessed for hundreds of years before Cromwell landed or banning Irish people from speaking Irish, holding land, jobs, their religion. Why does it matter what size the Dutchmans army was ?

  • Tochais Siorai

    I came across a couple of Rangers based in Cyprus in the early 90s who were handy enough Irish speakers, one from Kerry was very fluent. Maybe he was your guy at the checkpoint!

  • barnshee

    “yep your right learning Irish makes prods angry ”

    Well you got that bit right

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    “What im saying AG is Austrailian Aborigines didn’t just grow in Austrailia, they
    arrived there before everyone else, so at what point do you become native”

    The Aborigines have a clear period of separation (well, by and large, there were interactions with Malays), Ireland does not, it’s a terrible comparison.

    ” I can trace my family roots in Ireland back a thousand years before Cromwell landed, that would be before the Normans and like most Irishmen my DNA can be traced back to Northern Spain we’re kinda like origional cavemen does
    that not entitle me to claim Im a native of Ireland

    I would wager that some figures in the DUP would also have
    similar ancestry (not that they’d be happy with it).

    You can claim yourself to be an native of Ireland as can Wolfe Tone, George Best and Richard Óg de Burgh so knock yourself out, only a twisted mind would say you’re not.

    As for your weblink.
    I have ask: If Ireland’s population was 1.5 million and it fell to 600 000 then does that mean ‘only’ 100 000 died from the famines & wars in the years 1641 till Cromwell’s arrival in 1649?

    I’m pretty sure that the scorched earth campaigns as remarked by Owen Roe O’Neill (who helped relieve an English garrison in Derry BTW);
    ““not only looks like a desert, but like hell, if there could be a hell upon earth” 1642, would have given the island a head start before the roundheads could have a crack (he wasn’t averse to burning food supplies himself), so those figures seem a bit ‘skewed’.

    If I believed those kind of sites Tac I’d believe that Ulster Protestants are of Israeli Egyptian descent

    “Are’nt you cherry picking a bit AG, did Iinfer that James or Cromwell or those who instigated the plantations sole aim
    was to eradicate the Gaelic language, maybe I should have been a little clearer, do we have to go through the various bigotted laws that were passed allowing for the removal of natives from the land they pocessed for hundreds of
    years before Cromwell landed or banning Irish people from speaking Irish, holding land, jobs, their religion”

    Not really, you mentioned the colonisers and their political objective of ‘exterminating the language’, I then merely asked you to clarify which colonisers.

    One of your colonisers happened to (inadvertently) colonise Ulster with a lot of Gaelic speakers.

    We don’t have to go through the unrelated laws (land etc), just the ones that specifically mention “thou shalt not speak Irish”.

    Be warned, a favourite weapon of choice would be the Statutes of Kilkenny, so mention specifically where they forbade Irish people to speak Irish as their daily tongue. Every one is aware of ‘the English’ being forbidden to speak it, but as for Joe Sixpack, well, aside from official business there wasn’t that much of the Nelson McCausland enthusiasm.

    And a bit of context please, the De Burgh civil war is an important backdrop as is the utter lack of enthusiasm in enforcing these half assed laws.

    You could also mention the (relatively) recent decimation of the French speaking ruling class who copped the worst of the Black Death ergo removing the lingua franca between England’s and Ireland’s ruling elites (French (pretty much) being the language of the ruling class in England till the Black Death )…

    (please, no paranoid MOPE driven websites, something a bit more concrete)

    “Why does it matter what size the Dutchmans army was ?”

    Well, I was referring to Cromwell, not the Dutch Libertine.

    Anyway, just curious, as I do struggle with the figures from this era as apparently Cromwell was able to kill so many people (but the famines and preceding 8 years not)
    that I wonder what size his army actually was.

    It must have been huge.

  • carl marks

    Really learning Irish make’s prods angry! It might make some Prods angry but lets be honest there are some people so mired in their bitterness that anything different makes them angry.
    But thankfully that is not true of most “Prods”, Irish language class’s are growing at a healthy rate in “Prod” areas and as far as I know nobody attending them has converted to Catholicism or attacked a orange hall
    You have to stop claiming you speak for all “Prods” it is simply not true thankfully!

  • carl marks

    A lot of the Rangers came from the republic, and a lot from Kerry, Donegal and other gealteacht areas, but if I remember right (and that is not guaranteed) there were more than a couple Gaelic speakers in the regiment.

  • Joe_Hoggs

    Out of interest how good are Sinn Fein member’s Irish? I remember complaints in the past about how poor it was but I assume it has since improved?

  • carl marks

    I’m not a Gaelic speaker but I suppose it varies some fluent some beginners and most in between, my eldest is fluent and regards GA’s as needing some work, but it is not a easy language to learn

  • Tacapall

    Ah the scraping of the barrel default response of a British subject when it comes to matters of Ireland – Mope. Enough said, but I’ll leave you with this –

    http://libsysdigi.library.uiuc.edu/OCA/Books2009-12/3749325/3749325_djvu.txt

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Tac

    After a complaint from Morpheus I decided only to use the word MOPE when warranted and unfortunately that site was worthy IMO, you don’t have a great track record when offering up references and proof
    .
    So if I used the word MOPE to describe that website (c’mon, there’s a few holes there that jump out immediately e.g. James II, 1625? sloppy) well that’s because that’s how it comes across.

    Likewise, it’s just a blog, no one should be referencing my blog for historical proof as I’m not a trained historian (more of a historical bin-hoker) but it’s there to offer food for thought, not absolute authority.

    You seem to be more of a ‘bottom line’ sort of fella which is the path to ‘Tim Pat Cooganism’ (a very dark path might I add).

    BRONZEECHOTWOFIVEZERO (or whatever his name is) offered up a fine (but in my opinion misplaced) argument regarding the need for context and nuance.

    If you have problems with the rest of my response then by all means catch me out on the bits that are wrong.

  • Spike

    to be fair i think there is more chance of getting a job here with irish than there is with spanish/german/french. i know a lot of people working in that sector – cant say i know any that conduct business in spanish/french/german. just saying. still cant get my head around why more unionists dont try to learn scottish gaelic as surely that is the correct ancestral tongue.