Irish has been loser in North South clash

Daily Ireland argues that the Irish language has suffered by having had Foras na Gaeilge tied to the ill starred Belfast Agreement, and not least by being twinned with development of Ulster-Scots. It highlights the fact that it has not been in a position to publish an annual report since 1999.

  • maca

    “Defenders of Foras say that it is hamstrung by its links to its Ulster-Scots counterpart and is being hindered by a less-than-helpful attitude from the Northern authorities”

    I’d consider myself a supporter of the U-Scots movement but i’d be very critical of their leadership. And i’d say the above quote is true in part.
    The two “local” minority language on the island would need to be working closely together because both are in a very similar situation.
    But in reality there is a competition between the two. I don’t know how much of the blame lies in the Irish language movement but i’d certainly lay a great deal of the blame at the feet of people like John Laird. His views were made clear here not so long ago, ‘give US the same level of funding as Irish or cut Irish down’. This kind of attitude is very damaging to US and perhaps it is also dragging Irish down too.

  • Oilbhéar Chromaill

    One of the problems is the entanglement of the Irish language and the Ulster Scots bodies in one language agency. The Boord O’Ulster Scotch recently highlighted difficulties over their 2000 accounts means Foras na Gaeilge can’t publish its accounts as both sets need to be consolidated.

    Secondly there’s an invidious north south dynamic going on – southern Irish language bodies resent and envy the energy and drive of the northern groups and are waging a bit of a propoganda battle to get more money down their way, notwithstanding they know of the historical difficulties endured by the Irish language community in the north.

    As well as that Foras na Gaeilge are not as competent as they like to think they are. They are mired in bureaucracy and red tape but there’s no sign of a vision for the Irish language from them. Their dealings with Irish language groups on the ground have been mishandled to such an extent that heads should roll.

  • Mick Fealty

    Oilbhear,

    A naive question perhaps, but is it possible, or even desireable for a government body to produce an engaging vision?

  • Ringo

    Secondly there’s an invidious north south dynamic going on – southern Irish language bodies resent and envy the energy and drive of the northern groups and are waging a bit of a propoganda battle to get more money down their way,

    Propaganda battle? Good God, what hope would us Republicans have in a propaganda battle with you republicans?

    The bare-faced cheek of those pesky Gaeltacht-dwelling ingrates. Who do they think they are, suggesting that spending money in places where it is actually used in real life is more worthy than where it is a tool used for cultural warfare and token political reasons.

    historical difficulties endured by the Irish language community in the north Is this the real Irish Language community that did exist and died out long before partition or the Irish language community that has been constructed from scratch in two or three decades you are referring to?

  • Davros

    “Daily Ireland argues that the Irish language has suffered by having had Foras na Gaeilge tied to the ill starred Belfast Agreement”

    The Irish Language or the Irish Language movement ?
    There’s a difference.

  • Keith M

    Neither Ulster Scots nor Irish Gaelic are being helped by the their politicisation. It has to be said that now that its most fervent supports (the governments) are admitting its failure, it’s time to kill off all elements of the Belfast Agreement.

  • IJP

    Maca‘s spot on, as usual.

    Personally I believe there should be an all-Ireland language body covering everything from development of ‘indigenous’ (a truly awful term but it’ll have to do for now!) minority languages, advice on services in ethnic minority languages, and facilitation of training in major world languages to make the people of the island genuinely multilingual. That the language body has been restricted to Irish and Ulster Scots (and worse still ‘culture’ was added to the latter’s remit) has led to an inevitable competition and false correlation between them which does service to neither.

  • fair_deal

    Daily Ireland whinges that the Sinn Fein front language groups have been unable to use the Foras na Gaelige structures as a trojan horse to dominate the Irish language movement. So they demand a new structure as a Plan B.

    Boo Hoo. Someone get Mairtin a Kleenez.

  • maca

    “Sinn Fein front language groups”

    Such as?

  • idunnomeself

    Ringo
    Foras’ remit doesn’t extend to the Gaeltacht

    Maca
    I’m not sure why the link to the Ulster-Scots Agency could have hindered Foras. The two have lead very seperate lives and while the Agency struggled to get set up from Scratch Foras had many advantages like experienced staff from BnaG and so on. Being a cross border body will have slowed things down- but this applies to all of them and not just the language body

    OC
    From my contacts the Ulster-Scots Agency would be very surprised if Foras were using them as the excuse for why the 2000 accounts are slow. Do you have any more information about what they say happened? The row over taxis shouldn’t have delayed the accounts, just changed the content of the audit certificate?

    In general I think you may have hit the nail on the head with the North vs South thing. I expect that the dynamic of the Irish language community in NI will have to change to become all-Ireland now and that that transition will be painful. For example an argument for funding based on the length of British oppression of the Irish language will cut less ice with Foras than it will with the NIO.

    I suppose this is why the SDLP and SF wanted cross border bodies? To get people used to working on an all-Ireland basis- although maybe they didn’t think that the first to feel this would be Irish language groups!

    IJP
    You forgot sign languages
    What you are proposing would be a new iniative, it wouldn’t create efficencies and I can’t see too many Synergies.
    The overlapping of language and culture is something the Ulster-Scots langauge movement will have to address themselves- they asked for the remit and seem quite ambivilant about it

  • IJP

    IDM

    I’m not sure why the link to the Ulster-Scots Agency could have hindered Foras.

    Is it correct that the Language Body as a whole must submit a single set of accounts? Is it correct that it was unable to do so due to poor procedures in the Ulster-Scots Agency for the first two years?

    but this applies to all of them and not just the language body

    That’s a valid point and leads to an interesting discussion about whether such bodies are really the best means of cross-border cooperation at all. But that’s a tangent we’ll avoid for now!

    You forgot sign languages.

    I did, you are entirely correct. Such a body would also be responsible for their promotion and advising on most appropriate use, e.g. in broadcasting.

    What you are proposing would be a new iniative.

    Yes.

    Clearly such a body would be vastly larger even that the current Foras, but would create savings elsewhere. DCAL wouldn’t need the farcically named ‘Linguistic Diversity Branch’ for a start…!

    The idea would be to:
    – remove the direct (political) opposition between Irish and Ulster Scots;
    – to recognize the potential of both in the context of improving linguistic ability generally;
    – to focus solely on language, rather than the far more ill-defined ‘culture’.

    they asked for the remit and seem quite ambivilant about it

    There you go again, discriminating against non-Unionists and people who have some demonstrable expertise on such subjects!

    Are you suggesting that I, or Liam Logan, or Dónall Ó Riagain, or Gavin Falconer, or even maca above are not members of the ‘Ulster-Scots movement’? Yet we and plenty of others, Unionist and non-Unionist, explicitly opposed to tying in of ‘culture’ and still do.

    So to say the ‘Movement’ asked for it is a lie, unless you’re deliberately excluding us for some reason you may care to expand upon?

    It is also quite clear that the language has been failed by the linkage, since precisely nothing has been done from it apart from an inappropriate and unaccountable translations policy that, again, I and many others never asked for and that, again, has clearly damaged the language. So not only do we take a contrary view to the one you suggest the ‘Movement’ holds, but we’ve been proved correct.

    You know, Government would get a lot further if it stopped ignoring those who actually know what they’re talking about!

  • idunnomeself

    IJP

    Yes, joint accounts (according to the legislation IIRC I looked it up for another thread)
    No, not that I gather, though I don’t *know*. We’ll have to wait till they are published to know. I do know that at least a year of the delay was caused by the audit offices though!

    re Culture/Langauge split
    I meant in 1999 obviously when the legislation was passed. Not 2005. Did you campaign about this issue then? Not all the people you list were active then

    You might not need a ‘Linguistic Diversity Branch’ (think it is a ‘unit’ now, whatever) but you’d need something to manage the new cross border body you set up

  • maca

    IDM
    “I’m not sure why the link to the Ulster-Scots Agency could have hindered Foras.”

    Well you know a lot more about it than me. I was speaking in general terms that the association might hinder the movement rather than the agency. With Laird & others powering the US movement the result is further politicisation of the languages and a widening of the gap between the two. Competition rather than co-operation, fine of the languages were in a healthy state but neither is.

  • IJP

    I’m still with maca!

  • IJP

    Thanks for checking IDM.

    I was not party to the deal concerning the Agency’s establishment but went on record immediately as saying that the addition of ‘culture’ was a cop out and that the very term ‘Ulster Scots’ was in urgent need of definition. We’re still waiting for that latter.

    My proposal for a new cross-border language body is not about saving money directly, indeed it’d probably create jobs. It is about a more effective language policy and advisory service based on clearly identified need across the island rather than Northern political pettiness. In the longer term that’d save money, but much more to the point it would be far more effective and less entrenching.

    I should add that I also propose an all-island energy body, but would suggest InterTradeIsland could be cut back significantly. But like I say, that’s another debate, just making the point that it’s about accuracy and efficiency, not political handouts!

  • idunnomeself

    maca,

    I suspect the point they are getting at is that the attitude of ‘if we have to do it for Irish, we have to do it for Ulster-Scots’ is hampering Irish as often you just *can’t* do it for Ulster-Scots. I’d be keen to hear of any actual examples of this, I don’t think it represents a good argument.

    But I don’t think this is hampering the day to day operation of the Agency, or its administration as this editorial suggests.

    A counterpoint would be that organisations that would be unwilling to promote Irish on its own are now happy to do that as Unionists (who might otherwise oppose it) will agree as long as Ulster-Scots culture is also promoted/ funded. I gather this is the situation in various councils.

    Your point that the likes of Lord Laird are hampering Irish may be true, but would be hard to pin down. Are you basically saying that by politicising Ulster-Scots that will automatically politicise other languages? There is plenty that has happened to politicise Irish previously. Even without their involvement in Ulster-Scots i expect that some Unionists would continue to paint Irish as ‘a sweetie for themmuns’

    Many people i know on the Ulster-Scots side are not convinced that his involment in their movement has been beneficial (although he clearly thinks he is an asset!).

    And there can be no doubt that the politicisation of both languages has lead to increaased funding and provision for them

  • IJP

    Good post, IDM.

    And there can be no doubt that the politicisation of both languages has lead to increaased funding and provision for them

    It’d be worth looking at that point further.

    It is entirely correct that politicization has led to increased funding for Ulster Scots. But a few questions:
    – Could it be that it has restricted funding for Irish?
    – Does increased funding necessarily equate to increased provision?
    – Is increased provision a good thing if it is inappropriate?
    – Must there always be a strict divide in funding provided for Irish and Ulster Scots – is there no case where single projects dealing with both could be appropriate?
    – Should the State be providing funding for such things at all?

    I’ll leave that all open for debate…

  • maca

    IDM
    I suspect the point they are getting at is that the attitude of ‘if we have to do it for Irish, we have to do it for Ulster-Scots’ is hampering Irish as often you just *can’t* do it for Ulster-Scots.” I *half* agree with this for the reason i’ll mention below regarding Laird.

    “A counterpoint would be that organisations that would be unwilling to promote Irish on its own are now happy to do that as Unionists (who might otherwise oppose it) will agree as long as Ulster-Scots culture is also promoted/ funded.”

    Good point.

    “Your point that the likes of Lord Laird are hampering Irish may be true, but would be hard to pin down.”

    Laird, as you may remember, commented (to Mick) on a discussion here not so long ago. It was in regard to the ‘Lá & funding’ issue (i’m sure you’ll remember that one ;)).
    His point was pretty clear then, give US the level of funding that Irish gets or cut Irish funding down. Now what if the funding for Irish gets cut down? I presume this man (and co.) actually carry a bit of weight? Plus there’s the politicisation & polarisation, the competitive (vs Irish) nature of his leadership, making US a ‘strand of Unionism’ and therefore ‘leaving Irish to the nationalists’… all will hamper Irish IMHO.

    “Are you basically saying that by politicising Ulster-Scots that will automatically politicise other languages?”

    No, not quite. Just that US has been politicised and under Laird & co it will just continue to get worse, and will probably lose some peoples support. Me for one.
    This also relates to the past part of my last point.

    “There is plenty that has happened to politicise Irish previously.”

    And i’d really hope people in the US movement would recognise this and try to prevent US going down the same road. That’s why US & Irish need to be on the same team. The movements need to be lead by language activists not unionists or nationalists.

    “Even without their involvement in Ulster-Scots i expect that some Unionists would continue to paint Irish as ‘a sweetie for themmuns'”

    Certainly. But I believe some unionists would eventually warm to Irish (I know of some unionists learning Irish), especially considering the history of prods and Irish.

    “And there can be no doubt that the politicisation of both languages has lead to increaased funding and provision for them”

    Very true. But funding alone isn’t enough. And despite funding there are drawbacks to politicisation as you know.

    -sorry, my points are a bit scattered, i’ve a 4 year old climbing over my head at the moment 😉

  • idunnomeself

    Maca,

    I can clearly follow the argument that Laird and co have damaged Ulster-Scots, although they have also brought it profile and funding. It was, I suppose, perhaps the price that had to be paid for the grants?

    I can follow the argument that he has damaged Irish less well.

    Laird is an unelected opposition member of the upper chamber. Like a Green in the Senate. He can bring something up the agenda, but has no say over decision making. So his comments over Lá funding were pure bluster.

    As I said before the argument that ‘Laird politicises language, Irish is a language thus he doesn’t help it’ it maybe slightly true, but maybe less significant than other things.

    I also know a few Protestants learning Irish. One of them at least is doing so because it is associated with Republicanism- it’s her ‘one small step’! Another one learned because they were a linguist and another one because they wanted to reclaim their Irishness.

    Good luck with the wean!

    IJP

    What sort of projects? I suppose they could be dually funded now anyway, no reason why not. The only one I can think of off hand is the symposium at Queens.

  • maca

    IDM
    “As I said before the argument that ‘Laird politicises language, Irish is a language thus he doesn’t help it’ it maybe slightly true, but maybe less significant than other things.”

    Now, that’s now exactly what we were saying. 😉
    He has directly attacked Irish, though how much that has damaged the language (if at all) I don’t know.

    “I also know a few Protestants learning Irish”

    Good to hear, at least for learner 2 & 3 😉

  • IJP

    IDM

    It was, I suppose, perhaps the price that had to be paid for the grants?

    That could well be true, in which case it serves to prove my earlier point that public policy in NI, including language policy, is based entirely on a sectarian carve-up (which, in the end, serves no one).

    What sort of projects?

    No one bothers to think of any because there’s no point!

    There’d be quite a few:
    – Roadshows on linguistic parallels/influences;
    – Development of sensible, non-alienating linguistic policy (e.g. when appearance on streetsigns is appropriate);
    – Poetry festivals combining all NI’s languages (like one ongoing right now but which nearly wasn’t due to the carve-up!)
    – Place names (I dare say…!)
    and so on.