An education in Unionism

The UUP webmaster muttered something about translation at me last Friday, to be honest I probably wasn’t listening to him very hard (sorry Dave). I looked at the website this morning, and I found out what he was doing. To be honest I have no idea what the Arabic, Bengali or Chinese welcome pages say, but I think it fair to assume that it is a synopsis of what Unionism and the Ulster Unionist Party stand for.

  • How cosmopolitan of the UUP. Surely a welcome in Irish cannot be far off.

  • willis

    I thought the strapline said
    “The party of Carson and Craic”

  • Stephen Copeland

    It seems that they have given up on the Lithuanians and the Latvians?

    On behalf of non-unionists, may I therefore say, to our Baltic friends: Sveiki and Esiet sveicinati!

    And is Lord Laird not still active in the UUP? If so, why do they not wish him, and his ilk, a Fair faa ye?

  • páid

    The UUP should contrast their website with http://www.conservatives.com/wales and think through their ideas on this one. The UUP door remains closed to those sympathetic to Gaelic culture; this will cost them dearly in the long run. In the UUP, language history, surnames, forenames, placenames are all to be Anglicized and sterilised. Thus they cut themselves off from thinking, curious citizens. The results of this ignorance can be seen when the annual conference camera pans to the audience.

  • middle-class taig

    Congratulations to the UUP on this admirable initiative.

  • Keith M

    It’s nice that the UUP has time to waste on this kind of nonsense. Who knows, their policies ight even make sense if translated to Polish, then on to Hinda, onto Chinese, and then back to English!

    “The UUP door remains closed to those sympathetic to Gaelic culture” Exactly how many people likely to visit the UUP site can speak Gaelic and not speak English?

  • Keith M,

    Don’t be so mean. It’s the thought that counts.

  • Stephen Copeland

    Keith M,

    If you’re going to go through the bother of registering to vote (which needs a certain knowledge of English, I imagine), then you are probably capable of reading party political material anyway in English. So all of the ‘extra’ languages are likely to be unnecessary.

    It is a question of the image of the UUP that it presents. And on that issue pid’s comment is correct. They didn’t need to put the stuff on their site in Portuguese, Urdu, etc … but by deliberately avoiding even one word of Irish (in contrast to the UK conservative party’s attitude to Welsh, and in contrast to the spirit of the GFA to which they were a willing party) they are sending out a clear and unambiguous message.

    One simple word, UUP people, is all it would take to show that you are actually in favour of the supposed diversity of the UK …. Fáilte. If it sticks in your throats, then you need to do some thinking.

  • “deliberately avoiding even one word of Irish”

    I think you’re clearly overestimating the consideration given to Irish by the majority of unionists. They were probably only considering languages that at least a few people in Northern Ireland actually use.

  • I should also add that I’m glad to see this move from the UUP – but I do hope it’s not just a gimmick and that it’s part of a long-term strategy to promote the benefits of the union to the various ethnic minorities in Northern Ireland

  • slug

    Perhaps the clever thing to do would be to have welcome written in Scots Gallic, Welsh, Scots and Irish, emphasising the East-West linkages that motivate the basic unionist position.

  • Stephen Copeland

    beano,

    I know that you probably know all this, but still …

    Quite a few people use Irish in the north. There are around 50 or so schools educating kids through Irish (nursery, primary, and secondary). These kids have parents too. There are numerous Irish-language groups all over the place, at least one newspaper (Lá), at least one radio station (Raidio Failte), books are published in Irish, plays are staged in Irish, people watch TG4, and so on.

    If the UUP want to alienate those people, so be it. But if they actually believe their stuff about diversity then they could make one small step towards proving it.

  • Stephen Copeland

    slug,

    Perhaps the clever thing to do …

    Indeed. But clever was never strong in the UUP, was it?

  • bo shank

    Stephen,

    Why put Irish up? Last time i checked Irsih wasn’t an ethnic minority language.

  • Stephen Copeland

    shank,

    There are basically two reasons to put up a word (or more) of Irish;

    (1) Because it would help communicate with people who are first-language users of that language.
    (2) As a marketing ploy, to show that they are tolerant and inclusive, and to dispel any lingering ideas that they are anti-Irish.

    Clearly, in NI, reason (1) is not very valid. As is often pointed out, most Irish speakers in NI are either first-language English speakers, or are perfectly bilingual.

    However, the UUP fail on reason (2), and thereby show up their lack of marketing expertise. It will be no surprise to anyone, then, when people who are interested in or enthusiastic about Irish do but buy their product.

  • Polar Bear Goddess

    Well when you look at the page, the UUP are clearly doing this translation thing in the context of reaching out specifically to ethnic minorities – surely even the most adamant supporter of Irish or Ulster-Scots would describe themselves as an “ethnic minority” ??

    Good on them anyways – a first in Northern Ireland certainly, and I can’t even find a minority languages section on the Labour or Tory websites!

  • slug

    The UUP page headline says:

    “UUP outlines proposals to tackle needs of Ethnic Minorities in Northern Ireland”

    I think they don’t mean Irish speakers when they say ethnic minorities, and I have heard nationalists saying that they would not like to be considered an ethnic minority in NI even though they are a minority, they are a large minority not in the sense that we use the term “ethnic minority”.

  • sluggingmissfitz

    Except….
    I was at a UUP event recently, and although the context had to be taken into consideration, I was surprised at how ready people were to use words of Irish when speaking to me.

    I’m not kidding here. I think its because I sound ‘southern’ and it was probably a little bit of showing off, but it was quite quaint

  • slug

    Missfitz

    Interesting. To be honest I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the UUP did something in Irish at some point, aimed at reaching out to mew audiences.

  • Stephen Copeland

    slug,

    To be honest I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the UUP did something in Irish …

    There are quite a few Irish-speaking unionists, and even more Irish-speaking Protestants. There was a ‘unionist’ columnist in one of the Irish-language papers called Ian Malcolm – maybe he’s still out there somewhere? The census results also show a level of knowledge of Irish amongst Protestants, but many keep quiet about it for fear of being suspected of being closet republicans. Likewise the CAIN site has some information on Prods learning Irish who keep quiet about their religion at the classes for fear of being seen as loyalist plants. The view of Irish as being a Catholic/republican language is certainly pervasive, but not accurate.

  • Conor Gillespie

    “I think you’re clearly overestimating the consideration given to Irish by the majority of unionists.”

    umm actually I think the point that stephen wass making was that the UUP don’t give any consideration to Irish. By the way, the main point of writing a message of Welcome in Irish on their webpage is not that it would attract native/second hand fluent speakers or even language enthusiasts but that it would have an appeal to those who consider themselves to come from a Gaelic background. Many nationalists certainly use English for all practical purposes but still consider Gaeilge to be our native language. A simple “Failte” on the UUP’s page would speak volumes about the distance they have come since the 60s in breaching the cultural divide. A few words in Irish would not only tell the catholic community that Unionism is eager to embrace their culture rather than to stamp it out would make both the UUP and Unionism itself infinitly more appealing to many of us. By the way, the notion of a message in Scots Gaelic would also probably be an excellent idea. And anyway, I don’t see how this is really much of a new “initiative” at all really. Putting aside that the Sinn Fein website has had a multi-lingual website since goodness knows when, it is not really any more than a small nominal gesture to begin with. Nice but not exactly newsworthy.

    P.S. The Sinn Fein welcome reads thusly: Fáilte Welcome Bienvenidos Rafiki Willkommen Ongi Etorri Bienvenue. Feeling more inclusive yet?

  • slug

    Connor, did you read Reg Empey’s letter?

  • Stephen Copeland

    slug,

    did you read Reg Empey’s letter?

    Do you mean this one:

    We will work with community leaders in loyalist areas to promote the generous, pluralist British values of the contemporary United Kingdom.

    Holy cow!

    We celebrate diversity – and we want to secure the future of our diverse society.

    All diversity except that that represents the other 45% of NI’s population, that is.

    Quite a pathetic and narrow approach, I would say. But hey, who listens to him anyway … ?

  • slug

    Stephen

    No I meant the letter. If you click on the ethnic minority languages you see each has a letter.

  • Stephen Copeland

    slug,

    I have to assume they all say the same as the English version, since I don’t speak any of the languages used. But so what, the letter is a case study in blandness.

  • slug

    Stephen

    The English version is the one under “Welcome”.

    So no positive comments, only negative ones from you?

  • Stephen Copeland

    slug,

    The letter basically says:

    Ethnic minorities don’t play much role in NI politics. We would like you to do so through the UUP. The UUP wants NI to stay in the UK.

    What is special about that, for gods sake? It is bland in the extreme. If that’s the best they can come up with, they have no hope. No mention of the specific issues that might be faced by black people in the village, or Catholic Poles in Portadown, or how the UUP now disowns the anti-Catholic bigotry of the OO, or workers rights, or why they think they are better than the rest of the alphabet soup of parties.

  • Conor Gillespie

    Well at least they dont follow Big Ian’s Cultural policy. That’s one thing they’ve got going for them. I wonder if Auld Paisley thinks Arabic is a Gini language in the same way that “Irish is a Leprachaun language.”

  • slug

    So just to sum up, Stephen, you have nothing positive to say?

  • sluggingmissfitz

    If one was to totally fair, one would have to note that the letter was not in Ulster Scots.

    And I am confident that they would have been able to get someone to do the job for them!

  • TAFKABO

    I live in a country where english is a foregin language (No, not Northern Ireland, ha ha).
    Even though I speak French well enough to understand election leaflets, I’d still think it a big deal if someone at the local council elections here made it known that they had printed some stuff up in english for my benefit.
    Going by my own experiences here, I wouldn’t underestimate this gesture.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Slug: “So just to sum up, Stephen, you have nothing positive to say? ”

    Its a form letter. Its not a manifesto or mission statement. There is nothing there to get excitied about.

    That said, if none of the other parties makes an effort, as TAFKABO points out, its a leg-up.

  • I hear the webpages are actually messages from Reg Empey welcoming customers to the new UUP International Phonecard, which allows you to buy up blocs of minutes for calling Egypt, Poland and Taiwan, among other places, at very competitive prices.

  • slug

    Dread

    So we have a letter posted on the UUPs website in 6 different languages in which Reg Empey points out with concern that the new ethnic minorities are not registering to vote, and states his determination to work with ethnic minorities, and invites them to talk to or even join his party. Not expecting excitement, it’s just interesting to me that people would be negative, and only negative, about that.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Slug: “So we have a letter posted on the UUPs website in 6 different languages in which Reg Empey points out with concern that the new ethnic minorities are not registering to vote, and states his determination to work with ethnic minorities, and invites them to talk to or even join his party. Not expecting excitement, it’s just interesting to me that people would be negative, and only negative, about that. ”

    Like I said — its a form letter. Its neither good nor bad — its a pro forma “come look at us” spiel by the UUP. Its a good idea, especially if the other parties aren’t making an effort at outreach, but what more do you want?

  • slug

    Dread:

    1. I was interested in the negativity that the letter provoked.

    2. What do you mean by a “form” letter?

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Slug: “1. I was interested in the negativity that the letter provoked. ”

    Waht negativity? No one seems excited, one way or the other.

    Slug: “2. What do you mean by a “form” letter?”

    It doesn’t really SAY anything — its a fairly bland, unobtrusive, unlikely to offend anyone missive, intended to pique a little curiousity. Its a piece of political marketing.

  • slug

    Dread

    Reg Empeys letter to recently arrived ethnic minorities seems to say the following things:

    1. Expresses concern that too many ethnic minorities aren’t registered to vote.
    2. Affirms that his party welcomes people from ethnic minorities in society, wants to listen to and address their concerns, and wants to challenge racism.
    3. Invites ethnic minorites to become involved in his party

    This seems “neither good nor bad” to you and to Stepen we get:

    “All diversity except that that represents the other 45% of NI’s population, that is. Quite a pathetic and narrow approach, I would say…a case study in blandness.”

    Its not that I expect nationalist oriented people to be excited in a positive way; its just kind of interesting to see the negativity such a letter has provoked.

  • slug

    that should read “from Stephen we get”

  • missfitzslugging

    Slug
    The initial reaction was always going to be the obvious one. If you’re to go to all the trouble of getting that lovely welcome letter translated into a dose of languages, why not go the extra 0.5 centimetre and have it translated into Irish and Ulster Scots.

    I know that you go nuts and say ‘ oh well not ethnic minorities’ but it would have been a bigger gesture for all of that

  • Belfast Gonzo

    I understand the UUP has subsequently said that the greetings (and I paraphrase) were primarily for people for whom English is not a first language.

    While I know that there’s plenty of people for whom Irish is their first language, I don’t know any who aren’t also fully fluent in English.

    Still, it would’ve been a nice gesture, although – to be fair – it probably would have attracted as many negative comments from nationalists/republicans.

  • missfitzslugging

    Gonzo
    If English isnt your first language, and you are doing a google search for a political party to join in Belfast, can you search in your native language for the UUP website? I have a sneaking suspicion that would not be the case and the english would be the language of access to the site in the first place.

    That makes the position of catering to those who have no english a little untenable

  • Tochais Siorai

    If the UUP acknowledged Irish on their website it might go some way to remove the language as one of their bogeymen and they couldn’t have that. After all, it was only a couple of months ago when Reg was scaremongering against the new supercouncils by telling Unionists they’d have to learn the Irish version of Portadown and Banbridge to follow the signposts to get to those towns.

    Maybe the DUP will do a Killarney and be the first Unionist party to reach out ‘as Gaeilge’.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Slug: “This seems “neither good nor bad” to you and to Stephen we get: “All diversity except that that represents the other 45% of NI’s population, that is. Quite a pathetic and narrow approach, I would say…a case study in blandness.”

    Its not that I expect nationalist oriented people to be excited in a positive way; its just kind of interesting to see the negativity such a letter has provoked. ”

    And I repeat — *what* negativity. Yes, the letter has some nice sentiments, yes its a nice piece of marketing and, yes, as Stephen
    points out, it doesn nothing to bridge the more obvious social chasms in N.I. and, yes, it is bland.

    All you’ve really seen from the nationalists is a not-quite-long-winded shrug from me and a little bit of grumbling from Stephen, if he would forgive the characterization, that the letter really is little more than an electronic handbill, with no real substance.

    Yes, it is important and even good that under-served minorities receive these sort of invitations. Yes, all are served by involving the whole of the community in the political process. That said, Stephen’s criticism — that they seem to be ignoring 45% of the population is not without merit, either. It is what it is, no more, no less.