“…reflecting on the experience of Wales”

A Radio 4 producer wants to organise a debate on Welsh language promotion. A simple enough proposition, however, she can’t find anyone to be a public critic. Her research has led her to many critics of the present approach but they have a deep reluctance to do so publicly. The three main criticisms she has came across are the value for money of the investment, the potential harm to the career prospects of non-speakers and attitudes of speakers to non-speakers. BBC online readers responses to this here.

  • Oilibhear Chromaill

    Simple enough really. All they need is some Anti Irish unionists to go over and rant and rave about the cost etc and sure doesn’t everyone understand English anyhow. They never let their ignorance get in the way of their prejudices.

  • fair_deal

    Or perhaps it is the long-term impact of some language activists demonisation of anyone with the temerity to disagree or inability to accept rational criticism can be made.

  • gaelgannaire

    ‘Welsh Language Promotion’

    Welsh speaker call it ‘Human Rights’.

    Of course Welsh speakers have a slighter better chances of getting a job – so do urdu speakers and people who are good at maths.

    Thats why they take the trouble to learn English – it helps them get a job.

    Fair play to them, the Welsh realised that political independance is secondary to the protection of their culture – thats nationalism in my view.

  • Oilibhear Chromaill

    Talk about inverted prejudices, Fair Deal. You and your fellow travellers have never advanced a ”rational” oppposition to the Irish language. It’s always been based on ‘they all understand and speak English, why would they want to speak Irish too!’ And then you claim that Irish speakers demonise those who question the very language they speak from day to day….priceless.

  • fair_deal

    OC

    “You and your fellow travellers”

    Thank you for proving the point.

  • Oilibhear Chromaill

    Poor demonised Fair Deal, who never expressed a sour word about the Irish language ever and who’s enlightenment on the subject is beyond question.

    Perhaps over in Wales, people are more reasonable and accepting of difference than they are in this part of the UK! Perhaps different standards obtain and that diversity is celebrated there rather than here where it is ..er…not celebrated. Isn’t it strange that diversity finds a cold house among unionists where gays, coloured, islamics etc are all equally likely to get burnt out of their homes…

  • fair_deal

    ” Isn’t it strange that diversity finds a cold house among unionists where gays, coloured, islamics etc are all equally likely to get burnt out of their homes…”

    And it keeps coming.

  • gaelgannaire

    OC

    To be fair, I think he was refering to Wales.

    FD,

    ‘demonisation of anyone with the temerity to disagree’

    Demonisation is wrong, but if you study the whole picture you will find that it is Welsh speakers who are consistantly demonised for simply speaking Welsh. You see, they dont realise that if a english speaker moves to the village that the language of the parish council, school, road signs, pub, shops, have to switch to English.

    Damn natives! insiting on schooling there kids in their native language!, insisting on having their placenames in their ‘primitative’ language, which isnt really suitable for the modern world you know, insisting on getting TV in their own language, insisting on dealing with the state to which they pay taxes in Welsh!

    Don’t they know that language choice denies the English speaker their natural right of dominance?

    Don’t they realise that all of the worlds countries change they place-names in case an English speaker drives by?

    Will they ever learn?

  • fair_deal

    gaelgannaire

    I have no doubt that minority language users have and do suffer from demonisation. Although on the ‘damn natives’ point I would point out that the criticism’s outlinedi n the article were coming from Welsh people (fellow natives).

    However, even when you have a broad sympathy with minority and regional language promotion, the minute you raise a question the efficacy of a particualr proposal, highlight a flaw in the argument or criticse a particular demand you get the likes of OC’s response.

  • gaelgannaire

    But on the main thrust of the post.

    Thankfully, not many people go on the Radio and state that they oppose equality and and that they believe in the natural and appropriate dominance of one community/group/people over another.

    That is what anti-Welsh language activists assert – that the dominance of English should be universal and accepted in Wales and that Welsh should be stamped out or discouraged.

    Welsh speakers insist on equality – a popular concept in the modern western world.

  • overhere

    I am not sure what FD is so scared off

  • fair_deal

    overhere

    Why assume fear is the issue?

  • gaelganaire

    FD,

    I try not to resort to satire and attempts at humor, for that I apologise and whilst I understand OC’s frustrations I do not engage in a similar style of discussions.

    On the ‘damn natives’ point, I would point out that much opposition to Welsh comes from incomers but I do acknowledge that many non-Welsh speaking people have a problem with Welsh, that is work for them, but surrending hard won entitlements and rights is not how to go about.

    Mrs Jones in South Wales (by the way there are pockets of welsh even there) may be annoyed at her pension book being bilingual, but frankly I don’t mind if Mrs Jones in North Wales can read her pension book because it is in Welsh, because Welsh is much easier than English, if she can even remember English (older people can tend to forget second languages as they get old).

    ‘minority and regional language promotion’

    There is the fundamental difference and problem. I dont think any Welsh speaker would be prepared to accept that Welsh is a minority or regional language, they believe it is AN (some perhaps THE) language of Wales.

  • Dewi

    What is interesting in the comments on the Beeb is the amount of positive feeling towards language promotion.
    Of course speaking a number of languages is an advantage in the job market – nothing wrong with that.
    THe attitude of speakers to non Welsh speakers. This can be an issue when population movement changes the language of communities. It’s difficult to provide translations for maybe one Non-Welsh speaking member of a Town Council or a Bowls Club or the WI – in the past these institutions would have changed to english without much protest. There is more pride now. The comparison Wel;sh Speakers would make is “Try speaking Welsh in a Council meeting in Newport”
    I agree on value for money being an issue – always want efficiency but what we need is normalisation – i find it strage going to England and finding non-bilingual cashpoints and not hearing Welsh on railway station announcements. there is still a way to go though – Glengettie Tea and a few other, mostly Welsh, firms provide all their packaging bilingually a law to enforce this in Wales would be a step forward.

  • Oilibhear Chromaill

    The problem, Gaelgangaire, is that there’s precious little reflection going on here,just reaction. Unionists don’t do reflection. If they did they’d have a far more enlightened atttiude to British languages in general……Welsh and Irish included…..

  • overhere

    Why assume fear is the issue?

    Just a gut feeling as any time I read the threads re Irish language and now Welsh language you seem to get your gusset in a twist

  • fair_deal

    Gaelgannaire

    No real need for an apology as you accept the broader point.

    “they believe it is AN (some perhaps THE) language of Wales.”

    The use of minority and regional is lifted from the European charter and the comment was meant in a general context rather than a sepcific reference to Welsh.

  • fair_deal

    Overhere

    Feelings are misleading things.

  • overhere

    Feelings are misleading things.

    Isnt that the truth, I remeber when I was 15…… ahen that is another story LOL

  • OC,

    “Unionists don’t do reflection.”

    What on earth has this remotely to do with anything under discussion? Controversial subject call for calm heads, especially from committed individuals who potentially have a lot to offer a debate like this.

    [Walks off shaking head]

  • Dewi

    Mick

    It’s not that controversial in Wales – which is the point..

  • Mick Fealty

    Fair comment Dewi. Which makes the torrent of abuse all the more puzzling.

  • PaddyReilly

    Y peth gwirion yw fod Undebwyr, sy’n wastad yn galw eu hunain yn ‘Brydeinwyr’, er eu bod yn byw yng Ngogledd Iwerddon ac yn siarad ac yn byhafio yn yr un modd a’r rhai a elwir yn Wyddelod , mor wrthwynebol i’r Cymry, y gwirioneddol Brydeinwyr. Peidiwch a siarad am y Saeson felly, Almaenwyr a oedd yn medru nofio ydyn nhw. Yn eu dychymyg mae’r Prydeinwyr i gyd yn Brotestantiaid, ac i gyd yn siarad Saesneg. Wel, dwi’n edrych ymlaen i’r dydd pan fydd annibyniaeth i’r Alban a hwyrach i Gymru, a dim siarach bellach am Brydain.

  • Oilibhear Chromaill

    I stand by my comment that as far as I’m concerned I’ve yet to read a comment from a unionist poster which reflects a degree of mature consideration rather than prejudiced reactionary bilge on the question of the Irish language in the north. I also believe that you, Mick, are not applying the man not ball rule in a consistent way, a point which I will continue to make until you give me reason to think otherwise.

  • Mick Fealty

    And you Oilibhear are standing right inside the glass house and throwing clodding big stones. It’s not the best way to make your point.

  • Oilibhear Chromaill

    It’s not the best way to make your point.

    You don’t say. I’ve tried reasoned arguement and it doesn’t work because some posters aren’t prepared to recognise the existence of a thriving Irish language community in the north, a community, by the way, which came about not because of bureaucracy or grants but in spite of it. Now it shouldn’t be a giant leap for them to seek legislative recognition for their language – our language – in this part of Ireland, on a par with Welsh in Wales and Scots Gaelic in Scotland, the other languages in the UK recognised under Part 3 of the European Charter for Regional and Minority Languages. But because of the apparently deep seated ill founded prejudice of the northern state and its mainstream (some of which aren’t so mainstream any more, and I’m referring to the party which celebrates all cultures except Irish culture and language on its website, take a bow UUP!) media and political parties against the language, it appears that the unionist/media establishment doesn’t want the Irish language about the place. Too bad, it’s here and it will thrive and the more it’s opposed by the ignorant and the less enlightened, the more it will thrive. These same people who oppose the Irish language oppose gay partnerships, immigrants of different colours and religions, powersharing. They are the dinosaurs….extinction is too good for them….

  • páid

    I wouldn’t get too upset about it OC.

    Unionist parties in Wales have shifted significantly in latter years towards support for the Welsh language. They are trying to decouple the culture from the constitutional arrangements. They argue that you can be fully Welsh, live a Welsh life, and also take a full part in UK life.

    Unionists in NI by and large ditched Irishness in the last century, and I have to say that having members of their community being killed regularly by extreme Nationalists has only hastened this process.

    The Irish language, with a long history of Protestant support, has no intrinsic view on the merits or otherwise of the Union. Indeed it’s close relationship to Scots Gaelic, and to a lesser degree Welsh, emphasises links between Ireland and Britain. Portmarnock and Kilmarnock; Rostrevor, Rosyth and Rhoseli.

    The people who named these places would have an interesting view on our squabbles.

    But to view the Irish language as just another arrow in a republican quiver is an historical nonsense.

  • It was Sammy McNally what done it

    There is still quite a degree of antagonism towards Welsh speakers in South Wales – non Welsh speakers – many of Catholic Irish background percieve themselves as being discriminated against. Unionists are always going to see Irish as a threat and as a way of reducing their Britishness and given that the assembly is split along sectarian lines it is naive to think it will be otherwise.

  • fair_deal

    “These same people who oppose the Irish language oppose gay partnerships, immigrants of different colours and religions, powersharing.”

    And the demonisation goes on and on and on……

  • Shore Road Resident

    Has anyone considered forwarding some of Oilibhear’s sectarian opinions to Edwin Poots?
    I think the culture minister should know the sort of people employed by an Irish-language newspaper that the taxpayer is subsidising.

  • Shore Road Resident

    PS: Check with Jim Gibney first to make sure this isn’t a stupid question.

  • gaelgannaire

    ‘some posters aren’t prepared to recognise the existence of a thriving Irish language community in the north’

    That is indisputable aspect to the debate, however let me present the equally indisputable exhibit (a) http://www.raidiofailte.com/

    Click ‘listen’ or ‘éist’.

    Res ipsa loquitur

    radio ipsa loquitur

  • Ziznivy

    “I’m referring to the party which celebrates all cultures except Irish culture and language on its website, take a bow UUP”

    Maybe the website is designed to communicate with the widest possible cross-section of our society rather than “celebrate culture”?

    “These same people who oppose the Irish language oppose gay partnerships, immigrants of different colours and religions, powersharing.”

    So by that logic you’re accusing the UUP of holding prejudiced?

    FD is quite right, if the IL lobby’s arguments aren’t accepted wholesale the only counter-argument is to cry bigotry and reaction.

  • Ziznivy

    “So by that logic you’re accusing the UUP of holding prejudiced?”

    Should have read “holding and promoting these prejudices”.

  • The World’s Gone Mad

    Hey Oilibhear – just how far does this commitment to gay partnerships go?

    In the Republic of Ireland, to wiki-quote, ‘there is very little provision for unmarried cohabiting couples, whether homosexual or heterosexual. Since 2005, the only other state among the original 15 European Union members with a complete lack of any recognition of same-sex couples is Greece’.

    Yet, in the UK, including Northern Ireland, civil partnerships are legal. Presumably, you are pro-union until similar legislation exists in the Republic of Ireland?

  • Oilibhear Chromaill

    I seem to have touched a nerve with Shore Road Resident. As far as throwing stones in glasshouses goes, he’s a world contender. Is he denying that immigrants and homosexuals get a frosty reception, to say the least, in unionist areas? Has the World Gone Mad not heard of the other item in Edwin Poots in-tray, the protests from unionists about the grant to the Gay Pride Parade in Belfast next month. A massive £3,000 is to be given to the organisers from the NI Events Company and there are some unionists who are not at all happy – see their Voice4Democracy blog to read more….

    And then we get to Jim Allister’s rather snide attempt to attack the ethnic minorities with his put down of the reception organised for these groups in Stormont recently. That’s the shape of the opposition to the Irish language Act, that and the UUP’s any language but Irish website, and it’s heartening to those of us who are on the side of the angels….

  • Ziznivy

    “A massive £3,000 is to be given to the organisers from the NI Events Company and there are some unionists who are not at all happy”

    Maybe because it is another waste of money to have a parade promoting a type of sexuality?

    I come from Ballymena, but I’m not looking a handout for my forthcoming bestiality parade.

    Still easier to shout homophopbia rather than address the actual issue.

  • Oilibhear Chromaill

    Bestiality in Ballymena, you don’t say?

    Your post really says it all Ziznivy. You’ve made my argument for me so well. Thanks for the support.

  • Ziznivy

    So you think promoting a form of sexuality is a justifiable use of public money?

  • Oilibhear Chromaill

    You say it’s promoting sexuality while I believe its celebrating diversity. What would you do with homosexuals? Don’t they pay taxes too? Aren’t they entitled to a return from the public purse? Are they not entitled to parade on our streets as much as the Orange? And don’t say that Orange Parades don’t cost money because they cost an absolute fortune to police and I don’t hear offers from the OO that they will pay…. Or the bonfires? Do unionists clean up the bonfire afterwards? Do they hell!

  • fair_deal

    OC

    “That’s the shape of the opposition to the Irish language Act”

    “These same people who oppose the Irish language oppose gay partnerships, immigrants of different colours and religions, powersharing.”

    Against my better judgement I will engage in responding to your actual claim (but I presume as you did in the previous debate thread you shall just ignore points, questions, contradications in your own statements and just repeat ad hominen ad nauseum attacks.)

    1. Opinions on gay partnerships are not a question of unionism or nationalism. There is a diversity of views.
    2. Check the hate crime figures and you will see such offences occur across Northern Ireland. Sectarianism, racism etc are not the preserve of one community.
    3. Your reductionism of opposition is pathetic. Voice4democracy – a ginger unionist group whose preferred candidates got hammered at the ballot box and are now largely reduced to producing political fantasy fiction. Jim Allister – quit the DUP over St Andrews.
    4. The UUP and DUP are both sitting in a power-sharing Executive. Yet both oppose the irish Language Act. So pro-power-sharing Unionists are opposed to it as well.

    A broad cross-section of Unionism is not supportive of an Irish Language Act not just the hardline fringes. You can retreat into negative stereotyping of the entire Unionist community, play the victim and go for mopery if you wish.

    However, such an approach would imply you don’t even want to try to change anyone’s mind on the issue. The unwillingness (inability even?) to make a case beyond ‘give us one because we want one and if you say no its because you’re a bigit’ also leaves a question mark over there is a genuine rationale for such an Act.

  • Ziznivy

    “You say it’s promoting sexuality while I believe its celebrating diversity.”

    In what way is it celebrating diversity?

    Should we celebrate from the public purse every time someone does something “diverse” in the bedroom?

  • oilibhear Chromaill

    Fair Deal,

    the problem with your stance is that it doesn’t take into account that there is an Irish language identity/community in the north. It refuses to acknowledge the reality.

    How do you explain the refusal of the UUP to acknowledge the Irish language identity on its website when it proclaims it’s ‘for all of us’?

    Neither the DUP or the UUP will properly understand powersharing until they realise they have to make room, even if its a little uncomfortable, for the Irish language in public life in the north.

    But accept it they will otherwise this powersharing executive is doomed to failure. I think there are some positive signs – that some unionists in the DUP will bite the bullet on this issue but the UUP is trying to ride two horses at once, taking part in a government while trying to pretend to be the opposition simultaneously. It’s going to come a cropper.

    The main unionist parties have been less than welcoming on the issue of gay partnership etc while the main natinalist parties have been more than accomodating. Look at the statistics about hate crime and you will see where the majority occurs.

    This is all because of a very insular and clannish attitude of unionist communities – perhaps MOPERY is a good word to describe it.

    I don’t think your mind is capable of being changed as I’ve tried to frame my arguments in different terms, that Irish is as much a British language as Scots Gaelic and Welsh for instance, and your response had been of the ‘red herring’ variety, with talk of Manx and Cornish and Ulster Scots.

    At the end of the day, the language issue is a litmus test of unionists capacity to take a constructive part in building a genuine shared future in the north. the North is as Irish as it is British but even if it were 100% British, it should be respectful and accomodating of the Irish identity. It’s not ‘foreign’ as some posters have suggested. It’s part of the north – and it’s time unionists got their head around the fact that it’s not going to go away.

  • fair_deal

    I see you have gone for a mix of all the previous tactics.

    “your stance is that it doesn’t take into account that there is an Irish language identity/community in the north”

    Where have I refused to acknowledge the reality of there being are/is Irish language speakers/community in Northern Ireland? Disagreement with a particular policy measure is not a refusal to acknowledge.

    “Neither the DUP or the UUP will properly understand powersharing until they realise they have to make room, even if its a little uncomfortable, for the Irish language in public life in the north.”

    Again this is not the previous claim you made.

    1. The irish language has recognition in our public life through the European charter.
    2. The power-sharing executive has the following legal responsibility:
    “The Executive Committee shall adopt a strategy setting out how it proposes to enhance and protect the development of the Irish language.” (This also directly addresses the recent Council of Europe criticism of the UK on the Irish language.
    3. There is the cross-border language body
    Room has been made for it in our public life.

    So powersharing is you getting exactly what you want? Hmmm. I think it is more than Unionists have a problem with understanding power-sharing.

    Power-sharing will be a process of ongoing negotiation. It is a basic principle of negotiation that when you have an ‘intractable problem’ find ways of broadening the discussion to get a deal. Insistence on an ILA and nothing but an ILA isn’t going to get it sorted and calling critics or neutrals nasty names won’t help the case either.

    “The main unionist parties have been less than welcoming on the issue of gay partnership etc while the main natinalist parties have been more than accomodating.”

    That is a fair statement but that is not how you previously presented it.

    “Look at the statistics about hate crime and you will see where the majority occurs”

    You didn’t make the claim it was the ‘majority’. You presented it as a unionist problem.

    “perhaps MOPERY is a good word to describe it.”

    The way to describe a racist attack is racist.

    “I don’t think your mind is capable of being changed as I’ve tried to frame my arguments in different terms, that Irish is as much a British language as Scots Gaelic and Welsh for instance, and your response had been of the ‘red herring’ variety, with talk of Manx and Cornish and Ulster Scots.”

    I have said I am not opposed to an irish language act in principle but when the case offered is not an argument for but smearing of anyone who questions it, it does not encourage openess.

    Irish is a language of the British Isles. I have no problem with that. I acknowledge your attempt to shift the language and frame of the argument. However, simply adding the British label doesn’t mean you go straight to legislative measures without passing go.

    Plus it is not the silver bullet point you imagine as the demand for ‘equality’ with british languages founders on the fact that in British/UK context no two languages receive the same treatment. Are Manx, Scots, Ulster-Scots and Cornish not British languages as well? Why is being inclusive about the minority and regional languages in the UK a red herring? Why must some be excluded from the debate?