On the travails of the Irish language…

Fascinating discussion going on over at Talkback around the protests in favour of the use of Irish in the Assembly. It’s coordinated to coincide with a debate on Ulster Unionist MLA David McNarry’s motion to object to an Irish Language Act and ask for a directive requesting all members of the Executive to refrain from its use in the Assembly chamber, in committees and in letters to MLAs. The motion has come in for stern criticism from Naomi Long who said the language was being abused by both sides in the argument, sometimes as a means of distracting debate from more pressing issues. Dinny McGinley, Fine Gael TD for Donegal South West noted that in the Oireachtas, that the issue has long since stopped being a political football since simultaneous translation services meant that everyone could follow what was being said. By his estimation only 3 or 4% of debates are conducted in Irish.

Intriguingly, one Derry caller made a reference to petitions he had made to both the Education Minister and one of his local MLAs in Derry, Martina Anderson, about the closure of Meánscoil Dhoire, an Irish medium secondary school which has now been completely merged with St Brigid’s High School in Shantallow. So far, the caller claims not to have had a reply. It looks like it’s a local controversy which may connected with matters discussed in this post over at Politics.ie from back in February this year.

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  • I blogged about this this morning, to the effect that I fully recognise McNarry’s frustration, but this motion is counterproductive. He is playing right into SF’s hands with this.

  • al

    The issue doesn’t seem to be so much with irish itself but rather it’s use by people who actually speak english natively just to needle others who can not speak or understand it.

    If a speaker is a native speaker of the language then the debate/issue takes on a different angle but when we get some nationalist/republican MLA’s standing up and chucking in some titbits of irish or in some cases butchering a speech in a monotonous tone in a language they barely have command of themselves just for political points then it is a waste of everyones time and money.

    I’m from a protestant/unionist background and learnt irish for just 1 year in school as it happens (i wasn’t educated in the state system towards the end of my education) and I could probably make a better fist at it than some of the “oppressed” standing up against this motion.

  • Labourman

    “I could probably make a better fist at it than some of the “oppressed” standing up against this motion. ”

    Which is not really what the issue is about!

    This is all about respect and, to be honest, McNarry’s actions are wholly disrespectful, divisive and counter productive.

    They learn nothing and they forget nothing.

  • It is precisely what the issue is about Labourman. If it was native speakers of the language using it in the Assembly respect would be accorded. It is the confrontational, gratuitous aspect of the use of this language that unionists object to, not the fact that it is being spoken per se.

  • This motion – more like a bowel movement – says more about the travails of the Ulster Unionist Party, that Simply British institution that refuses to allow Irish speakers in British Northern Ireland the same rights accorded the speakers of minority languages in British Scotland or British Wales, than it does about the Irish language.

    Last week we had Michael McGimpsey telling us that he was ending the practice of issuing Irish language press releases from the Healt Department and publishing bilingual ads in the Belfast Telegraph/Irish News to come to the aid of patients in our struggling health service. So laudable.

    This week, however, we get full sight of the UUP’s objective in their race to the bottom of the sectarian barrel with the DUP. It’s too late – the public has deserted them – the game’s over. And nothing David – of We Will Bring This Province to A Standstill fame back in the days of Drumcree – will stop it. It’s too late to beat the sectarian drum, a Dhaithí, but thanks for exposing the true nature of the UUP’s antipathy towards Irish. And, also, for exposing your party’s non British values.

  • kensei

    “It is precisely what the issue is about Labourman. If it was native speakers of the language using it in the Assembly respect would be accorded. It is the confrontational, gratuitous aspect of the use of this language that unionists object to, not the fact that it is being spoken per se.”

    Ah, Irish. The language that cannot be spoken.

    Keep it in the Gaeltacht! It might posion our children’s ears with hate!

  • interested

    This is all typical stuff from McNarry – shortsighted stuff which actually won’t achieve anything, other than allowing the Shinners to cry victim and recall (insert made up number here) years of British oppression and no doubt throw in a reference to the famine at some point too.

    At least we’re now within a few weeks of seeing the Irish Language Act finally receive its burial so at least it will get that particular issue out of the picture.

    Interesting that only 3/4% of debates in the Dail are in Irish – the Assembly couldn’t even reach a fraction of that. I’d be tempted to allow the Shinners to talk whenever they liked in Irish but only if they could actually carry out the entire debate in it and not just throw in a token sentence at the start and finish which they’ve learnt phonetically in order to show their Oirishness.

  • Cromwell

    Its not about respect at all.

    The best caller on Talkback was the guy who said he was a Sinn Fein voter but he voted for them on bread & butter issues & that this was a pointscoring exercise & a complete waste of time & money.
    Malachi O’Doherty also called it correctly when he stated Catriona Ruane had said “it wasnt about cost but human rights”, yet politicians are telling us that access to drinking water is about cost & has nothing to do with human rights.
    He went on to say that Anna Lo was the only MLA who couldnt speak english as a first language.

  • al

    Which is not really what the issue is about!

    This is all about respect and, to be honest, McNarry’s actions are wholly disrespectful, divisive and counter productive.

    They learn nothing and they forget nothing.
    Posted by Labourman on Oct 09, 2007 @ 01:41 PM

    — But it really is Labourman. Without being “sectarian” the fact is nearly all of the “irish speakers” weighing into this are from SF and SDLP. How many of them are native/1st mother tongue speakers? I can’t think of any off the top of my head. I think De Brun and Brid Rodgers may have been in the last lot but even then i’m not 100% sure. Hopefully you’ll be able to point out how many are from the current lot.

    If it’s “none”, which i’m quite confident it is, and thus, by fairly logical assumption, they all speak english natively what possible reason is there for conducting a speech in irish and then repeating it in english when everyone, including the speech maker, is fluent in english?

    It doesn’t defend their “irish speaking heritage” for they essentially have as much irish speaking heritage as the pissed off unionist they’re using it on.

    Everyone knows it’s point scoring and cheap tribalistic politics and nothing to do with promoting or forwarding the irish language anywhere North or South. It just politicises the language and makes it into a childish game which will actually be to the detriment of all of us whether we speak irish natively, as a 2nd language or not at all.

  • Bob Wilson

    For once I agree with OILbhear! (I’d get worried if I was you mate – having an Ulster Tory agree with you!)
    This is just a ruse (I apologise for using a French word) by McNasty to try to out DUP the DUP.
    It is really quite pathetic.
    I dont doubt the Sinners use Irish as a political weapon but the secret is not to rise to it!

  • Bemused

    (a) I’m no particular fan of the Irish language but find it wholly inoffensive.

    (b) Yes, it is pathetic the way the Shinners drop in mangled ‘cupla focail’ to their Stormont utterances.

    (c) That, despite it’s pathetic nature, is in my view their inalienable democratic right.

    (d) If their ‘cupla focail’ were ignored then I suspect in the long run (as with the use of Irish in the Dail) it’s frequency would decrease spectacularly.

    (e) David McNarry (As Olibhearr has quite properly pointed out) is a grubby little sectarian thug who has been quite happy in the recent past to appear on local television and radio and utter the most transparent and outrageous incitements to violence. Any objection of this sort coming from an unprincipled boor like him is derisory.

  • “I’d be tempted to allow the Shinners to talk whenever they liked in Irish but only if they could actually carry out the entire debate in it and not just throw in a token sentence at the start and finish which they’ve learnt phonetically in order to show their Oirishnes”

    Couldn’t agree more.

    Oliver’s post is more straw man nonsense attacking unionists without actually addressing any of their concerns. It is his type who undermine any goodwill towards the language.

  • BonarLaw

    kensei

    “Ah, Irish. The language that cannot be spoken”… by the vast bulk of those who use it as ammunition in their never ending MOPE-fest.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Bemused

    Just wanted to congratulate you on your brilliant 02.04 post.

  • Tochais Síoraí

    It’s always fascinating to hear people without a word of Irish talking about how others who use the language cannot speak it properly.

    How do they know?

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Chekov

    “If it was native speakers of the language using it in the Assembly respect would be accorded.”

    I’m an Irishman. English is my first language but I regard Irish as being my native language. (Poor though my command of it is.) I’m not saying that to piss you off – honestly, I’m not thinking about you at all. That’s just the way I honestly feel about it. The Irish language is very important to me. I think an awful lot of people feel the same way. Why can’t those who don’t feel that way simply allow those of us who do to get on with it? Honestly, it isn’t about you at all!

    “It is the confrontational, gratuitous aspect of the use of this language that unionists object to, not the fact that it is being spoken per se.”

    All right, I’ll give you a chance to establish your credibility on this issue: can you give an example of when someone might speak Irish in the assembly that you would NOT regard as “confrontational” or “gratuitous”?

  • jmc

    kensei

    > Keep it in the Gaeltacht! It might posion our children’s ears with hate!

    Never a truer word was spoken….etc…etc.

    I’ve noticed over the years that being a Gaeilgeoir is the same kind of personality marker as being a conspiracy nut in the US, a BNP supporter in the UK, a Bove supported in France or a Lega Nord supporter in Italy. At best a crank, at worst, an a** hole.

    Lots of evidence of the syndrome here.

  • Bemused

    “Oliver’s post is more straw man nonsense attacking unionists without actually addressing any of their concerns. It is his type who undermine any goodwill towards the language.

    Posted by Chekov on Oct 09, 2007 @ 02:08 PM”

    ‘Fraid not Chekov – McNarry IS a nasty piece of work and it’s only logical to highlight that in any dicussion of a supposedly ‘principled’ stand being taken by him. As for unionists ‘concerns’ – most of these surrounding this and similar issues seem to me (and I repeat – I am no fan of the Irish language movement) to be a desire to avoid being reminded that they are actually living in a country which is (a) near universally and historically known as ‘Ireland’ and (b) is home to a large number of people who consequently consider themselves to be Irish. Raising this immature insecurity to the level of a legitimate concern merely weakens their already precarious standing in mature society.

  • kensei

    “I’ve noticed over the years that being a Gaeilgeoir is the same kind of personality marker as being a conspiracy nut in the US, a BNP supporter in the UK, a Bove supported in France or a Lega Nord supporter in Italy. At best a crank, at worst, an a** hole.”

    I heard the Devil himself speaks it.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    BonarLaw

    “Ah, Irish. The language that cannot be spoken”… by the vast bulk of those who use it as ammunition in their never ending MOPE-fest.”

    Who says? Why does everything have to be about you?

  • gaelgannaire

    A famous Irish speaker and noted seanchaí who worked in the Royal Mail, Liam Mac Carráin, father of Ciarán Carson (first language Irish BTW), used to recount an incident where he recieved a letter from An Post.

    It was written in English save from ‘A Chara’ at the top and ‘Is mise’ at the bottom. I don’t have a problem with that but Liams response was to reply in Irish save for ‘Dear Sir’ and ‘yours faithfully’. I always thought that was great.

    Can’t help pointing out that of course McNarry is Irish, originally an Oirialla name but undoubtedly migrated to Galloway too. It means ‘Son of the modest man’.

    If I was an MLA, I think I might try that. Of course, due to the lack of simultaenous translation only 8 people would understand me.

  • Bemused – the concerns I hear most often voiced are to do with expense and the language being used by people with perfectly good English to create an exclusivist atmosphere, nothing to do with anyone’s self-perception as Irish.

    Personally I’ve been consistent in saying that I believe Irish should be promoted and funded in the cultural sphere, but that public services, public represntation and the legal system must be delivered with efficiency and brevity as the primary concerns, therefore Irish has no part to play in those areas.

    Billy Pilgrim – I didn’t actually say I supported McNarry’s motion you’ll notice. I say let them speak it if they so desire and just bite back the frustration. Perhaps as Interested suggested if people can conduct the entire debate in Irish and not just a few pre-prepared remarks, I wouldn’t consider it gratuitous.

  • Gréagóir O’ Frainclín

    Gas how Unionists fail to recognize or consider the oldest language of the ‘Pretanic Isles.’

    Indeed, Gaeilge/Irish has the honour of being perhaps the oldest of the ‘British’ languages, Scottish being derived from Irish.

  • Peadar O’Donnell

    The UUP should stop being boneheaded and triangulate on this.

    Irish is a cultural achievement – put together over centuries by millions of speakers, protestants, catholics etc. – which cannot and should not be reduced to one political ideology.
    Adam Smith’s model of the market as a collective, incremental achievement is a good comparison.

    Attacking a language as such comes across as hopelessly philistine. Like pulling down Georgian Dublin – a thing of beauty in itself – simply because who don’t like the people who built it.
    Regardless of history German and Afrikaans are beautiful languages – so is Irish.

    Irish is British – it ties Ireland, and especially Ulster speakers to Scotland and vice versa.

    To limit Britishness to the English language is simply a false reduction: Welsh, Cornish, Scots Gaelic, Scots, Ulster Scots and Irish as well as newer arrivals can be and are all British.

    Irish would have died out completely a hundred years ago were it not for protestant revivalists (like Hyde).

    Its image lives on gloriously through the English work of protestant writers like O’Casey, Yeats and Synge.

    The southern state and most of the Catholic clergy have done their damndest to let it die/ kill it off (notwithstanding endless hypocrisies).
    They’re still at this.

    Claim it back from the provos. It belongs to everyone and no one. Like the English language.

  • al

    As for unionists ‘concerns’ – most of these surrounding this and similar issues seem to me (and I repeat – I am no fan of the Irish language movement) to be a desire to avoid being reminded that they are actually living in a country which is (a) near universally and historically known as ‘Ireland’ and (b) is home to a large number of people who consequently consider themselves to be Irish. Raising this immature insecurity to the level of a legitimate concern merely weakens their already precarious standing in mature society.
    Posted by Bemused on Oct 09, 2007 @ 02:18 PM

    — Might be true of some unionists, might be true of McNarry.

    re a)I have a lot of relatives all over the world and it’s true they refer to the place as Ireland which I, as a unionist, don’t really give a crap about. I call it Northern Ireland when talking to them and they call it Ireland. Its inaccurate but not exactly the end of the world. My cousin proudly has a red hand flag on her wall and she’s Canadian but proud of her N.I roots even if she naturally refers to the place as Ireland.

    re b)As mentioned I refer to myself as a unionist and i’ve mentioned in previous debates I actually hold the impossible dream of a united ireland as a part of the UK as I believe that to be true unionism. Regardless, I still think of myself as both Irish and British at the same time and have no real problem with it. Some might think it’s contradictory and perhaps it is but not to me.

    All that said, regardless of the merits of this motion or the person who brought it to the table, the actual debate it brings up is valid. To my view no really useful or meaningful reasons for the use of “irish garnish” or even full renditions in irish have been tabled particularly in view of the fact both the speaker and the spoken to share english as a common medium. From that viewpoint it seems more simple and expedient to use english.

    Promote the teaching of irish in schools if you want it to have a chance of becoming a meaningful and important language. Using it in cheap political games for the benefit of some half bin SF MLA’s doesn’t enhance it’s standing anywhere in my view.

  • Turgon

    A couple of points
    1). The UUP leadership is about to be contestable.
    2). McNarry is laying into Irish.

    Now these points are probably completely unrelated and Mr. McNarry has suddenly found great distress about not understanding the Shinners and indeed a pig is this very moment flying past my office window.

    Of course the Shinners use Irish in the assembly to annoy unionists. I know no Irish but they do seem pretty useless at speaking it. The problem is that this is an issue (speaking in Irish in the assembly) which does not need fighting. That is unless one needs to raise one’s profile just before a party leadership election.

    As I have said before the people I feel sorry for in all this are those interested in Irish for its own sake or for cultural reasons. SF are of course mainly interested in it for the every bullet stuff. If they really cared they would try not to use it in a way they know will antagonise unionists. That said it is foolish for unionists to rise to SF’s silly game.

    The Irish speakers are trapped in the centre as their “defenders” (SF) get all the brick bats thrown at them and in the process those really interested in the Irish language get colateral damage. That of course suits SF because it allows them to indulge in a bit of good MOPEry, antagonise unionists, allows their more hardline element to feel that SF are still bashing unionists and maybe even make some Irish language speakers support them as they are supposedly standing up for Irish.

    Judging by this web site though most genunine Irish language enthausists are not conveinced.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Chekov

    Many thanks for your courteous reply.

    “I say let them speak it if they so desire and just bite back the frustration.”

    See, I suppose this is the nub of it. Why should anyone have to “bite back the frustration” just because someone else is speaking Irish? Let’s tease this out – where does this “frustration” come from?

  • interested

    As to how I (as someone without Irish) can work out when someone else is struggling with the language: It doesnt take a genius to spot someone struggling to pronounce words. You dont have to understand the words to realise that.

    Even the SF summer schools haven’t managed to teach the thicker members of their Assembly group more than a couple of words or two.

  • Siobhan Mc Scrotum

    gops rgo yit r dorgh erghjy dfewtf juyjrgerg htrh efgvberg hrh fgf hnj ghfho fdgdf ergo srgo gh dfgh osdfg oreg rdgrtgh orth reghregheh thtyh th th ergh tghrt ergh tgh eth eth th rth reg erger ghet hrt het h = Brits Out

  • BP, I think you’re being disingenuous here. You’re trying to draw out a response whereby you can imply that unionists have some manner of reflexive dislike of the Irish Language. I’m not going to deny that with some people that may be the case. The frustration is derived from a more prosaic source, knowing full well that the Irish they are hearing is issuing from people who speak English as their first language and are gratuitously (yes that word again) wasting their time in order to score points.

  • Gréagóir O’ Frainclín

    No doubt if the Irish Language Act is passed this ‘concession’ will add to the ever so mounting ‘persecution complex’ which hardline Unionist seem to be suffering from.

  • saiorse

    As Barry McElduff has just pointed out to the House, as soon as Carál Ni Chuilín stood to oppose the motion for Sinn Fein, David Mc Narry left the Chanber – almost immediately after he himself had spoken.

    Says it all really.

  • al

    Perhaps one could agrue McNarry is doing a great service by trying to save the poor SF’ers from making themselves look like a bunch of tools mucking up a language that everyone knows they only try to speak to make themselves feel better because they actually speak the language of the “enemy” natively themselves.

    Cross community – hands across the divide – excellence from McNarry. Splendid.

    Now, if you think thats silly, imagine a clown who learnt irish in the Maze using it for a few paragraphs when speaking to an audience who all speak english almost exclusively.

    What a stupid country we live in.

  • ulsterfan

    This language debate will run for years and years.
    By making it such an issue the Shinners are shooting themselves in the foot as it will copper fasten partition even more .
    It has been said many times that we are a divided people “Humespeak” and the more there is to keep us apart the stronger the union.
    We are now divided by religion, culture, sport, politics constitution and now language.
    Unionists must oppose the misuse of the language and do all they can to emphasis English as the number 1 language throughout the whole of Ireland.
    It will give unionists another reason to say NO.

  • ulsterfan

    Why should McNarry or any one else sit in the house to listen to some one speaking a language that they do not understand. I am surprised that anyone does. What benefit can they derive from this?
    They would be better off going for a cup of tea and having a rest—-all this political stuff is hard going!
    If it happens again all non speakers should leave as a matter of course.

  • saiorse

    If any Member is not preprared to listen to everyone who wishes to respond to their motion, why bother proposing a motion in the first place?

    As i’m sure you are aware, everything that is spoken in Irish in the House, is immediately repeated in English. No excuse therefore to leave, except for showing a total disrespect to all concerned.

  • gaelgannaire

    Just heard Ian Paisley Junior’s remark (Paisley is an anglisication of the Gaelic Páislig BTW with in turn comes from the Latin Bassilica (sic)- thats right ‘a roman temple!’)

    But anyway, agreed with everything he said, just go out and learn it.

    Or as Pearse said : You need not praise the Irish language, simply speak it.

    Ní Chuilín was woeful. The BBC cut out Ó Brolacháin, why?!

    I become daily more convinced of the need for a Plaid Cymru style Páirtí Gaelach.

  • gaelgannaire

    Ulsterfan,

    As a nationalist I would chose the survival of my culture over a ‘unitied Ireland’ everyday of the week!

    But you are right, this issue will never go away.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Chekov

    “BP, I think you’re being disingenuous here. You’re trying to draw out a response whereby you can imply that unionists have some manner of reflexive dislike of the Irish Language.”

    Well I think that’s certainly true of an awful lot of people. Wouldn’t you agree?

    But perhaps I was being a wee bit disingenuous, as my question was not one for which I don’t have an answer myself. However, in terms of discussing unionism’s relationship with the Irish language, it doesn’t really matter what I think. I asked the question because I wanted to hear what YOU think. It’s often very interesting to ask for an explanation of something that might be regarded as self-explanatory.

    “The frustration is derived from a more prosaic source, knowing full well that the Irish they are hearing is issuing from people who speak English as their first language and are gratuitously (yes that word again) wasting their time in order to score points.”

    I certainly wouldn’t deny that some nationalist politicians are guilty of this, and they do themselves and the language a disservice by mangling it. However, I try to speak my cupla focail whenever I can, even though without exception the people I converse with (badly!) as Gaeilge, also speak English. So of course, our speaking Irish is never absolutely necessary. But so what? I love speaking Irish, and I’d like one day to be able to speak it well. I could draw up a hundred reasons why this is the case, and I can assure you that none of the reasons are strictly utilitarian, and none of them have anything to do with unionists.

    So while Gerry Kelly, for example, might be painful to listen to, there are many others like Catriona Ruane, Dominic Bradley, Patsy McGlone and Barry McElduff who speak an teanga with great fluency (and in the case of Ms Ruane, quite beautifully). And I can understand why they might feel pretty great about it.

    Why can’t people like David McNarry just accept that it’s not about him, and let them get on with it?

  • gaelgannaire

    “Why can’t people like David McNarry just accept that it’s not about him”

    In my experience that is a huge part of the problem.

    Some unionist assume that Gaelic is spoken (any GAA jerseys) are worn just to annoy them. It is a wee bit ‘its all about me’ to my mind at least.

    Its just not true.

  • “Well I think that’s certainly true of an awful lot of people. Wouldn’t you agree?”

    Let me ask you a question BP. Do you think there might be any reason why this reflexive distaste for the language may have developed or is it simply a negative reaction to all things perceived as Irish?

    Without prescribing your answer I would ask you to consider the Irish phrases unionists have been accustomed to hearing over the past 40 years and the context in which they have heard these phrases.

  • Turgon

    Billy Pilgrim,
    I can understand you wish to speak Irish because you like it. The problem is that SF have made their own speaking of the language political and in the process have dragged it through the mud for all the people like you who I am genunienly sure are not using it as a political weapon.

    Of course McNarry is behaving foolishly as he usually does, and of course it plays into SFs hands at the same time as annoying people who are intereted in Irish in a non political fashion but we all know what his other agenda is.

  • uupvoter

    I think the whole crux of the matter is that it is at best incourteous and rude to speak in a language that is a) not your first language and b) not understood by the overwhelming majority within the House.
    Why do nationalists insist on using it (poorly, I agree) in debates when English is quite obviously their first language and the only language spoken and understood by all members?

  • Gerry Lvs Castro

    I was quite startled to discover that only 3% of debates in the Dail are carried out in Irish.
    The Republic has warmly embraced the market economy, soundly rejected Sinn Fein and consigned it’s own language to minority status.
    It would appear that Republicanism’s only chance of keeping their creed alive is by maintaining partition at all costs.

  • Garibaldy

    UUPvoter,

    I imagine they insist on using it for several reasons. The first is that they feel, with it must be added a great deal of justification, that the state did not recognise their identity for a long time, and that they now feel it important to assert it. I know of examples of people whose names appear on their birth certificates in the English form as the Irish form was refused. That might help explain the feeling that a recognition of Irish must be ensured.

    The other reasons are I’d say more party political. To play to their own gallery while simultaneously annoying unionists and with luck making them appear unreasonable bigots. Up to you whether you think this is how McNarry risks looking.

    But I totally agree it’s absurd to see people unable even to successfully read out simple sentences spelt phonetically. On the other side, addressing the speaker as a cheann chomhairle is hardly the end of the world either.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Chekov

    “Let me ask you a question BP. Do you think there might be any reason why this reflexive distaste for the language may have developed or is it simply a negative reaction to all things perceived as Irish?”

    Well, I think that a reflexive distaste for all things Irish is something that exists among some unionists, but I also know that it’s nowhere near true of all. Of course we’ve just come through two generations of war, duiring which time almost everything was reduced to a binary code – so you get used to hearing people talking about “Protestant parks” or “Catholic swimming pools” – crazy stuff, but there you have it.

    In this context, it’s no wonder the Irish language became a political football, so you had things like Sammy Wilson talking about “leprechaun language” and unionists generally viewing Irish as some sort of Provo code – and of course the corollary, where violent republicans DID use the language for political ends.

    But that isn’t the fault of the language itself. It’d be like saying baseball is a Protestant sport, because loyalist paramilitaries used baseball bats when giving punishment beatings, whereas republicans used hurls. The language may have been abused, but let’s not take it out on the language itself!

    Now, in the past, such a wrong-headed reaction from unionism towards the Irish language may have been understandable, indeed logical. But we’re in a different era now, which is why McNarry’s position seems like such a throwback.

    “Without prescribing your answer I would ask you to consider the Irish phrases unionists have been accustomed to hearing over the past 40 years and the context in which they have heard these phrases.”

    Exactly! It’s time you had a chance to hear something a bit more interesting than Tiocfaidh Ar La!

    Martin McGuinness talked about our need, in this new era, to get to a position of “through-otherness”. Anecdotally, I see more and more young nationalists going to watch rugby these days, and it’s a great sign. One day, I hope we’ll get to a place where nationalists and unionists can celebrate each other’s cultural pastimes and traditions – maybe even loyal order marches etc. I see it on the terraces at Ravenhill these days, but that’s only the start of “through-otherness”.

    Perhaps one day unionists will embrace the Irish language, so that it never again can be seen as somehow belonging to SF.

    McNarry belongs in the past.

  • páid

    If there is an afterlife, and the ould Gaelic-speaking Mac Narrys are having a chat about their descendants below, I wonder what would they say.

    I mean, is there any other tribe around who have such antipathy to the language of their very own ancestors?

  • George

    Gerry,
    that has always been the case with Dáil debates, long before the firm embrace of the market economy.

    I suppose the difference is that you are perfectly entitled to speak in Irish in Dáil debates, if you so wish, and those with comprehension problems can always use the accompanying English translation.

    I’m sure if Irish was given the same status north of the border as it does south of it this discussion wouldn’t be taking place.

    Considering that now the numbers applying for 10-year Irish passports is exceeding 60,000 a year, and our citizens will soon be numbering more than half a million of Northern Ireland’s 1.7 million population, maybe it’s time they enjoyed the same rights as we do.

  • gaelgannaire

    And while I’m on a rant,

    I was absolutely horrified when Caral Ní Chuilín carried McNarry, Daithí McNarry, I mean thats just QUB students union stuff there.

    Why didn’t Mac Giolla Duibh do the talking?

    Páid,

    Whilst Mac Náraigh means ‘son of the modest one’ if you are being charitable, you could of course also interpret it as ‘son of the ashamed one’, so maybe the ancestors would not be that surprised!

  • BP, we may be in a different era, but the people the Irish Language seems to be predominating from are the same old republicans. That’s bound to be a problem for unionists. I have already said that McNarry’s motion is counterproductive. Is there not some responsibility on Irish speakers to promote the language in a positive context and make an effort to reach out to unionists though, rather than merely shouting about discrimination and allowing SF’s confrontational use of the language to be the context in which most unionists are presented it with?

    Personally I would like to see unionists taking the initiative and producing some constructive polcy on the Irish Language, keeping it within the cultural sphere of course. As a unionist I can attempt to advance that argument. Is there a will within the nationalist community for reciprocal acknowledgement that unionists may have understandable hang-ups about the language and that these need to be addressed?

  • IJP

    Trying to play the ball here, but if anyone is seriously suggesting McNarry is a real contender for the Ulster Unionist leadership… well, I’m delighted, for it shows what a state that party is in.

    The motion is an utter waste of time. The speech proposing it was nothing short of a disgrace. Frankly if you’re “intimidated” by a few words of Irish in a letter, you need to get out more.

    It is truly appalling that such attitudes exist among members elected under the slogan “For All of Us”. For all of us, unless you’re Irish, perhaps.

    Perhaps one day unionists will embrace the Irish language

    Notwithstanding the above, this assumes it’s all unionists’ fault. It doesn’t cross your mind that it may be the other way around – perhaps the Irish language (movement) should do rather more to embrace them?

    We really have to stop assuming it’s all the ‘other side’s’ fault, and start thinking what we ourselves might do better.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    IJP

    “Notwithstanding the above, this assumes it’s all unionists’ fault.”

    I don’t think it assumes that at all. I’ve made the point (in some detail) that the language has been abused by some republicans, and in the old context it was understandable that unionists felt repelled. But the context is different now. Surely we can all start by agreeing that, however it has been abused in the past, there’s nothing about the language itself that unionists should feel excluded from?

    “It doesn’t cross your mind that it may be the other way around – perhaps the Irish language (movement) should do rather more to embrace them?”

    Ah, you’re shifting the goalposts IJP! Talking about the amorphous “movement”. I think the key word here is “embrace” – the word implies the positive decision to get involved, and while those working to promote the Irish language can do everything possible to ensure there’s no good reason why they shouldn’t, only individual unionists can make the positive decision to embrace the Irish language. Some have already done so, but I hope one day to see it become mainstream.

    Chekov

    “we may be in a different era, but the people the Irish Language seems to be predominating from are the same old republicans.”

    This simply isn’t true though. Sure, the same old republicans are still abusing the language, but that doesn’t mean that they own it. The vast majority of Irish speakers don’t vote Sinn Féin and cringe when they hear some of the SF halfwits mangling the language on TV. The Irish language is a cultural pursuit, and if it has political currency it’s only insofar as some opponents would seek to see it delegitimised and diminished and disrespected.

    “Is there not some responsibility on Irish speakers to promote the language in a positive context…”

    I think this goes on every day of the week, to be honest. Though of course it doesn’t make the news.

    “…and make an effort to reach out to unionists though, rather than merely shouting about discrimination and allowing SF’s confrontational use of the language to be the context in which most unionists are presented it with?”

    Put yourself in the shoes of someone who loves the Irish language and wishes to see it promoted. What are you supposed to do about SF? You can’t stop them speaking Irish. All you can do is appeal to the better judgement of people of good conscience, and ask them to understand that SF don’t own the Irish language. Perhaps in the new context, unionists will be more receptive to that message than has hitherto been the case.

    “Personally I would like to see unionists taking the initiative and producing some constructive polcy on the Irish Language, keeping it within the cultural sphere of course.”

    I applaud this sentiment.

    “As a unionist I can attempt to advance that argument. Is there a will within the nationalist community for reciprocal acknowledgement that unionists may have understandable hang-ups about the language and that these need to be addressed?”

    I believe there is. I suppose we’ll see.

  • gaelgannaire

    Chekov,

    “Is there not some responsibility on Irish speakers to promote the language in a positive context…”

    Like what?

  • It is truly appalling that such attitudes exist among members elected under the slogan “For All of Us”. For all of us, unless you’re Irish, perhaps.

    McNarry made Nelson McCausland look moderate and reasonable, which really is some achievement.

  • slanslan

    “The vast majority of Irish speakers don’t vote Sinn Féin…. ” – Billy Pilgrim

    How have you come to that conclusion? Tell us of your extensive research into voting patterns within the irish language community…!

  • gaelgannaire

    Well, it fell anyway.

    Billy Pilgrim

    Are you including Irish speakers outside of Northern Ireland?

  • Dewi

    “….ask for a directive requesting all members of the Executive to refrain from its use in the Assembly chamber, in committees and in letters to MLAs.”

    After all these months and all these threads I still find it barbaric that some people want to ban the use of Irish in a Parliament in Ireland….talk about making it a political football….The way to take it out of party politics is to embrace it of course….but hell we’ve been there enough….

  • Pancho’s Horse

    I’ll tell you what the ruaille buaille is all about. The anti Irish brigade are annoyed in case some of the ex-pats in NZ or Canada might ask why the lost tribe allowed the language of the taigs to get such a high profile. It wouldn’t have happened in our day tut tut and no good will come of it. Let it die and then it will be safe to discuss what such and such a townland name might mean at a cross community coffee morning.

  • I don’t know if anyone else has already commented on this (there’s no way I’m reading 58 comments), but it strikes me as strange and deliberate and unnecessarily offensive that the supposed motion mandates that ”The Irish language not be used in the Assembly” when a much better way of phrasing it is ”that English be the only language used in the Assembly”. Yes, the issue remains, but at least it avoids directly attacking the Irish language.

  • Mick Fealty

    Apparently Mr McNarry was the only signatory to the motion – so I think we can presume this was something of a solo run. But that is not an excuse for further man playing!!

    To have galvanised a fair chunk of the Irish language movement in Belfast to come out and campaign for a Language Act on the basis of an attack on what had already been broadly accepted as a mundane right within the Assembly was, at best, politically naive.

  • Dewi

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/markdevenport/

    Marh Devenport quite funny:

    Quote from Sinn Fein’s Caral Ni Chuilin on the BBC:

    “The issue of language rights, a non-controversial issue in Wales, Scotland, the south of Ireland and throughout Europe, an expression of human rights, has now become a political football in the battle for supremacy between the unionist parties,” she said.

    About sums it up really.

  • DC

    “The issue of language rights, a non-controversial issue in Wales, Scotland, the south of Ireland and throughout Europe, an expression of human rights, has now become a political football in the battle for supremacy between the unionist parties,” she said.

    I’ve never heard a Welsh speaker in the House of Commons stand up and give it out Welsh, of course it is a national parliament but if people can speak in a language which everyone can communicate in is there much point in using it in an Assembly to debate whenever you can’t debate on a point you can’t understand.

    I do believe if every single person within the EU Parliament could speak English at the level of their native tongue then they would speak it, same said if the members could all speak any other language together.

    But the problem is this, Sinn Fein tend to speak it very painfully to the point of tedium and it just seems awfully frustrating to the most sympathetic neutral viewer because of its automated instigation by Sinn Fein’s MLAs.

  • rj

    Mick (post 10)

    It was not a solo run by McNasty. The winding up speech was by Danny Kennedy, Deputy Leader of the UUP, and every Unionist present voted with him.

    The motion was defeated 46 to 44. Since there are 54 Unionists, 44 Nationalists, 9 United Community and the Speaker, this means that Unionism had 10 missing (maybe some were embarrassed?) while only 7 were missing from the new ‘majority’.

    It was pretty nasty to watch, with odd bits of humour. It was interesting to see how easily Stephen Farry (Alliance, Down N) wound up Unionists just by saying “Go raibh maith agat, Cheann Comhairle”, and pointing out that his Mayoral Chain has “Bangor” in Irish.

  • Beverley Crusher

    Turgon is right. McNarry is off on a solo run because of leadership ambitions. Realise you’ve restated the man-not-ball rule mick, but we’re only talking about this because of one man – David McNarry.

    He thought up the motion himself, signed it himself, and stormed out of the chamber as an individual while the Assembly group sat where they were.

    The motion was not the settled view of the assembly group. It’s the solitary view of the Chief Whip who submitted this motion to the business office on behalf of the Assembly Group. Exceeding his authority, surely?

    The Assembly Group did not give their imprimatur to what amounts to racist behaviour. But that’s not good enough. There is no way that this motion should have been debated – it shouldn’t have seen the light of day.

    Does anyone really think that this motion would have appeared without McNarry? Qui bono? An embarrassed and half AWOL assembly group; or an individual trying to win the favour of right-wingers like Burnside?

    McNarry’s toughened Unionist eardrums are shut like Derry’s gates to the rudeness of the rebel tongue. Burnside was crucial to Reg last time out. McNarry knows that and is making his pitch to the right. This was a pathetic, racist little solo run. Shamefully, that’s all there is to it.

  • IJP

    Billy

    No goalposts being shifted.

    The Irish language cannot be promoted other than by those who wish to see it promoted.

    If they want Unionists involved, they must take positive action to ensure they are. Their record is actually quite to the contrary.

    If I were in any group from which a major group in society (be it the GAA, the SDLP, the Irish language lobby), I would ask myself why – not accuse the group.

    What is it about those promoting the Irish language which makes all Unionists, without exception, oppose any Act?

    (I know what my answer to that is, btw, but I’m interested to hear others’.)

  • darth rumsfeld

    “Whilst Mac Náraigh means ‘son of the modest one’ if you are being charitable, you could of course also interpret it as ‘son of the ashamed one’, so maybe the ancestors would not be that surprised! ”

    Damn! I was just about to use this gem as proof that Irish had nothing to do with reality, but on closer study it now appears to be able to convey in a nuanced way a great truth :0)

    I’ll get me fainne

  • RG Cuan

    IJP

    What is it about those promoting the Irish language which makes all Unionists, without exception, oppose any Act?

    So you believe Unionist opposition to Gaelic lies with Irish speakers? Come on.

    The Irish language population could probably do more to attract Unionists – there are already a number of well-known Unionist Irish speakers – but it appears from the DUP/UUP that their opposition is based solely on their own biased perspectives.

    Mr McCausland & co. constantly bark on about one phrase one SF member said over 25 years ago and more or less claim Irish is ‘the language of terrorists’. If they had any real contact or understanding of the Irish speaking community then they would realise that the reality is a lightyear away from this worn-out semi-Republican image.

    Irish speakers in NI vote SDLP, SF, UUP and others. Some don’t vote. Some are Catholic, some Protestant, some aren’t religious at all. Most work, some don’t, many thousand are still at school. They come from all socio-economic groupings in our society. A few come from England, Wales, USA and Australia. Contrary to what Unionist politicians claim, 99% do not speak Irish to wind people up nor for any political reasons. They do so because it’s their language of choice and simply wish to use their language where, and whenever, they can. Sin é.

  • Dan

    I’m just curious to know if any of the unionist users on Slugger understand the main reasons why Irish is in the state it’s in today. I’m referring to the entire island here. Irish was already “consigned to minority status” before the Free State came into existence. I believe there was no hope of making it the predominant language ONCE AGAIN, even back in the 1920s. When you have an incredibly rapid language shift like Ireland has experienced over the past 200-250 years, it requires a degree of coercion and malice.

    It’s not like Irish speakers all decided one day “hey, what a silly language this is, let’s all switch to English just for kicks.” ;D

    “Irish would have died out completely a hundred years ago were it not for protestant revivalists (like Hyde).”

    Hmm. Why do you believe that? You think if it wasn’t for Hyde all native speakers in the Gaeltacht would have given up their language en masse? Or did Hyde help spark renewed interest in the language amongst non-speakers? There were well over 400,000 speakers around 1907.

  • Dan

    And before I get accused of MOPEry, I’m not saying Irish people themselves (generally) or Irish administrations throughout the decades since partition don’t deserve some of the blame for the rapid decline in the number of fluent speakers.