There’s a useful translation of Eoghan op ed in La Nua doing the rounds at the moment (below the fold). You can find the original here. It reflects a large strand of thought amongst the Irish language section of civil society. He argues that the language has fared particularly poorly in the interparty negotiations, and that accordingly they feel abandoned by parties like Sinn Fein and the SDLP who had previous pledged support.Where were you, our friends in power?
Eoghan Ó Néill
There are five Nationalist ministers in Stormont as well as one junior minister.
Six people who state that they are in favour of the Irish language.
Are there any Gaels in the Six Counties out there who felt relief that we had so many friends in power?
Caitríona Ruane is doing great work with Irish medium education, work that is gaining the praise of all Gaels in the six counties.
But besides that, the Irish language community does not take much hope from having the best wishes of nearly half the seats in stormont. If the will was present, or indeed the resources, those same nationalist ministers could implement bi-lingual policies within their own respective ministeries.
That would promote an Irish language Act through the back door.
But they did not do that and they will not do that.
Instead of doing something radical like that, all six sat in silence while Michael McGimpsey finished off the last and only bi-lingual symbol in a Stormont ministry, the bi-lingual advert that would have accompanied The Ministry of Health. Instead of gaining dividends, all we got was silence, contempt, degrading, battering and bruising from nearly every other minister sat at the table. Even last week, Sinn Féin and SDLP ministers accepted a budget that will proceed to put the proverbial final nail in the coffin of the Broadcasting Fund.
Why didnt even one of the Sinn Féin ministers do what Margaret Ritchie and Michael McGimpsey did and state that they would refuse to accept the budget unless they got AB and C beforehand. As well as that, £40 million from the Irish Government being directed towards Reg Empeys innovative fund, not one of them proposed that that money should be directed towards The Irish language Quarter or to other Irish language enterprises.
If we did not felt any encouragement or seen any dividends from having six Nationalist ministers, then all Gaels must feel gutted given that Edwin Poots is now in charge of a crusade to maul the Irish language.
Thanks to Sinn Féin and to the SDLP, Edwin Poots has the power to thrash the Irish language in the North. It was them who granted the DUP with DCAL (Department for Culture, Arts and Leisure).
Was it that these Nationalist politicians did not see the importance that this Ministry would have in terms of promoting the Irish language in the North and in and All-Ireland context?
Or was it that they did not care because they have their own agenda and programme and that the welfare of the Irish language would have to wait.
Imagine what could have been achieved if Michelle Gildernew had have been Minister for Culture, Arts and Leisure for the last nine months instead of Edwin Poots. Imagine how effective it would have been to have Eamonn Ó Cuív and Foras na Gaeilge sit with Michelle Gildernew as opposed to Minister Poots.
Minister Poots has succeeded to throw an Irish language act in the rubbish bin. There is lots of room in that same bin for the Irish language Broadcasting fund. There is also plenty of room for other Irish language aspects of life also.
What was the response from those Nationalist ministers?
Criticism and talk without action.
It takes time for any party to gain experience from being in power, to understand the wily ways of the civil service, to deal with the dismay of not being able to administer the needs of the people who put you into power overnight.
This applies to Sinn Féin and to the SDLP as well as all of the other parties. But, if they cannot even protect the Broadcasting Fund for the Irish language then the question must be asked about their strategy, about their priorities and their abilities as politicians.
There is no way that Edwin Poots will calm the swelling of the Irish language and its people in the North. But he can damage and delay lots of things. He can also destroy worthwhile enterprises.
The six Nationalist ministers are failing to show leadership and the Irish language community will pay the price.