Parking the tanks onto the opponents lawn

Fair Deal has spent some time arguing that moves on issues such as the Irish Language should wait until Nationalism has something to trade.I disagree with this for a number of reasons, not least that I’m not sure that endless horsetrading and mistrust will run a government in the long run (though the TBGBs seemed to manage it for a while…..) but the one that strikes me most is that it is an attitude that comes purely from the sectarian silo. Why exactly should the Irish Language, for example, be abandoned as one for “t’other”? Even if an ILA is blocked for now, it’s likely that eventually there will be an issue that gives the necessary leverage, and something will be done.

The Irish language has a number of very fervent supporters, but I guess that most Nationalists fall into a similar camp as me: a rudimentary grasp at best and no small affection for the language and a vague desire to see it promoted. With Unionism set dead against it, and the fervent supporters pushing SF, policy in the area is largely dictated by the more extreme end.

Now, suppose the DUP introduced an Irish Language Act into the Assembly. It would blindside both SF and the SDLP for a start. It would also mean that the DUP could set the agenda, shape the initial parameters for discussion and the scope of the debate. If it’s clever, it could maybe come up with proposals that would split more moderate Nationalism from the fervent supporters, and create something more to its taste. It might also have spent more time considering how Nationalism thinks, and maybe that would be helpful too.

Obviously I don’t give a stuff about Unionism does. But the principle still applies for Nationalism. Too many issues are abandoned as simply alien and dealt with by the other side. We need to break those boxes, and start pursuing policy outside of our sectional comfort zone. Pretty soon, cultural issues around Polish-Irish, African-Irish, Chinese-Irish will begin to loom larger as Ireland becomes more multicultural. If we can’t deal with Unionism, can we deal with that? Traditional nationalism is an important and strong component of the Irish identity, but it is not the only one. Only by trying to deal with all these issues do we come close to true Republicanism.