Welsh victory in Europe

No, not a surprise warm-up for the All Blacks match… It can be done. The Welsh Assembly supports it, the UK government supports it.

The fact that a Welsh-speaking minister was representing the entire UK ( at an EU Council of Ministers meeting) added to the sense of history.

But tolerance does not come cheap. It costs European taxpayers more than 1 billion euros ($1.26 billion) a year just to translate speeches and official texts.

But apart from travel to Brussels, these translation costs are borne by the National Assembly for Wales. The Daily Mail asks the obvious question. I would put it this way: what is the cost, and what is the cultural value of minority language speaking in a public forum and how do you relate the one to the other? Whatever your answer, the Welsh experience strengthens the case for an Irish Language Act. Adds As an SDLP private members Bill is proposed, I don’t know what to make of this DUP statement….DUP RESPONDS TO SDLP LANGUAGE PROPOSAL

Lord Browne of Belmont said:

The DUP stated in its 2007 Manifesto that we would not support the
introduction of a costly Irish Language Act.  This commitment was
followed through by Edwin Poots in the Assembly when he
announced that he would not be introducing a Bill for the Irish

 This is a commonsense position as the costs involved with an Act
would be astronomical.  We have said consistently that we are not
opposed to the Irish language nor those who speak it but we
believe that those who have politicised the Irish language are not
good advertisements for it.  

It is sad that some, even in the Assembly, try to use the Irish
language as a cultural weapon.  Such an approach should end. 
The DUP is using devolution to restore equality in cultural funding
and it is important that this good work is built upon”, said the DUP

Is “such an approach were to end,” whatever than means exactly, would the DUP soften its line on the language?


  • TRuth

    Of course we must all support our indigenous cultures– Ulster Gaelic and Ulster Scots and their amalgam–and in that context those who wish to preserve their language should be encouraged. We must get to the stage where the richness of our diversity is a positive power in our lives.To that end the government should make equal amounts of money available to both movements through DCAL and leave it to the Ulster Gaelic and Ulster Scots bodies to use that support as they wish to develop their cultural.literary,linguistic and musical heritage.We need to get away from people using modern Irish as a means of division and from the NMcC approach to the promotion of Ulster Scots language in a way that threatens to bring our entire Ullans culture into disrepute.
    We simply cannot afford to burden taxpayers by asking for everything to be translated into minority languages given that Chinese and Polish people would have as good an argument as those speaking Gaelic or Ullans to be indulged in this way. There are times when we need to get a grasp of reality. If there is money to spend we need to prioritise and most people would put Irish Language and Ulster Scots well down the list. Is there is anything more important than eradicating the poverty that blights many parts of this province.

  • kensei

    It is sad that some, even in the Assembly, try to use the Irish
    language as a cultural weapon. Such an approach should end.

    We don’t like it therefore it is cultural warfare? The approach may be confrontational, but what exactly is it that they find offensive? If the problem is cost, then surely it is relatively easy to find a compromise – either by placing a limit on expenditure or by only translating the most important documents?

    Who’s doing the fighting here?

  • Dewi

    “The fact that a Welsh-speaking minister was representing the entire UK ( at an EU Council of Ministers meeting) added to the sense of history.”

    “But tolerance does not come cheap. It costs European taxpayers more than 1 billion euros ($1.26 billion) a year just to translate speeches and official texts.”

    Just for clarification the billion a year includes translations into such minority languages as French, German, Spanish, Italian and English.

  • ggn


    ‘War’ was declared I think by Mr McCausland, I suggest you direct your comments at him.

    Mr McNarry has gone even further of course.


    Your people are an example to all minoritised cultures. Thank you.

  • I believe that the promulgation of English as the world’s “lingua franca” is impractical and linguistically undemocratic. I say this as a native English speaker.

    Impractical because communication should be for all and not only for an educational or political elite. That is the position of English at the moment.

    Undemocratic because minority languages are under attack worldwide due to the encroachment of majority ethnic languages. Even Mandarin Chinese is attempting to dominate as well. The long-term solution must be found and a non-national language, which places all ethnic languages on an equal footing is essential.

    An interesting video can be seen at http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=_YHALnLV9XU
    A glimpse of Esperanto can be seen at http://www.lernu.net

  • pith

    “An Assembly Government spokesman said: “There was an audible murmur when the other ministers and delegations realised that Welsh was being used to articulate the UK’s position.””

    I wonder what that murmer might have articulated.

    What’ll we do if the UK government ever wants an NI minister to speak at Council in Irish? Hide?

    As for the esperanto business, with its vowel ending people often assume that it tilts towards the Latin-based languages. However, that is not so. “Barker” for example in esperanto is “barking”. Couldn’t be easier.

  • Hbf

    I think that it’s pretty depressing that how somebody feels about the irish language mainly depends on which side of the sectarian divide that they put themselves into. I would love to see some important, respected unionist figure argue that the expenses involved with the act, or the language in general, would be worth it. It would be good if Lord Browne would tell us a few facts about the costs, other than that they are “astronomical”. I do agree with him, though, that it’s bad that the language has been politicised. Are there any shinners around that don’t appreciate how their party uses irish ad nauseam?
    I’m guessing that the DUP’s approach to the issue is because of how much the language is associated with Republicanism – especially violent republicanism. Can anyone suggest well known irish speakers who would be more acceptable to DUP voters and perhaps convince them to support the language a little bit more?

  • Glencoppagagh

    The crucial difference between NI and Wales is that in Wales there are substantial number of people who speak Welsh as a natural means of communication. In other words speaking Welsh is much more than an affectation. Therefore, there is some cultural value in the protection of Welsh from erosion by English just as there is in preserving ancient buildings. It is something worthwhile that exists naturally.
    This argument cannot be made in NI where Irish as a natural language of everyday discourse has been extinct for a very long time.
    The issue is not about whether Irish has been politicised or not, the ulterior objective of an Irish language act is to provide publicly funded sinecures for those who currently speak Irish purely as a hobby.
    Maybe when I hear that churches are offering regular Irish language masses or cinemas are dubbing films in Irish, I’ll be less cynical

  • Dewi
  • Bill Chapman

    As a Welsh-speaker, I’m naturally happy that “Y Gymraeg” has been heard in Europe. Although there is some overlap between Welsh speakers and Plaid Cymru voters, Welsh belongs to the whole of Wales, and among its speaker population can be found supporters of other political parties.

    I see that someone mentioned Esperanto, and I must agree. Esperanto is a neutral planned language which belongs to no ethnic group, no state or grouyp of states. It was never the intention of Esperanto to take the place of national or regional languages. I would love to see it used in the European institutions. The savings on translation or interp[retation would be phenonenal. Indeed, the wider use of Esperanto might go some way to protecting endangered minority languages.

  • Dewi

    Sut Mae Bill. Agree completely with first paragraph – what’s the next step toward bilingualism do you think?

  • ggn


    “where Irish as a natural language of everyday discourse has been extinct for a very long time.”

    You dont know much about Irish do you old boy.


    Maybe it is just about keeping the head down into the work and putting your shoulder to it?

  • Glencoppagagh

    “You dont know much about Irish do you old boy”
    I do know that I don’t ever hear it spoken but maybe you can direct me to where it is used as an everyday medium of conversation (and I don’t mean just within a household).

    I guessed there was probably at least one so thanks for letting me know. I might go there one Sunday to see how many people turn up.

  • Danny


    There were still small gaeltachtaí in what is now Northern Ireland at the time of partition. However, they were all gone a generation or so later.

    The user known as ggn can probably tell you more, but I believe the few isolated pockets were in south Armagh, the Sperrins region in Tyrone, Rathlin island and in the Glens around Cushendall, if I recall correctly.

    I imagine that you’d hear plenty of Irish at Cultúrlann McAdam Ó Fiach (aka An Chultúrlann) on the Falls or around Bóthar Seoighe (Shaw’s Road Gaeltacht).

    And of course gaelscoileanna as well as orginisations like Pobal, Forbairt Feirste…

  • Bill Chapman

    Dewi asked “what’s the next step toward bilingualism do you think?”. The way forward varies from country to country, I think. The linguistic and political situations in northern Ireland, Wales, Brittany and the BasqueCountry vary enormously.

    Here in Wales I’m impressed with the activities of the ‘mentrau iaith’, micro-businesses whose role is to create activities (football matches, pub quizzes, and so on) in which the minority language is used. There’s plenty of work for motivated individuals and organisations. I sing in a male voice choir, Cor Meibion Maelgwn, whose only official language is Welsh. Practices are in Welsh of course, and semi-speakers and even learners can become confident users in this way.

    Oh, and the throw-away comment on Esperanto (“barking”) was unfair and unworthy of a serious discussion. Peole can disagree – but in a reasoned way, please.

  • Glencoppagagh

    Thank you Danny
    I’m not surprised that Gaelic may have survived on Rathlin until fairly recently. However, I think you’ve made my point.

    As for the locations you mention in Belfast, you’ll come across French speakers at the Alliance Française (there’s one in Dublin if not in Belfast) but that signifies no more than the existence of a group of people with an interest in French language and culture but certainly not a linguistic monority. And pursuing an interest in Irish language in culture is a perfectly legitimate activity even if it would be well down my list.

  • Danny

    No, I was actually taking exception to your claim that Irish hasn’t been spoken naturally day-to-day in NI in “a very long time”. I don’t consider 50-60 years a very long time. It’s certainly not extinct.

    The second bit was merely in response to your message:

    “maybe you can direct me to where it is used as an everyday medium of conversation”.

    There’s far more Irish speakers in NI than French speakers. If you don’t consider some thousands of Irish people speaking the Irish language in a part of the island of Ireland to be part of a minority language community…so be it. I think it’s *YOU* who’s in the minority on this particular issue.

    (note that there’s a lot in the SDLP proposal which I don’t think is feasible or even desirable at this time…but I take exception to people who try to portray speaking Irish as some quirky hobby…)

  • ggn


    “but I take exception to people who try to portray speaking Irish as some quirky hobby”

    Remember that that is a political view / ambition rather than anything based on socio-linguistics.

    You could unfortunately get every everyday Gaelic speaker in Ireland into the Camp Nou but you could bring some people into the centre circle and get them to look around and all they would see are empty seats.

  • Dewi

    “sing in a male voice choir, Cor Meibion Maelgwn”

    Wonderful choir – I used to court a girl from Deganwy and we would walk past the pub where you practised – wonderful!