Pol O Muiri (sic.), Sinn Fein (sic.) and some seirious speelling mistackes.

Blogger and columnist Pól Ó Muirí or as the Belfast Telegraph describe him on their website Pol O Muiri has caused a stir in the world of Gaelic blogging with his latest attack on Sinn Féin.

Sinn Fein Irish is enough to make you sic. The article focuses on a leaflet produced by Sinn Féin recently in which the Irish language bits contained what were frankly, in my view, silly unneccessary errors, though they did not induce nausea.

Any Irish speaker will imediately notice the irony that both Sinn Féin and Pól Ó Muirí’s own name are spelt wrongly (a least they were when I wrote this!) at the top of the article, mistakes which do practically nullify the attack, a pity, for as I have said in my own now lifeless blog, it is a useful article.

Yes, there is enough bad spelling to make anyone sic! The party has declared war on feminine nouns, the genitive case and the síneadh fada (forward accents), all the things that make Irish the distinctive language it is.

… says Pól, quite says GGN. Glasshouses? Sauce, goose, gander. Sinn Féin supporters will also point out that Pól blogs on an pro-SDLP blog, ElBlogador.com- The Voice of Irish Nationalism.

Thereofore many will chose to check each and every point Pól makes themselves, I will if anyone can give a link.

Again, its useful. Parties have to understand that if they use Irish they have got to be accurate, lest they will alienate Irish speakers. However as the numbers of Irish speakers are low, notoriously apolitical going on anti-political (nationalists involved in politics may understand that point more easily than unionists). Then again, if the use of Irish is not to attract the votes of Irish speakers then clearly, the spelling are syntax are quite irrelevant.

Without this bad publicity, the problem (if it is a problem?), will continue. I must admitt, knowing several of the people who regularily check Sinn Féin’s Irish output I am quite perplexed by this incident.

What happened? under pressure? Gaelscoilis? Fifth columnist?

Concubhar as usual is on the ball with this one as one would expect given his low opinion of Sinn Féin, though surprisingly, I found igaeilge this time went quite easy on Sinn Féin.

Interestingly the article has also been taken up by the forum, daltai.com, a mainly international group of Irish learners.

  • OC


  • anon

    Indeed. Since he was critising spelling, he should first insist that the fadas were added to his own name in the article.

    Other than that, he has a point. One would hope that all political parties produce legible material irrespective of the language employed.

  • Dec

    Just a tired piece of unsubtle Stoopery. Surely the SDLP have reached rock-bottom when they’re reduced to lecturing SF for not using the term ‘Northern Ireland’?

  • picador

    Perhaps he was having a surreptitious dig at the Belfast Telegraph for not rendering his name appropriately.

    Other than that, fair enough.

  • Ulsters my homeland, not Oreland

    I love gaelic, I hate Irish. go figure!

  • Conchuir Ó Fearain

    I agree, that Irish has to be accurate. However, if there is a genuine attempt to use the language, then advise should be given as opposed to criticism.
    Mar tá sé ar intinn ar Gaelgoirí chun gaelige a oide.

  • Rory Carr

    If peeple cant spell propally and use the rite grammur then they shudent be aloud to use the langwidge at tall, at tall. Shud they?. No! In my opinion anyway.

  • ulsterfan

    Not many people interested, one way or another.

  • Earnan

    Gael,while we’re on the topic, you’re grasp of the english langauge is not perfect.

  • Gael gan Náire

    “you’re grasp of the english langauge is not perfect.”

    Quite. Yet in my defence I have never corrected anyone’s English.

  • I was unaware that there were ‘several people’ who regularily [sic] Sinn Féin’s Irish output. It doesn’t show. First of all there doesn’t seem to be a great deal of output and secondly, what output there is, is painful to read.

    It strikes me that Irish is being used merely as a rhetorical device by the party, which is tokenism akin to the ‘cúpla focal’ of the GAA and Fianna Fáíl.

    In an interview tonight on Hearts and Minds, Gerry Adams all but gave up the ghost on the Irish Language Act. He appears to think that merely putting Irish on an agenda is enough – making progress on that agenda seems to be a bonus not worth striving for.

    His atttitude towards those that criticise, my self and Gearóid Ó Cairealláín for instance, is to say that he’s great friends with us and admires what Irish language activists have done. But it stops short at that. He’s in power – what has he done lately for the Irish langauge? Or his ministers?

    Barry McIlduff published a right of reply in the North Belfast News in response to GOC’s article criticising SF. In it he decried bickering, recrimination and discord among the Irish language community and urged them/us to get behind SF, especially at this time when unionists were attacking the Irish language.

    We expect unionists – not all unionists but those of the unenlightened type prevalent in the leading ranks of the DUP, UUP and the TUV – to attack the Irish language. We don’t expect SF and, for that matter, the SDLP to roll over and play dead as the Irish language gets a kicking….or, as appears to have happened in the case of Lá Nua, join in the kicking….

  • Gael gan Náire

    “Gerry Adams all but gave up the ghost on the Irish Language Act.”

    How would you achieve the Act Concubhar?

  • Seán Mór

    I don’t think the problem, Gael gan Náire, is just that Sinn Féin cannot achieve the Act. We all know the Act will be difficult to achieve. But it appears that Sinn Féin, who claimed for years that they would not bend the knee in the way the SDLP had, that they were ‘the party that delivered’, that they were the strong voice that would ensure ‘CHANGE’… have actually become as limp as the SDLP.

  • I wouldn’t start from here. I’d have started with taking the Department of Culture when D’Hondt was run. What have they gained from the Department of Agriculture, precious little I would say.

    By refusing Culture, not alone did SF lose the Irish Language Act but they’ve also lost the Hunger Strike Museum at Long Kesh.

    There were numerous opportunities to make progress – when Peter Robinson wanted to be nominated as FM in May, during the long Summer when SF refused to participate in Executive meetings and then went back meekly without having achieved anything.

    The time will come when the DUP are caught again looking to SF to bail them out – then will be time to demand the Irish Language Act. What’s the worse that can happen – the DUP walks…and it’s election time.

    As I say, it’s not as if SF haven’t had these opportunities and they will have them again.

    The Irish language issue aside, SF need a result out of the next impasse as they have been played for suckers in the previous events.

  • Gael gan Náire


    Yet even if Sinn Féin had have taken Culture, the Bill would have fallen without being passed by the assembly, simply due to the fact that there are more unionists than nationalists in the Six Counties, which is what they were picked for ar the end of the day.

  • Not necessarily, the Minister could have ensured that the Bill included a specific section on broadcasting, a reserved matter, and that would have required it to be transferred to Westminister and therefore it could have been passed there….

  • Gael gan Náire

    “Transfered to Westminister”

    Forgive me Concubhar for my memory of English constitional law is fading (or am I thinking of Public law?), but could you instruct me as to the mechanism of that transfer?

    It is my understanding that a Bill has to be put before Westminister by a member of parliament, I know of no way a member of the Northern Ireland assembly who is not an MP could do that.

    I stand to be corrected.

    I would suggest that even in an ideal world two Irish language acts would therefore be required, a Westminister one covering reserved matters and one from Stormont covering devolved matters.

  • It’s a matter of negotiation with the British government and given the fact that the British goverment promised in the St Andrews Agreement to introduce an Irish Language Act, well then the matter could be expedited using a British minister.

    But it’s a moot point as Sinn Féin took the wrong option and now the game’s over for the Irish Language Act and for Sinn Féin. Thanks….

  • Gael gan Náire

    Let me clarify this. You believe that in the senario that an Irish Language Bill failed in Stormont and if the NI culture minister requested that the British Government then enacted said Bill in Westminister that the British Government would actually do it?

  • Biddly Boo

    “Hunger Strike Museum at Long Kesh”? You mean all that talk about a ‘conflict transformation centre’ reflecting the history of all was just so much sh*t and it really was just to be a provo shrine?

    Well blow me down now there’s a surprise!

  • You at least would have placed them between a rock and a hard place, between delivering on a commitment in an international treaty and enraging one half of the political equation and not delivering and infuriating the other half. We know the bias of the British – but they were put under no pressure on the ILA by Sinn Féin because the party was too incompetent to come up with a viable strategy on the issue.

    The game had been set up well in advance by the British when they made the promise. Within a number of weeks we had a discussion document from DCAL which effectively mirrored the ROI bill and disastrous and all as that would be, it was doubly so because this bill could be enacted in NI. Thus the Sewell Convention kicked in…. It didn’t need a DUP minister in situ but the fact that the DCAL officials would have been inclined that way to begin with helped. However a SF minister with an idea about the ILA could have put the process in a different direction.

    The fundamental question here is whether SF can show that politics works in a meaningful way, that it’s not just a means to their leaders and cronies getting cushy jobs and not having to do any work. On this issue they couldn’t. And if they can’t do it on this issue, there’s no reason to believe they can do it on any issue of importance. Never mind,however, they can always spend their time in Stormont debating the issue of whether Martin McGuinness is a deputy first minister or a co-first minister. That’s the kind of language to which they seem to pay real attention.

  • variable

    “they’ve also lost the Hunger Strike Museum at Long Kesh.”


  • fin

    I do hope Mick or a colleague picks up on this, its UNESCO’s language day and they have published a brilliant map (PDF) for languages globally, Irish not surprisingly is on the edge of the critical list. Ulster-Scots doesn’t even appear?

    However Normandy-French is listed, which I had thought was only used at the opening of Parliment


    For me the amazing thing is that there is actually another language in Ireland which I have never heard off called Yola


    Which led me to another language I’d never heard off which unfortunately has gone the wy of the dodo


  • Laird.ie

    Ids wridden en Oolster-Scods ewe incentife clods!

  • Ireland

    The number of daily (habitual) Irish speakers in NI is too low to justify an Irish Language Act.

    I’d be surprised if there are more than 10,000.

    Even in the Republic there are only about 75,000.

    Better to focus all efforts on establishing more Irish speaking communities and networks. Larger and stronger ones. Focus on the use of Irish in the home.

    Legislation and symbolism have done very little for Irish.

  • I agree with the thrust of your post, Ireland, that legislation, as it is framed at present to ensure maximum symbolism and minimum practical benefit, has done little for Irish. Your prescription for progress seems sound.

    In the north, however, legislation is needed to ensure the more active involvement and support of bodies such as the BBC with the Irish language.

    I think your figures are on the low side – as recent surveys indicate for instance that there are up to 20,000 daily speakers of Irish in NI.

  • Ireland

    Do you know if the 20,000 includes those who use Irish in school? That figure alone is around 5,000, if I recall correctly.

    My definition of daily (habitual) speaker is just that. Those who speak a language day to day outside the education system (or both within and outside of it).

    All things considered, 20,000 seems like a large figure indeed. But I hope it’s accurate.

    Wouldn’t any Irish Language Act go beyond ensuring increased support and involvement by the BBC and others, and extend to having reports published in Irish? Or people having the right to interact with State bodies through the medium of Irish? Where would they find the people to provide such services if that was to occur?

  • fin

    The actual number of speakers is not important, its the growth in the number of speakers thats key, and I think its more important to get the Irish language firmly in the mainstream media radio tv and print, although its good to have an Irish language media it does become a dumping ground for programmes and printed media in Irish. Better to have a “pop music” show hosted in Irish on RTE2 at 5pm and to introduce news and chat shows in Irish.

  • I think you need both – the music shows on 2FM with introductions in Irish [You should check out Raidio Rí Rá] and the news and chat shows in Irish which appeal to the person who wants to learn/improve their Irish and the Irish language media for those who are proficient and who want material in Irish about news, current affairs, culture, sport, entertainment etc.

    You just need more of it – and I’m not saying it should all be state funded but organisations which receive funding from the public purse should be obliged to provide Irish language programming and more of it.

    I’m not in favour of spending money on annual reports in Irish and other bureaucratic follies. The emphasis has to be on material that has a proven demand….music, news, etc. – not headage payment forms as Gaeilge.

  • ulsterfan

    In a recent report from UN it suggests Irish is on the endangered list with a total of 44,000 speakers world wide.
    If that is so extinction is a formality.

  • Nothing is a formality…

    Interesting to note that Ulster Scots doesn’t feature on the list of languages at all….

  • Ireland

    No, it’s not so, ulserfan. That’s misleading. It’s also untrue.

    The report said that 44,000 people live in predominantly Irish speaking areas.

    Which is itself misleading. The figure is closer to 20,000. That is the fíor-ghaeltacht.

    Either way, there are more than 44,000 habitual Irish speakers ‘world wide’.

    In the Republic alone (2006 Census), around 74,000 said they speak Irish daily outside of the education system. A further 97,000 said they speak it weekly outside of the education system.

    Triple that figure of 44,000 and we’d be closer to the true number on an island-wide basis.

    Even so, that’s only about 2% of the total population.

  • ersehole

    “Legislation and symbolism have done very little for Irish.”

    That statement would be a good essay assignment for a sociolinguistic class.

    Though I fear that in order to deal with it fully, many trees would need to be felled.

    Having read much on the topic, Ireland, I conclude that the influence of legislation on Irish has the capacity to be very powerful. The Penal Laws are an example.

    And symbolism is one of the greatest powers in human society. If you don’t believe me, simply start a thread on flags or anthems and stand well back.

  • Earnan

    “A further 97,000 said they speak it weekly outside of the education system.”

    Does that total include former provo’s who shout “Tiocardh ar la” after having their usual few dozen drinks on friday night?

  • Ersehole,

    what have you read on Irish and the Penal Laws? I’d be interested to read it myself.