Protestants and the Irish language

Tonight sees the launch of a long awaited book, ‘Towards Inclusion: Protestants and the Irish Language’ by Lurgan man (agus fíorGhael!) Dr. Ian Malcolm. It will be launched in the Canada Room, Q.U.B, tonight at 6:00 pm. It is a book that I have longed looked forward to reading, I hope to review it on Slugger before too long.

Ian is well known (and very useful!) in the Irish language media as he represents the unionist view. The following is the product description from Amazon, I assume it is from the cover.

In Northern Ireland the Irish language has the power to enrage and enthral. For some, Irish is the expression of a cherished culture, but its close association with nationalism and republicanism means that Protestants and unionists rarely see it in a positive light. History reveals that this was not always the case. For centuries, Protestants engaged with Irish on their own terms, sometimes for academic reasons but often because it was their everyday language and an integral part of their lives. ‘Towards Inclusion’ considers these fascinating historical perspectives, as well as covering the role of the Irish language in Northern Ireland’s more recent past. But the main body of the book is based on Malcolm’s extensive and detailed research into the attitudes of young Protestants towards the Irish language, carried out through questionnaires and focus groups. Some of the students had attended a Gael-Linn language enrichment course, but the rest had little or no exposure to Irish. The results of this research are both striking and surprising, and will provoke fresh debate on the role of the Irish language in Northern Ireland today. In the twenty-first century can Irish become the intellectual property of all, regardless of political stance or religion?

I myself have taught Irish and related subjects in a number of Protestant schools and it was always an interesting an positive experience. I was alway concious however that all the kids were volunteers and that those with very negative views towards Irish were high;y unlikely ever to attend such a class.

The thing which interested all the kids in all schools was their own surnames and their meanings, they were often quite thrilled to learn what their names mean, though I must admitt that some English surnames had me quite stumped!

I hope to see yous at the launch so.

  • Ulsters my homeland

    “[i]Ian is well known (and very useful!) in the Irish language media as he represents the unionist view.”[/i]

    Useful for what? Promoting the language or the culture and nationalist baggage that comes along with it?

    SOLUTION – Change the name back to its original name Gaelic, and you might convince a hell of a lot of Unionists that your interest is really in the language.

  • GGN


    As you have been explained a hundred times, It is the English who described the language they found in Ireland as Erse – Irish.

    We Ultaigh call our language An Ghaedhilg.

    I matters not to me what it is called in English. Ian Adamson actually calls it Ulidian.

    Unionists who can speak Irish are useful for the Irish language in that they can give the unionist point of view.

  • Unionist in the Republic

    I’m a unionist from Ulster and have fallen in love with the Irish langauge since moving to the Republic of Ireland. Would love to see it embraced by unionist parties and then throw away that joke ulster-scot language.

    I used to worry that embracing the language would mean a step closer to a united Ireland, but since arriving in the south, I really don’t see that ever happening. The countries are too different. Like Canada and USA. So unionists have nothing to be afraid of by taking up Irish.

  • Driftwood

    Will there be a follow up book ‘Atheists and the Irish language’?

  • Rory Carr

    No, Driftwood. The next volume in the series is to be: “Roma engagement with Ulster-Scots – is the future rosy?”

  • séamus mac seáin

    níl a fhios agam an bhfuil seans ar bith go ndéanfadh iarchéimí éigin dochtúireacht ar “na caitlicigh agus an teanga Ghaeilge”.Ó scríobh Breandán ó Buachalla “Béal Feirste cois cuan” (agus cuid nach beag de “fheachtas iompaítheach” ag baint leis dar liom)is liosta le háireamh iad na leabhair a tháinig amach ar na protástúnaigh agus an Ghaeilge ach díobháil ceann a chonaic mise faoin mhéid a rinne na Caitlicigh ar shon na Gaeilge.Cad chuige sin do bhárúil? tá sé fáiseánta imeasc cuid de na Gaeilgeóirí a bheith ag maíodh á ngráin ar an eaglais Chaitliceach as an dochar a rinne sí don teanga (agus rinne scáití) ach is liosta le háireamh iad baill na heaglaise Chaitlicigh idir chléir agus thuata a rinne obair éachtach ar shon na teanga go hairithe san 20ú aois ach níl creidiúint ar bith ag dul dóibh da bharr.Is mithid do ollscoil éigin sin a chur ina cheart.ceart domh ceart duit.

  • Driftwood

    Noticed your use of the colon there Rory, and not a semi-colon in sight on this thread, what is the position of the Irish language lobby on this issue?

  • sinless

    I know some English Mormons learning it. Hyde and others were Prods and Trinity’s Gaelic/Irish dept was for long stacked by Orange Order heads.

    An lile ba leir e, and all that. Then, in Donegal, all kinds of Prods gabber away in Irish. They proved useful in the H Blocks to decode the cac asail Sands, O’Rawe and their mates spewed.

    Maybe the Prods could learn useful phrases like Tiochfaidh ar la. When Sean Sabhat fell for Irish freedom,he was gibbering away asking for na pilleir, the bullets. The sergeant game him cupla.

  • George

    Will there be a follow up book ‘Atheists and the Irish language’?

    I thought you would be more interested in the first Irish language bible Driftwood, translated courtesy of the efforts of Elizabeth I.

    Hardly surprising the Catholic Church was always reluctant to encourage the language.

  • slug

    Unionists have nothing to fear from Irish Gaelic.

  • GGN

    Launch was great. Ian Adamson is always good for a laugh. Great crowd.

    Driftwood & Séamus

    Not sure if either Catholics and the Irish Language and / or Atheists and the Irish language are planned.

    Maybe someone needs to think of a new title?!

    I will now make a start into it.

  • Erasmus
  • Different Drummer

    The Book Is Welcome

    However most posters here in english actually don’t write english at all – but Hiberno-English which has gaelic grammar forms underlining it.

    English derives it’s power from tests for ease of use – a language experiment conducted by Angles saxons and French invaders with contributions from Ireland and India. It is a very powerful tool in European translations today. If you want to translate Finish into Czech you translate to English first – some of the benefits of not being a ‘pure’ language. It’s strength is in being basically functional and direct.

    Irish is a pure language and therefore to increase it use we must speak of its different virtues. You can talk about how modern it is until the cows come home but it still is the language of the tale and the epic the lyric and the lament -and I think that Douglas Hyde – the first (Irish speaking) protestant of Ireland would agree.

  • Turun

    GGN on Jun 24, 2009 @ 05:11 PM – But I thought that ‘erse’ was a word that Father Jack uses.

  • Turun

    GGN on Jun 24, 2009 @ 05:11 PM – But I thought that ‘erse’ was a word that Father Jack uses.

  • Zoon Politikon

    The English language is not the national language of the UK but is the de facto language due to usage. If an Irish Language Bill was introduced in an area of Ireland that is not Irish but British the English would have to be dealt with as the de jure language as it is in the Irish Constitution. Hence making English a national language in Lisburn but not in London ~ ironic or what!

  • Ulsters my homeland


    “[i]As you have been explained a hundred times, It is the English who described the language they found in Ireland as Erse – Irish.”[/i]

    Explained? I haven’t been explained anything, i’ve just been bluffed off.

    Are you saying you Irish decided to call the Gaelic language ‘Irish’ because the English described it as Erse? Show me how you came to that conclusion that the word Erse refers to only the Irish Gaelic?

  • Ulsters my homeland


    “[i]We Ultaigh call our language An Ghaedhilg.”[/i]

    Are you trying to bluff me off again? Why did you call it Irish in the title of your thread?

    You only call it Ghaedhilg when it suits you to, you normally refer to it as Irish.

  • Zoon Poltikon

    OK simple question. Why do we need an Irish Language Act and if one was brought into effect what would one like to see included including checks and balances?

  • Ulsters my homeland

    “[i]Why do we need an Irish Language Act”[/i]

    ….because it will give those uncultured Unionists some culture and make the Irish Nation more appealing to them.

    “[i]and if one was brought into effect what would one like to see included including checks and balances?”[/i]

    The checks and balances some Unionists will introduce will probably be deemed unlawfull by the EU anyhow, so they’re not that unimportant in discussing.

  • ersehole


    if you ever take the notion to speak Gaelic you will never even have to say the terrible word Irish. Because Irish, and Ireland are English words.

    English, that is. Not British.

    The reason Gaelic speakers sometimes call it Irish (when speaking English)is because, back in Elizabethan times, the ENGLISH decided that was the name for the language in English. It’s in their dictionaries!!!

    So take it up with them!

    They also called Scots Gaelic Irish but we’d better not go there…

  • GGN


    I simply follow English language usage.

    We say Gaeidhilg in Irish and Irish in English.

    ‘Erse’ refers to all Gaelic languages and dialects, something modern day Scottish Gaels find somewhat offensive.

  • Ulsters my homeland


    “[i] We say Gaeidhilg in Irish and Irish in English.”[/i]

    I know what you say, but I don’t agree with you saying it. When you say it in Irish it means Gaelic, in English you’ve changed it to mean Irish. That’s because the name of the language has been changed from simply describing the language to now being associated with either the island or the Irish people. The name has been Nationalised and politicised.

    [i]‘Erse’ refers to all Gaelic languages and dialects.[/i]

    Glad you now recognise that instead of linking it solely to Irish. We can now conclude that when the word Erse was used, it was not used to refer to the language spoken on the island or solely belonging to the Irish people.

    This would lead me to believe that when the word Erse was used to describe the Gaelic language that no Nationalisation or politicisation of the language had yet occurred on the island.

  • GGN


    Don’t think there is much point in carrying on with this but you do realise that the word ‘Erse’ is simply an older form of the word ‘Irish’?

    “The name has been Nationalised and politicised.”

    If that is your view then I suggest you take it up with the writers of the Oxford English Dictionary.

    English speakers called the inhabitants they found in Ireland, Irish. I have no problem with that.

    Within the law it matters little to me what Gaeidhlig is know as in English.

    Some hardline Gaelic Leaguers, Republicans in West Belfast, Loyalists, and the Dublin 4 set prefer to call it Gaelic in English, fine by me.

    Some Irish lanuage groups in the north say ‘Irish Gaelic’, no problem with that either.

    Some unionists are more offended by the ‘Gaelic’ part than the Irish part however. You can’t win. So I don’t try to be honest. Someone is always going to be offended. C’est la vie.

    Im am happy with An Ghaeidhlig or when pushed I’ll say An Ghaeilge.

    All the same to me.

  • Ulsters my homeland

    “[i]‘Erse’ is simply an older form of the word ‘Irish’?”[/i]

    Really? I didn’t know that. There was thread on Slugger some time ago which asked how the name Irish/Ireland came about and I don’t remember that suggestion being put forward.

  • ersehole


    “The name has been Nationalised and politicised.”

    Well, yes, to an extent.

    But recently, partially, and not, I dare say, irrevocably.

    Maybe part of the de-politicizing and de-nationalizing of it can be found in the reading of Ian’s book.

    After all, most Celtic language speakers are Protestants, resident in the UK.

  • GGN

    Sorry, slighter inaccurate. Both Irish and Erse still current in Scots come from middle English ‘Erisch’, meaning Irish.

    I stated that Erse was an older form of Irish and whilst that is true in terms of the linguistics of English it fails to take into account the separate developement of Scots.

    The word Erisch combines the Gaelic Ériu with the germanic suffix -sch as found in say Deutsch etc.

    No great mystery.

  • sinless

    UMH: I wish tou would go back to yourt homeland of Scotia Minor.

  • Ulsters my homeland

    sinless, Us Scots are staying where we are, we will not be forced out of our homeland and into Caledonia for the second time.

  • Greenflag

    ‘most Celtic language speakers are Protestants, resident in the UK.’

    And the man most likely to be the next British Prime Minister – Tory leader – David Cameron .

    Gaelic Irish or Scots speakers understand that Cameron is an anglicisation of Caim Shron (Cam hrown) meaning ‘twisted or crooked nose ‘

    Somehow for a Tory Leader that name is so apt ;)-the english will discover to their cost in about 3 years 🙁

  • Ulsters my homeland


    “[i] The word Erisch combines the Gaelic Ériu with the germanic suffix -sch as found in say Deutsch etc.

    No great mystery.”[/i]

    Is Eriu celtic, could be Brittonic?

  • GGN


    We have discussed this many times and I have no inclination to repeat the exercise again today.

    Why don’t look it up yourself?

  • OC

    Is it not true, though, that just as Albannach refers to someone from Scotland, there is a word in Erse (Gaeilge) referring to someone from Éire (the island), perhaps Erennach?

  • Ulsters my homeland

    “[i]We have discussed this many times and I have no inclination to repeat the exercise again today.”[/i]

    Maybe some other day then;)

    By the way Eriu is not the name given to the language. Erainn (a group of people who had ruled Munster before the Eoganacht dynasty) and the word Eriu were used to change the name of the language from Gaelic to Irish. What isn’t clear is when this happened, but it certainly happened hundreds of years after the Erainn existed, it happened after the 12th century. Would be nice if we could get some date.

  • collie

    god forbid, if i ever ended up a quadriplegic I would still like to think my life would not be so dull I would be tempted to revisit such a hateful language. Also we should not be inflicting this useless language on our kids imho, there are so many useful life skills the time investment could be better spent on.

  • foreign correspondent

    ´´I would still like to think my life would not be so dull I would be tempted to revisit such a hateful language´´
    Wow, that´s pretty bitter. No language is hateful, every single one I have ever come across is endlessly fascinating. I don´t think the problem is to be found in the language, the problem is elsewhere.

  • Danny

    And ‘Gaelic’ is merely an anglicisation of Gaedhilge/Gaoidhealg/Gaeilig etc.

    There are English language documents from London and the English Pale in the 16th century which refer to the language as Irish (sometimes spelled ‘Irishe’ or ‘Yrish’).

    It’s not a new development.

  • Ulsters my homeland

    Could this be how the name of the language changed?

    Sir Adam de Ireys (1070) Crusader
    Hugh D’Iryshe (1115)
    William Iryshe (1240)
    Roger Irishe (1270)
    Sir William Irishe (1480 – 1513)
    Jonathan Irishe (1560)
    John Irish (1617)

  • Ulsters my homeland

    I want to EDIT post 9, to [i]”Erainn….and the word Eriu [b]may have been[/b] used to change the name of the language from Gaelic to Irish.”[/i]

    Obviously its easy to make mistakes when there’s so much Irish bullshit being spouted by revisionist Irish historians as to how the island, the people and the language got named Irish.

    Think I’ve found the Holy Grail in Sir Adam de Ireys 🙂

  • Big Maggie


    Given your fascination with the Irish language I take it you’re learning it or considering signing up for a course or two?

    Me, if I were as exercised about Polish, say, I’d be jumping in there to get beyond Jak są wy.

  • Ulsters my homeland

    Maggie, Do you know the feeling you get when you’ve been bluffed off and not quite given the right explanation?…Well, call it intuition.

    Too many Unionists can’t be bothered uncoding the puzzles, they’re quite happy to compromise and move on. To hell with that!

  • Ulsters my homeland

    thanks given to Danny, post 12, for the cryptic clue [cheers]

  • Nonchalant Repartee

    What exactly is the problem with referring to it as “Irish”?

  • dumb-ass

    You obviously haven’t read the thread Nonchalant Repartee?….maybe its time you did, hey there’s an idea?

  • collie

    “I would still like to think my life would not be so dull I would be tempted to revisit such a hateful language”

    F Correspondent “Wow, that´s pretty bitter.”

    As a catholic who was force fed this s**t at school , I sure as hell don’t want my children to endure this shit like i did. You don’t know jack shit about me so please don’t call me bitter, i could call you an idiot for making such generalizations, but i like to think im above such petty mindedness.

  • foreign correspondent

    Sorry but if you think a language, any language, is shit you are talking shit. Maybe you had a crap teacher, maybe you are bad at learning languages, or you resent spending time on a lesser spoken language (which is fair enough).
    I was force-fed Religious Education and Physics at school but I like to think I have overcome those particular traumas now 🙂
    Slán go fóill.

  • Big Maggie

    foreign correspondent,

    Seconded. There’s much nonsense written and spoken about language. It’s a communications tool; some languages excel in areas where others do not.

    For example, I’ve always considered Irish and French to be among the best languages for song. The irony is that English, which lacks much of the melodic quality of either language, dominates popular music worldwide.

  • Different Drummer

    The Maggie: Re Language Lovers

    How about this for language lovers.

    I work with someone who is half Czech half polish – he is a musician and a writer-composer.

    He writes his songs in Polish and English. Being brought up in Finland he developed a love of the Finish language.

    When he is not taking calls he uses the time to study his Polish-Finish grammar – reading and writing lists of verb forms.

    He studies so diligently that I joke with him that he is studying
    his ‘Koran’ again…

    But Polish is not the only language that is spoken in the call centre -off the calls – hindi, Tamil hausa and Urdu are also spoken – without self-consciousness so much so that I joke
    with my colleagues ‘Hey Where Are The Subtitles!’
    it’s a lot more fun than – Mombai Calling.

  • GGN

    The book in question is reviewed in todays Irish News.