Talks and the ILA

Whilst talks continue on the devolution of Policing and Justice let us remind ourselves that an Irish Language Act was also part of the St. Andrew’s Agreement.

There has been no mention of the proposed Act being an issue in the current talks and I have no indication whatsoever that it is.
My view has also been that the proposed Act is a long term campaign and that equality for the language in the North is highly unlikely so long as unionism maintains a majority, aside from the slight possibility of British government direct intervention in a Plan B scenario, but I do not believe that Plan B actually exists.

I for one am dead set against any trade off involving the Irish Language Act and parades, such an equivalence would be a unionist wet dream and would kill off the Irish language movement completely in a number of key working class areas.

I would have to point out that according to my own ear almost all Irish speakers (i.e. those who speak Irish as a vernacular language) would prefer that the assembly would collapse.

Having said that, most would not want it to collapse on the issue of an ILA – and I certainly don’t as that would jeopardise the status of the language and its potential for growth in the broad (English speaking) nationalist community.

Sinn Féin will point out that they continue to lobby for an Irish Language Act and that the Act would not be on any political agenda had Sinn Féin not put it there. I think that point is quite an obvious one. Though it must also be said that a language act has the support of the vast majority of the North’s Irish speakers and that Sinn Féin were responding to that pressure.

Any suggestion that Sinn Féin seek to hoist an Act on Irish speakers is unionist fantasy and lets us not forget that the Irish language bill before the assembly is an SDLP one.

However Sinn Féin’s opponents in the Irish speaking community have certainly hardened their views as a result of the Act not coming to fruition.

If, and it is a big if, there is something to be gained on language issues from the current talks, it is highly unlikely to satisfy Sinn Féin’s critics in the Irish speaking community but it may satisfy a silent majority, at least as an interim step to equality.

To my mind, Sinn Féin, and Sinn Féin’s Irish speakers need to engage their opponents as Gaeilge and in public.

My view is that pressure needs to keep up on all political parties to deliver on language issues but that that pressure should be a rational one – lest politicians fear to come within a donkey’s bray of language issues.

A classic example is that for some in the Irish speaking community in the North Minister Ruane will only ever be remembered and frankly detested for the school she did not give recognition to, the schools she did give recognition to and the support she has given to IME in general being forgotten.

That is a political mistake in my view.

Things are changing as we see on Slugger’s pixels, unionism is changing, nationalism is changing, political parties are changing. We have a huge opportunity to influence people like never before in this unsure period. Young people need something new and dynamic, the Irish language movement can be that and we must grasp that nettle and get to work on the ground.

Demonising other Irish speakers, non Irish speakers who support the language etc. etc. for failing to deliver on each and every demand despite the fact that we live in a statelet demographically engineered to deny us our rights is not going to help in the task of selling the language to the broad nationalist and republican community in the North.

Many will vigorously disagree but you cannot sell your ideas to those you castigate.

For me, this is our decade if we get the work done.

Freelance journalist, working mostly in Irish.

Have my own independent news website – antuairisceoir.com – which is in constant need of material.

I am the former editor of the newspaper Gaelscéal, www.gaelsceal.ie