For the benefit of the monoglot majority

It was good to learn this via the New York Times

On Friday a post on the Northern Irish blog Slugger O’Toole pointed out, in Irish, that while the Irish language was hardly at the center of the new deal, Mr. McGuinness — or Máirtín Mac Aonghusa — did mention, briefly, in English, that “We have agreed a process to progress the rights of Irish Language speakers.” What exactly that means, in plain English or Irish, remains to be seen, but the post at Slugger O’Toole links to an Irish-language news site Nuacht 24, which reported on Friday that some additional money for Irish language broadcasting might be on the way.

  • Thanks to our glorious leaders, every time there is a “crisis” (which they gloriously engineer), the big lads come from London & Dublin to coax, cajole, bully and bribe the kids in Belfast into some kind of new agreement. And each time that happens, the compromise is portrayed as being more historic than the last one was. There also seems to be a tendency for backhanders at these things – Paddy gets some cash or promises for X and Billy gets cash or promises for Y. What Paddy and Billy get is of little interest to the other except that if one gets a wee bag of sweeties, so must the other.
    They are paid to govern. Is this any way to govern?

  • It’s nice to be mentioned on the New York Times blog,no doubt, however there should be some clarification.
    The Nuacht 24 story refers to the expectation that the Agreement when published would contain details about extra money for the Irish Language Broadcast Fund and other Irish language projects.
    The story on Nuacht 24 was published prior to the publication of the Agreement. The Agreement did not in fact contain any such promises.
    But if the New York Times says it did, surely they can’t be wrong?

  • I sincerely hope to God that there will be no money for Ulster Scots broadcasting.

  • Panic, these ones like it up em.

    How could “Unionists” be against an indigenous language in one part of the United Kingdom being treated the same as indigenous languages in other parts of the UK.

    Are they a la cárte Unionists or what is there problem.

  • @Panic. The Irish language has been politicized and has thus fallen into the us & them hodge-podge of Ulster politics. I find that very sad.

  • joeCanuck

    Yes, BOO. Very sad but I still cannot understand why the DUP fell into SF’s trap. There is nothing to fear from language. I can understand the reluctance to spend enormous amounts of money in translating documents etc but small amounts could reasonably be spent on roadsigns in both languages where a significant desire for them is expressed by the locals.

  • pinni

    There are more people living in NI who speak Portuguese, Polish, Lithuanian and probably Chinese than there are people who speak Irish. We need to set some priorities. ‘Significant need’ definitely out-weights ‘significant desire’.

  • joeCanuck

    Interestingly (although not applicable to N.I.) Toronto has bilingual signs in recognized ethnic areas, for example Chinatown.

  • joeCanuck

    As a child I was told that Irish was still used in daily conversation in a small area of the N.Antrim coast; either Cushendall or Cushendun IIRC. Anyone know if that is still the case; that was pre-TV of course which probably had an effect.

  • @Joe – and in Prairie Canada you´ll find the French language everywhere even though hardly anyone speaks it and virtually nobody uses it. But that´s beside the point. Yes, there is nothing to fear from language and my own preference would be for this money to be spent on promoting Irish education for all – to try to make it an inclusive part of the Island´s culture. Pini´s point about “significant desires” strikes a note, though – how can we justify spending more and more money on what will be perceived as “jobs for the boys” projects when we are in the middle of a recession?

  • As pessoas que falem uma lingua só, não valem nada.

  • Wie bitte? Ich verstehe kein Pölnisch. Bissa blöd?

  • Chuck Loyola

    concordo dave. Vamos criar um país multilingual.

  • Coll Ciotach

    Last native speakers died out in the Glens in the ’70s and ’80s

  • joeCanuck

    Coll Ciotach,

    Thanks for the info. Sad.

  • Belfast Gonzo

    I wonder if this Memorandum of Understanding between the British and Irish governments, signed without fanfare last week, is part of the strategy or just coincidence. For Irish speakers, it means TG4 in Northern Ireland on digital. And if it leads to RTE being available on Freeview, happy days.

    Hardly sinister, but hardly noticed. UK govt press release here.

  • There are more people living in NI who speak Portuguese, Polish, Lithuanian and probably Chinese than there are people who speak Irish. We need to set some priorities. ‘Significant need’ definitely out-weights ‘significant desire’.

    Posted by pinni on Feb 06, 2010 @ 08:22 PM

    Fantastic. Let’s take care of the “significant” needs of the recent immigrants over the culture of the natives.

    Unbelievable. You couldn’t make this up.

  • Gael gan Náire


    Google translate allows material written in Irish to be at least partially translated so I do not feel it was hidden in anyway.

    It was a post written with my left had only in seven minutes and I am quite surprised it has been noticed!

  • Gael gan Náire


    I have a small and little updated blogeen on the Gaelic on Antrim.

    Maybe you will enjoy it – some of it is written in Antrim Irish but and Google translate just can’t cut the mustard!


    I only linked to the Nuacht 24 story. I cannot confirm the source of their story nor if the understood that these matters would be included in the agreement.

    That said, as has been pointed out the agreements between the two governments on TG4 and RTÉ are clearly significant.

    “Hardly sinister, but hardly noticed.”

    David McNarry certainley noticed.

  • Reader

    N.Exile: “significant” needs of the recent immigrants over the culture of the natives.
    Unbelievable. You couldn’t make this up.

    It’s sad to see that the diaspora hasn’t latched onto the human rights agenda we are slowly building over here.
    There are useful arguments to be made for subsidising Irish language facilities, but dismissing the actual needs of others doesn’t look very attractive and isn’t going to help.
    By the way – the “culture of the natives” these days involves rather a lot of X-factor and East-Enders, and not a lot of Irish.

  • “• explore urgently with the relevant British authorities, and in co-operation
    with the Irish broadcasting authorities, the scope for achieving more
    widespread availability of Teilifis na Gaeilige in Northern Ireland;

    That text is taken from the Good Friday Agreement which, as we all know, was signed almost 12 years ago. Note the word ‘urgently’.

    GGN seems to think that the agreement to finally bring that promise of urgency made 12 years ago to fruition is ‘significant’.

    It’s significant only in that gives a new definition to the term ‘urgently’.

    It’s important that if the promises alluded to in the Nuacht 24 report do exist, that the document in which they are stipulated should be published immediately. If not, it seems we will have to wait 12 years or more, to see the colour of that money.

  • This is a post that I have submitted for publication to Gerry Adam’s Blog, Léargas, and if he deigns to answer my questions, perhaps we will have some light cast on the issue. Then again Léargas isn’t a blog renowned for the free exchange of ideas and the encouragement of the questioning spirit.

    A great deal of comment – fuelled by your own statements on RTE and elsewhere on Monday for instance – focused on what specific pledges on Irish language provision would end up in the Agreement. An Irish Language Act? An Irish language strategy, previously promised in 2007 by Edwin Poots when he axed the Irish Language Act promised in the St Andrew’s Agreement?
    In the end, in the document I read, there was no mention at all of the Irish Language. No strategy? No Act? Nothing.
    What’s the deal? Is there a deal on the Irish language that hasn’t been publicised in case it might discommode Unionist political leaders? Or is it merely that the language was overlooked entirely?
    We’ve heard rumours about more money for the Irish Language Broadcast Fund (£15m?) and for Irish language projects on the ground (£8m?).
    Can you outline in detail what’s been secured for the Irish language in the latest negotiations?
    If anything has been secured, has the DUP signed up to it and will we see an end to the sniping from the wings by DUP and UUP politicians, denigrating the Irish language and those who speak it?
    Will there be, for instance, substantial funding to develop the Gaeltacht Quarter, on a par with the funding delivered for the Odyssey in East Belfast?
    I believe these are fair questions which deserve specific detailed answers. In the past my experience that such questioning doesn’t feature on this website and is not encouraged. Maybe I’m being unfair – but I’d like to have my expectations of non disclosure confounded. I will post this post on Slugger O’Toole and my own website in anticipation of your early and detailed response, Go raibh maith agat….

  • st etienne

    I find the need to communicate in another language in public when there is a tongue common to all extraordinarily rude.

    Not something confined to Irish Gaelic in my experience – to be treated with the same disdain as being in the presence of French ex-pats in UK and members of other tribes I’m sure with vernacular chips planted firmly on shoulders.

    The difference being that in NI the grudge is funded by the taxpayer.

  • What I sometimes find rude is people breaking into a conversation between others and not alone that, doing so with a different language entirely, or a different topic, so that those who were orignially talking to each other have to change language or topic to suit the visitor.

    In this case St Etienne has interjected with a statement of such ignorance, that it is difficult to fathom.

    People speak Irish in Ireland, St Etienne, because they love it and it is natural to them rather than to discommode you. The experience that I have is is that people will change from Irish to English immediately that someone, a third party, starts speaking English in the company. The Irish are far from rude in this respect.

    What is rude however is to ascribe such misbehaviour as you ascribe to French ex pats to the Irish when it’s simply not, in the vast majority of cases, true.

    Also this notion that you have that speaking Irish in NI is ‘funded by the taxpayer’ is completely wrong headed. How is it funded by the tax payer in NI to speak Irish?

    And remember that Irish speakers pay taxes too….

  • st etienne

    And so are clowns but that doesn’t mean I want to pay for the circus.

    I should make you aware I am Irish, I speak a few words of it but at no time do I ever feel the need to broadcast to people who don’t. Does it make you feel big?

    Posting in a language on a site whose vast majority of subscribers can’t comprehend is a pretty strong finger raised in their direction.

    By all means argue your case for Irish Gaelic. But please, drop the insane defensiveness and do it in English. It’s good to talk, but only if there’s people listening.

  • What’s your problem exactly, St Etienne? People speaking in Irish within your earshot? Whether or not you’re Irish makes no difference, after all the people who most belittle the Irish language are Irish themselves

    I’m not being defensive when I point out that Irish speakers turn to English when an English speaker joins the company. I’m not being defensive when I say Irish speakers pay taxes too. These are taxes.

    Your notion that people speak Irish to exclude those who don’t speaks of an inferiority complex or a paranoia which is unhealthy. People speak Irish because they love the language.

    As for posting in a language whose vast majority of readers are monoglot, well that’s not entirely relevant here. Slugger actively encourages Irish language posts and threads – note the heading ‘Gaeilge’ on the catergory sidebar.

    In this particular instance, there’s not one post on this thread in Irish. So it seems to me you’re just venting your spleen at a problem within your own mind.

  • st etienne

    I thought I had made it pretty clear – posting Gaelic articles on this site excludes the vast majority of readers. It is analogous to talking in a group in a language only certain members of the group understand.

    Personally my view is as a tax payer I have as much right as an Irish speaker to engage in debate over the language. Articles posted in Gaelic prevent the vast majority from doing so.

    What are you afraid of exactly?

  • As is pretty clear, this thread doesn’t include any post in Irish. I do find it difficult to understand why you are raising this issue when there is no issue in this particular instance.

    I don’t think people are afraid of engaging in a debate with a non Irish speaker over the Irish language and will gladly accommodate you by posting in English. This thread proves that point, it seems to me.

    You seem to be pointed in your references to ‘Gaelic’ and ‘Irish Gaelic’. Is this your notion of a ‘put down’ to the Irish language? It seems unnecessarily offensive to me. The vast majority of people accept the terminology ‘Irish Language’ as referring to ‘Gaeilge’- your insistence on ‘Gaelic’ and ‘Irish Gaelic’ seems rude in that context.

    It’s also worth re-iterating that Slugger, as far as I know, welcomes threads in Irish. The convention appears to be that sites which are begun in English continue in that language and that threads begun in Irish welcome both Irish and English. If you have any issue in this regard, perhaps you should contact Mick. Otherwise I recommend you stick to the ball – rather than playing the language.

  • st etienne

    Sorry but this stick to the ball doesn’t work when the ball is the language in question.

    Why are you being deliberately obtuse? The title and thrust of the piece ‘For the benefit of the monoglot majority’ highlights via New York (!) the content of a piece from this blog. Whereas if the blog post in question had been written in English maybe we’d have an opportunity to engage with it’s content there.

    But it isn’t so we’re doing it on this post instead. Hence the need for all posts in English, otherwise Slugger is disenfranchising the majority of it’s readership, something that is against it’s basic premise of getting people involved in the debate.

    And taking offence to the term Gaelic? God almighty that’s a new one…

  • Gael gan Náire

    Slugger may be a ‘public space’ but it is in fact privately owned.

    The proprietor positively welcomes input in Irish, hence his invitation to me to post in Irish. He also posts in Irish occasionally.

    It is rare that people post in Irish on an English thread.

    It should be pointed out that most threads in Irish link to material in Irish, therefore even if they were written in English it would be of little benefit, surely no-one suggests that we should not link to material in Irish.

    On the question of terminology, most people (when speaking English) call the language Irish. Radicals tend to call the language Irish Gaelic. Calling the language ‘Gaelic’ is restricted to some Republicans (as they are refering to Irish by its Irish name in English), opponents of the language and purists who do not believe in ‘Irishness’.

    I have no difficulties with any of the discriptions.

    Expect to see more Gaelic posts, if not from me, from someone else as a number of Irish language media projects are about to get up and running.

  • Gael gan Náire

    I should point out also that I surveyed the Slugger readership and around 50 regulars (pre-registration regime) declared that they could read and engage with Irish content. Not bad.

  • st etienne

    therefore even if they were written in English it would be of little benefit, surely no-one suggests that we should not link to material in Irish.
    Again while it may or may not be the job of the externally linked articles to reach as wide an audience as possible, it is one of Slugger’s stated aims.

    Privately owned yes, but like a litany of other media outlets in NI, publicly funded. Why? Because of it’s apparent ability to widen the debate. Posts which can only be comprehended by ’50 regulars’ (who by definition will in all likelihood support a certain argument in the publicly funded cultural language debate) is not broadening participation.

    What next? Posts that require people to answer questions on goats and such like before entering into debate on Orangeism?