“two challenges and a serious suggestion” offered to Ulster GAA by Dr Norman Hamilton

It’s hard to predict where a Presbyterian minister will pop up next. The latest nationalist foray was conducted this afternoon by former moderator Dr Norman Hamilton who had accepted an invitation to address the Ulster GAA at their Club and Community Development Conference in Armagh City Hotel (the scene of last week’s UUP conference).

Back on 10 January when he was still moderator, Hamilton met with the Ulster GAA in Armagh.

The meeting during which the news of Michaela McAreavey’s death came through – though we were unaware at the time of the cruel and tragic circumstances. The news changed the course of that meeting, for we were able to pray for the family in the quietness of that room. Then just a few months later I was privileged to meet Constable Ronan Kerr’s family at his funeral in Beragh after his brutal murder a few days earlier.

As he started his address, Hamilton identified himself as a “Christian pastor”.

My core identity is as a follower of Jesus Christ – however poorly I may carry that through. I come not as an armchair politician, or community activist, or social commentator, but as someone trying to bring my best understanding of where the teaching of both the Bible and of Jesus himself would take us on the often complex issues facing us all in Ireland today.

It’s a very measured address, that is sensitive to the listener and often seemed to pre-empt the emotional reaction its words could engender in those in the room.

You have asked me to offer some challenges to you … I am very conscious that the road of challenge is a two way street – for whenever a challenge is accepted and met, that of itself brings back a challenge to the person or group who asked the original question. The response creates a challenge in reverse – and that is healthy, because the two way dialogue leads to much better relationships and understanding.

Hamilton’s first challenge was around how the use of the Irish language could be “de-footballed”.

He started off by acknowledging that “the Irish language is a key expression of Irish culture, history and that Irish medium schools have a valued place in our educational system” before noting its value with a Presbyterian context.

It may surprise you to know that as far back as the 1830s all students for the Presbyterian ministry in Ulster were required to be competent in the Irish language. And in today’s world, I would actually expect native Irish speakers to do business in Irish, to have everyday conversation in Irish, to have radio and TV programmes in Irish. This greatly enriches the cultural traditions of the island. I do not want to see the Irish language relegated to the back benches.

Hamilton suggested that at times the use of Irish “switches off and even antagonises very many – maybe even a majority of the unionist population here in the North”.

It is not always wise to use a right to its fullest extent if in doing so we increase resistance to that right. It is not always wise to press for something, however desirable, if in doing so we devalue what it stands for in the eyes of others.

He went on to state that “a second set of street signs in Irish” can be seen as staking “an exclusivist claim for territory in a way that flags also do”. He questioned why a government department would send him “a bi-lingual letter in Irish as well as in English … paid for by the taxpayer, that the sender knows I cannot read?”

I want it [Irish] to be properly valued – not just by those who speak it – but by those of us who do not speak it.

Hamilton looked at the development of the Welsh language, which he claimed was “no longer a political rugby ball”. Instead, “the focus is on giving people the opportunity to learn it and on encouraging them to do so”. Welsh was “no longer the preserve of nationalist politics”.

Having invited the GAA to consider how to help remove partisan politics out of the Irish language, he went on to talk about the “building of a truly shared society”.

Hamilton praised the GAA’s “sense of place – your emphasis on the local and the ‘parish’”. He achnowledged “first rate work” done by the GAA “at local level with young people as well as promoting community spirit and work through local clubs and local activities”. He commented that churches too operated at a parish level and shared a “strong sense of local place and local pride”.

… in general we still struggle as to how to share our sense of community, our own perspectives, hopes, fears and needs with those outside our own tradition and our own immediate area – wherever we live and whatever our background. We are reasonably good at building what the sociologists call ‘bonding capital’ – connecting with people rather like ourselves – but as a society we have not really learned to build ‘bridging capital’ – connecting well with people who are not like us.

This problem was more “than education programmes alone can deliver”, worthy though they be.

… there is still a huge gap between how you in the GAA see yourselves and your work, and how it is seen and understood by those outside the GAA community. There are many reasons for this, but please do not underestimate that to be properly understood in wider society and to be properly responsive to wider society is going to be a very long haul.

I want therefore to make a serious suggestion for your consideration that might well help with this. That you take the initiative to set up a structured forum for dialogue with the civic society of the unionist community. In such a forum, we could stand in each other’s shoes; we could learn to talk well together; we could address the perceptions of the other, share some hopes, work though some real fears, as well as build some substantial personal and some very much needed public relationships.

Hamilton finished with the challenge of “how to help shape the coming decade of centenaries so that we all benefit from the events and anniversary events”.

And there is an increasing urgency to figure out how to mark anniversaries well. The urgency behind the commemorations debate is that by 2018 we will be in a situation of 50 years on since 1968. This brings us into a new and exceedingly difficult round of anniversaries in which many people who experienced those events will be still alive.

That fact alone makes them immensely important, for every year after 2018 will be the fiftieth anniversary of an atrocity – another 30 consecutive years of anniversaries after 2018. We must talk about this now – and we must – absolutely must get our upcoming anniversaries acknowledged and remembered in a way that properly honours the past, but does not trap us into wanting to or trying to re-run it. Democracy at the beginning of the 21st century is very different to democracy at the beginning of the 20th century.

It is, I think, very important to remember that the history of Northern Ireland and the history of the Irish Republic did not begin with the struggles over partition. There is a shared and often tortured history involving us all.

There are also myths to be dispelled, and unknown and even uncomfortable facts to be allowed to surface and to be properly interpreted. For example, it came as a real surprise to me to know that the Ulster Covenant was signed not only in Belfast and Edinburgh, but by 2000 men in Dublin as well.

Hamilton quoted James Craig who while famous for referring to “a protestant government for a protestant people” also said “I, myself, laid down the principle, to which I still adhere, that I was Prime Minister not of one section of the community but of all, and that as far as I possibly could I was going to see that fair play was meted out to all classes and creeds without any favour whatever on my part.”

It seems to me to very important to find some big overarching ideas that will enable us to properly remember the past, and, at the same time, help shape our thinking for the present and our hopes and plans for the future. It is beyond question that our forefathers took what they believed were the right courses of action in their day and generation – in that climactic period from 1912 – 1922. They took a variety of positions as to what good citizenship meant to them in their time.

But democracy has moved on recognisably since then – not least in the aftermath of much war and much pain. For the Unionist community, good citizenship 100 years ago meant that they signed the Ulster Covenant. By 1998 good citizenship to the majority of citizens on this island meant that both the Unionist and nationalist/republican electorate voted for the implementation of the Belfast / Good Friday Agreement.

Commending the GAA’s visible commitment to shared future and citing the examples of their involvement in Constable Kerr’s funeral and the Queen’s visit to Croke Park, Hamilton went on to remind his audience about the GAA’s “clear policy of showing respect for the different cultural and political identities that exist in our community”. A respect that includes “people’s right to express their cultural and national identity in line with that Good Friday Agreement” as well as “the right of the GAA to be an Irish Cultural, Community and Sporting organisation”.

… those of us to whom a shared future matters are already in the business of re-defining active citizenship in a new way for our time and generation – basing it on mutuality, respect, consensus and with rigorous, but non confrontational debate about the values we wish to see upheld in our democratic systems for the up and coming generations.

I also want to suggest that those of us with clear Christian and Biblical convictions ought to be part of that debate, not least because our shared Christian heritage goes back over 1600 years to St Patrick and his ministry here in Ireland. A shared future is but one facet of what the Bible teaches on the importance of restored relationships.

The GAA’s active involvement in shaping centenary anniversaries and how the past is remembered could turn it into a “decade of citizenship” and “years of healing some of the wounds of the past”.

Norman Hamilton will be on Sunday Sequence tomorrow, and the GAA will respond to his address.

Photo by Moochin Photoman

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  • Turgon

    The GAA would do well to remember that this man may claim to be a “Christian Pastor” and indeed he is: however, he is the teaching elder of Ballysillan Presbyterian Church; that is his sole position. Previously he was the moderator of the general assembly: that did not make him more important than any other elder or minister in the Presbyterian Church. He is not, was not and never will be the leader of the Presbyterian Church for the simple reason that such a position never has, does not and probably never will exist.

    As such the GAA are welcome to invite him to anything they want but when he says he is ony a Christian pastor he is not being falsely modest: indeed he is slightly overstating his role; he is only a teaching elder. Hence, the GAA should be very cautious about following his advice: he speaks for himself alone. It is unlikely that he represents anything other than a minority viewpoint within the Presbyterian Church.

  • Turgon – I’m sure the Plain English Campaign would suggest that “minister” or “pastor” is a bit easier to comprehend than “teaching elder”.

  • Turgon

    Alan,
    No the difference is critical. A minister or pastor might be seen as more important than the other elders. A Presbyterian minister or for that matter moderator is very specifically not more important than any other elder of the church.

    An understanding of that is pretty critical to appreciating why most ministers and indeed many moderators try to avoid the media spotlight. Furthermore an appreciation of this vital fact should temper the enthusiasm of any organisation listening to a Presbyterian minister or moderator. As I said Hamilton speaks for himself alone: in this context he always has done and always will do. If others want to listen to him and agree with him that is fine. However, they are listening to one person not one with any position of authority.

  • sonofstrongbow

    Perhaps the Plain English Campaign could also make some suggestions about the employment of the word “challenge” by Dr Hamilton during his address?

    For some reason ‘savaging’ and ‘dead sheep’ come to mind.

  • Nunoftheabove

    Turgon

    If this is as interesting as he gets I’d be surprised if there’s a man, woman or child alive of any faith or none who would stay awake listening to his pastorly prattle, his teaching elder twaddle.

    Fans of babble will thoroughly enjoy themselves of course, in fairness. To that extent I shouldn’t think you need worry yourself too much urging caution on the GAA to, as you put it, follow his advice.

  • ThomasMourne

    The first priority of a minister of any Christian sect should be to work towards the unity of all people who describe themselves as Christian.

    Sectarianism in N. Ireland is perpetuated by so many Churches which insist that they are the true followers of the Jew called Jesus.

    Leave the GAA to what they do best – Gaelic games, particularly for the young in local communities.

  • Zig70

    From what I see the focus of the GAA is on football and hurling. The good pastor should be advocating decoupling sport and politics. My view on the Irish language is that some sections will always be offended by it, the same people that would never send there kids to learn hurling.
    I’m with Gandi on native tongues. This is good incentive to speak it more at home. Why is it Nat kids can go to rugby ( by default the culture at rugby clubs is one sided in my experience) but pul kids rarely go GAA? Once they go then they’ll be hooked.

  • The author will have heard Dr Hamilton on a panel on “lets get alongerism” chaired by Conall McDevitt at last years SDLP Conference.
    In what appeared to be something he had just thought of…..Dr Hamilton made the point that there is no “value free education”……..suggesting I think that he was wary of at least some aspects of change.
    But in the context of Dr Hamiltons latest statement that
    “It is not always wise to use a right to its fullest extent if in doing so we increase resistance to that right”.

    I find this difficult to understand bearing in mind that he seemed rather hopeful that the residents of Ardoyne tolerate aspects of Protestant culture (he is NOT of course an Orange Order member)..
    He appears to be saying that the GAA should not be fully insistent on its rights but its ok for Orange Order people to insist on their rights.

    The author will also recall that at ths point a SDLP delegate (and AOH officer) spoke from the floor pointing out that the AOH did not walk where unwanted.

    Dr Hamilton neatly demonstrates the contradiction in “official lets getalongerism” that there is a set agenda of acceptable and unacceptable symbolism.
    Real “letsgetalongerism” is basically people doing their own thing and other people accepting it as long as it doesnt infringe other rights. Speaking gaeilige and playing GAA should be of absolutely no interest to anyone else.
    .

  • “No the difference is critical.”

    Norman Hamilton is the current minister of Ballysillan Presbyterian Church and has held that role since 1988. In 2010 he was chosen by the ministers and other elders of the PCI to chair its annual general meeting and to be its leader-of-sorts of sorts for the following year.

    I must say I prefer his quiet decency to this hair-splitting nonsense about elders; the latter is of no relevance to the community at large – it’s not worth spilling blood over or burning at the stake.

  • Link to post (and interview) from last year’s SDLP conference where Hamilton spoke on a panel.

  • “a SDLP delegate (and AOH officer) spoke from the floor pointing out that the AOH did not walk where unwanted.”

    fjh, the delegate appears to have been unfamiliar this parade in Kilkeel in 2002. Opposition to parading had more to do with paramilitary groups deciding who could live in or pass through local communities. Those who ‘went along with’ this agenda found themselves the victims of retaliation in Kilkeel as did minorities in other communities.

  • son of sam

    It will be interesting in due course to read the full transcript of Dr Hamiltons remarks and to hear the G A A response on Sunday Sequence tomorrow.From the extracts above,he seems to have more worthwhile to say than Rev Latimer who no doubt will be consoling his erstwhile friend Martin on his return to Derry.Given the D f M s apparent limitations in the “first national language” they might wish to both join an Irish class!Dr Hamiltons remarks about properly valuing the Irish language seem to be well made.The use of the language as a political football by Sinn Fein is well known.

  • Turgon

    Nevin,
    You said of Hamilton that he was the Presbyterian Church’s “leader-of-sorts”.

    Interestingly the current moderaot seems not of entirley the same opinion having stated: “I can’t actually speak for the General Assembly” Then again how could he know better than you Nevin… he is only the moderator.

  • Rory Carr

    In order not to intimidate those who claim to be offended or threatened by the mere sight of a road sign in Irish or who might erupt in convulsions upon accidentally tuning into an Irish language broadcast on the radio, perhaps Irish language speakers might develop something akin to hair-straightening lotions and skin-lightening creams that were required rituals of deracination among black peoples, especially those in the United States, keen to avoid any opportunity of being accepted by virtue of their natural appearance.

    It did take the Civil Rights and Black Power movements to open the consciousness of many Afro- Americans to the liberating reality of the knowledge that it was not they who required to change their ethnic appearance, but for the white community to dignify them with open acceptance of all that they truly were..

    It is long past time for Ulster’s linguistic rednecks to cease what is only after all a crude sectarian opposition to the native language of the island in which they live. In no other British colonial or post-colonial jurisdiction that I can think of would such rancorous opposition to the promotion of a pre-colonial native language be even envisaged.

    Quite simply, opposition is egregious cultural barbarism and attempting to moderate it as other by asking its proponents to draw back on its promotion for fear of offending the barbarians will not wash.

  • Congal Claen

    Hi Rory,

    “opposition is egregious cultural barbarism”

    No. The Irish Gaelic language, which of course surplanted the previous p-Celtic language, was hijacked along with “native” games by violent inward looking little Irelander nationalists at the end of the 1800s. This happened throughout Europe through the Celtic romantic revival. It spawned Nazism in Germany. Most other countries have discarded it. But not here…

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Wow, Congal, that has got to be the Reductio ad Hitlerum to end all Reductio ad Hitlerums.

    One word:

    GODWIN!

    Thank-you.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Great post, by the way, Rory.

    Dr Hamilton is a decent fellow, but he does not seem ready to countenance the possibility that unionist hostility to the Irish language (which is by no means as general as some unionists assert) is something that unionists have to get over, as opposed to something that the rest of us have to tiptoe around.

  • Turgon

    Billy Pilgrim,
    Wow, Congal, that has got to be the Reductio ad Hitlerum to end all Reductio ad Hitlerums.

    One word:

    GODWIN!

    Thank-you.”

    Here is a quote from Billy Pilgrim:

    “But we’ve also been hearing that the state forces were heroes. Well no, they weren’t…. they were feckin’ Nazis. I want that to be recorded in the history of the last forty years.”

    Pot calling kettle black?

  • The appeal of lets get alongerism such as Dr Hamiltons is that it lays out an agenda of the acceptable and unacceptable.
    What exactly does the GAA have to do to be more “acceptable” to unionists? It has been suggested that the National Anthem be not shown on BBC before Ulster Championship games cos the BBC say people turn off. Well I turn off the British Anthem before Norn Iron games. Will the unionists find that acceptable? Hardly.
    Because the “lets get alongerist” stance is that there is a “norm” to which we must all conform……the rights of parades over residents, the duty of a BBC presenter to wear a poppy trumps therights of a BBC presenter not to wear one. and the perceived duty of an Irish citizen to play for Norn Iron trumps his right to play for Ireland.

    “Lets get alongerism”……the faux kind ….is a dangerous slope and the GAA will have the good sense to avoid it.

  • Turgon

    fjh,
    As ever in our disagreement we agree. I have no interest in the GAA and regard it as a tribal nationalist organisation. However, I do not want it to change to placate me and make me want to join: I won’t want to; I am a unionist and have no interest in sport, why would I join?

    I do think the GAA should stop naming grounds after terrorists but that is simply because they should. Equally I think the Orange Order should amend its rules formally to allow attendance at RC funerals. I think (as a non Orangeman) they should do this not to reach out to Catholics but rather because it is the right thing to do.

    The problem with false letsgetalongerism is that it tries to force “the other side” to do something and in exchange demands that “its own side” reciprocate. In addition letsgetalongerism is completely inconsistent. You point to the example of parades. However, letsgetalongerism approves of some contentious parades and denounces others (eg Drumcree).

    In this situation benign apartheid is appropriate. The GAA are a nationalist organisation with nationalist roots, interests, symbols etc. That is fine: they should simply get on with it. They will be popular with very few unionists but why should they pander to us. I would much rather ignore them. Unlike letsgetalongerism I believe in live and let live. That is truly getting along.

  • Nunoftheabove

    “What exactly does the GAA have to do to be more “acceptable” to unionists?”

    – Why, more to the point, would it have to bother ?

  • I agree absolutely…..which in itself will be shown as evidence that you and I are “exremists” for not toeing the faux lets get alongerist line.
    I am a person who tends to get on with people. I manage to do this by being myself and expecting that others be themselves.
    I myself am a member of the GAA but a social member who takes no interest in committees etc. As my son played up to under 18 level, I feel that I owed it to GAA to be a member. Now that my grandson plays at under 8 level, I have transferred allegiance to his club.
    Of course if he grows up to play for Armagh, Id be highly delighted. More likely he will play at local level until he discovers girls. Id be even more delighted if he grows up to play for Manchester United (or Celtic) and (Republic) Ireland and bought me a nice bungalow by the sea.
    But I dont think theres much wrong with that . Its surely natural that Id want him to choose my values (eg not drinking alcohol) but I never “forced” my own kids…merely exposed them to my values…and happily they chose them.
    I live in this house primarily because its not only “safe” but I can live my Irishness to its full in this small village without any compromise. Id have to walk two miles to the nearest (small and under-stated) orange hall. And I will never actually have to see an orange parade as long as I live.
    Being an occasional Jacobite, I have good relations with Williamites. Thats how I like it. Good relations built on neither expecting compromise.
    Letsgetalongerism……….and I emphasise I have no problem with REAL getting along…..just dont like the one size fits all getting along which is decided for me.
    I dont really see any reason for me to go out and visit a local 12th Field just to show that I am a good guy. (Id much prefer a carol service in the local Church of Ireland to be honest) and I dont see how any amount of re-branding the Twelfth as Mardis Gras or Orange Fest would be an encouragement to me.
    The Orange Order is what it is.
    So is the GAA.
    In themselves totally benign and neither community should find them a “problem”. Indeed both have rather unpleasant underbellies but frankly their “good” outweighs the “bad”.

    The Orange Order, GAA, UUP (last week) would be mad to get involved with people who want to change them. The SDLP would be wise to reject the “faux” nonsense also.
    Benign apartheid?……oddly I was a member of the anti-Apartheid Movement ….off and on. People now criticise me as a “seperate but equal” person. But I have no problem with it. Our communities tried to change each other and paid a terrible price.
    The best that we can hope for is to live in harmony as ourselves.

  • Turgon

    Another thing worth noting about many letsgetalongerists is their complete lack of mandate to demand or offer what they do on behalf of either their own or “the other” community. This comes back to my initial point about Hamilton. He is an individual with absolutely no mandate to demand anything of the GAA: nor has he a mandate to demand anything of unionists nor offer the GAA or unionists anything.

    He was elected (via a very indirect system) to be moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church for one week 18 months ago. As I noted above the current moderator correctly denies his right to speak on behalf of the church. Yet Hamilton presumes to tell the GAA what they should do to reach out to unionists. Then unspoken is the implication that if the GAA did pander to his demands then unionists would suddenly like the GAA: or at least that they should. As I said Hamilton speaks for no one save himself.

  • Nunoftheabove

    Turgon

    So he doesn’t speak for God either then ?

  • Turgon

    Nun,
    If for one moment you are being serious then your misunderstanding of Protestant theology is complete. Of course he could not in any way speak for God. Were he to “speak for God” he would be claiming to be able to intrepret how the Holy Spirit acts in other people’s lives. That would put him in the place of Christ and, hence, make him an anti Christ (more correctly ante Christ).

    Even Hamilton would, I have no doubt, run a mile from any suggestion that he in any way spoke for God. He can speak as a senior member of the Presbyterian Church and as a man of faith but in religious terms he speaks for himself alone.

  • Decimus

    Quite simply, opposition is egregious cultural barbarism and attempting to moderate it as other by asking its proponents to draw back on its promotion for fear of offending the barbarians will not wash.

    Run that one past Brendan McKenna.

  • Nunoftheabove

    Turgon

    So he can only speak on behalf of his own personal interpretation of what God and/or Christ and/or the Holy Spirit might say – should they have the capacity for speech, that is – rather than speak for them per se, right ?

  • “He is an individual with absolutely no mandate to demand anything of the GAA: nor has he a mandate to demand anything of unionists nor offer the GAA or unionists anything.”

    Where did you get this piffle from, Turgon? Norman is expressing a personal view and making some suggestions in response to the invitation from the GAA. There’s no need to sex-it-up.

  • Turgon

    Nevin,
    It is not piffle. It is the fact that Norman Hamilton is speaking for himself alone. The GAA who indeed invited him would be well advised to remember that and that he has never spoken on behalf of anyone other than himself. In addition his view is likely to be a minority one both in terms of the Presbyterian Church and also within the unionist community.

  • Rory Carr

    I have read and re-read Congal Claen’s response to my earlier post five times now, and no matter how much I scratch this grizzled old head of mine I can make no sense of it. I showed it to Herself, an impartial English woman from an Exclusive Brethren background who scratched her own lovely blond tresses before turning on me with, ” You never mentioned before that Hitler was Irish.” (History was never her strong point, possibly due to having been brought up in a household where the only reading allowed was the Bible.)

    I am still trying to explain. Thank you Congal.

  • It is unadulterated piffle, Turgon; it is you who is using the language of ‘demand’ and ‘mandate’, not Norman.

  • Turgon

    Nevin,
    “piffle” apart from being charmingly old fashioned means nonsense. I have pointed out that Hamilton has no mandate: that is simply correct; not nonsense.

    You on the other hand claimed he was the “leader-of-sorts” In contrast I explained that the current moderator has pointed out that he was not the leader and did not speak for the church. It is not me talking “piffle” Nevin it is you telling lies.

  • Turgon, Nevin – stop.

  • Shibboleth

    If I recall correctly, a Presbyterian moderator sits on a chair that states “First among equals”. All elders are supposedly equal whether paid to be the teaching elder or an elder chosen from among the congregation. The reality is that since the Presbyterian Church in Ireland came into existence that no lay elder has served as moderator. Some will argue that this is because teaching elders have more time and those that work in other fields do not have the same availability. In my opinion this has led to “ministers” vying for the position and the honorary doctorate that usually accompanies this. The Presbyterian moderator’s election vacillates between the conservative and more liberal wings every year or two when as the representative of the particular faction. While Turgon is correct that a moderator is not officially a leader, I would argue that some when they don the silk see themselves as a sort of leader. Some enjoy the limelight that the position attracts through various invitations and media interviews.
    I have known some ex-moderators who I’ll not name and I’m fairly certain they saw themselves as a leader among a certain faction. However I really don’t see Dr Hamilton as having much of a sphere of influence beyond the similar minds he knows within PCI. If those in the wider Presbyterian Church or Protestant community are not really influenced by him then I don’t expect the GAA to change at all!

  • Shibboleth

    I’ve just read some of Turgon’s extended comments and I thought what a liberal he is and then I remembered he was of Coleraine Presbyterian stock. 😉

  • So back to the contents of Norman Hamilton’s address.

    Could – or should – the GAA help depoliticise the use of the Irish language?

    Do the GAA need to address the gap between their perception of themselves and the perception of unionists?

    Can the GAA play a part in making the decade of centenaries a positive experience for all of society?

  • 1. No. De-politicising it would be a disadvantage to nationalists.
    2. No.Reality is more important than “perception”. If unionists have a “wrong” perception, why should GAA care?
    3……..hmmm No.The biggest role the GAA will have in relation to all these centenaries will be honouring Michael Hogan and about 12 civilians murdered at Croke Park in 1920. Im not sure how that can be a “positive experience” for all of Society. Nor should it.

  • Into the west

    fitz and turgon are relating their experience of and identity with the green and orange aspects of what it is to be Irish. Live and let live !
    Good to read .
    this is what the proclamation of 1916 is all about.
    Agreement, respect, cultural diversity, and not a hint of Britishness about it or any need to invoke it
    Irish people green/ orange have a complete identity.
    Lets all agree to consign the union jacks to the dustbin of history, and instead be live and be proud of who we really are, whatever your roots, or accident-of-birth origin

    can I hear an amen to that charas?;)
    I

  • Reader

    fitzjameshorse: 1. No. De-politicising it would be a disadvantage to nationalists.
    I thought Hamilton was mixing stuff up when he talked to the GAA about the Irish language – and now you bring in nationalism too. As though the GAA was mandated to be nationalist and the Irish language was a tool to that end!
    1) The GAA has its own aims and therefore its own interests. These might include opening up the GAA sports to those that currently ignore it. Or it might prefer to resist leakage to other sporting cultures.
    2) The Irish language is not an entity, and therefore its only ‘interest’ is in its propagation. Its supporters might wish to de-politicise it to broaden its appeal and undermine the opposition. Or, a proportion of supporters might seek to get the patronage of a political party wielding a big stick.
    3) Nationalism needs a strategy. Solidifying the support base might matter more than broadening it. Or, in other years, maybe not. Gaining incremental political concessions might matter more than struggling towards a receding goal. Or maybe not.
    There’s no clear, obvious, strategy for anyone who cares about any of the above. It must be a nightmare for someone who cares about all of them. It’s just as well no-one cares about religion or left/right politics any more; probably nothing would ever be achieved.

  • Rory Carr

    Dactur Billy Williams (o’ these pairts) writing in the Belfast Telegraph, 12 September 2009, offers some advice on levelling the cultural playing field which may help dispel resentments in some quarters:

    “Sport: The GAA folk are wile well funn’ed. This dispite the fak that thar sport disnae exactly cross the community bounry. Last time ah lukked at a GAA shurt it hid the county name in oany yin language.

    We call fur an immediate suspension o’ funn’in’ fur the GAA til they include the Ulster Scots names fur the counties oan thar jerseys. (Ah’m nae tae sure whit they awl are, but ah knaw yin o’ thum is Londonderry.) The money saved kin be giv til the true sport o’ the Ulster Scot – motorcycle road racin’. Sae whar dae we gae frae noo? We in the braid Ulster Scots community are oan the cusp o’ a grate cultural explosion.

    As a folk we hiv giv the wurld upwards o’ 73 US presidents an’ invented awl kines o’ things – frae rubber tyres tae sinkin’ ships.

    Oor new Minster fur Cultur e[Nelson McAusland[ maist make his stawn, this is oor time, an’ he is the mawn in place.”

    Read more: http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/opinion/git-yir-fingers-oot—and-gie-ulster-scot-wans-a-haun-heid–culchie-yin-nelson-14488944.html#ixzz1cFcsyglt

  • carl marks

    Turgon
    if im reading this right a pastor or minster is someone who agrees with you and a teaching elder is someone who disagrees with you,
    You see i have only heard this teaching elder/pastor nonsense when the person in question is engaging with the other side. For example ( and please correct me if im wrong) when the Reverend Mervyn Gibson done his “the uvf action has to taken in context “ thing, nobody used the phrase teaching elder. Neither have i heard it used when one of the orange orders ministers says something, but as soon as someone reach’s a hand to the other side they get demoted.
    Also this speaking for god bit again not a problem when someone tells us GOD is against Catholics, gays or he is a unionist but if someone dares state that god might want us to understand each other then it just arrogance in the extreme.

  • Dr. Hamilton makes some very good points.

    On the Irish Language, it is a cherished part of Northern Ireland’s heritage and culture. On the other hand, those who enjoy it and want to see it promoted have to be sensitive and avoid “staking “an exclusivist claim for territory in a way that flags also do” . His fellow preacher, David Latimer should have said something similar at Sinn Fein’s Ard Fheis. Most certainly, that point would have hit Sinn Fein supporters between the eyes. They are past masters at manipulating culture for their own political and sectarian ends.

    The Minister’s points about a shared future were entirely genuine. His speech set out the following challenges to the GAA.

    “We are reasonably good at building what the sociologists call ‘bonding capital’ – connecting with people rather like ourselves – but as a society we have not really learned to build ‘bridging capital’ – connecting well with people who are not like us”

    Removal of Irish Nationalism from the sport is what is needed. The trouble is, Irish Nationalism is part of the GAA’s raison d’Entre and structural identity. I dont think that the GAA are capable of doing what is necessary to build those bridges.

  • Unfortunately Dr. Hamilton’s stance is somewhat contradictory. On one hand he accepts that, “…in today’s world, I would actually expect native Irish speakers to do business in Irish, to have everyday conversation in Irish, to have radio and TV programmes in Irish. This greatly enriches the cultural traditions of the island. I do not want to see the Irish language relegated to the back benches.”

    Yet on the other hand he states that: “It is not always wise to use a right to its fullest extent if in doing so we increase resistance to that right. It is not always wise to press for something, however desirable, if in doing so we devalue what it stands for in the eyes of others.”

    So essentially the Irish speaking population in the northern part of Ireland have the right to speak Irish in the northern part of Ireland – but they just shouldn’t exercise that right.

    Maybe the good reverend is being quoted out of context but it seems more than a little hypocritical to me. Roman Catholics have the right to vote in the North of Ireland: but they shouldn’t exercise that right if it annoys others. Black men and women have the right to equality in South Africa: but they shouldn’t exercise that right if annoys others. Gay men and women have the right to live gay lifestyles: but they shouldn’t exercise that right if annoys others. And so on and so forth.

    What use is a “right” that cannot be exercised? Its utterly pointless.

    If a street sign is solely in English is that not also, “…an exclusivist claim for territory in a way that flags also do”? In this case a very physical, in-your-face reminder of a historic invasion, occupation and colonisation by a foreign power.

    However, if that sign is rendered bilingually is that not a recognition of more than one historic tradition or culture?

    Bilingual and multilingual societies are the norm across Europe. Why should this particular north-western enclave be any different?

    Again, in fairness, we are only seeing snippets of the speech but what I see so far is less than inspiring. To grant a civil or human right but then to impede the free will to exercise that right is to have never granted the right in the first place.

    Not so much a case of Irish speakers being relegated to the back benches but rather to the back of the bus.

  • Reader

    An Sionnach Fionn: To grant a civil or human right but then to impede the free will to exercise that right is to have never granted the right in the first place.
    To a very large extent, you have freedom of speech, in any language. Do you use that freedom to the uttermost extent every time you leave the house? Or do you restrain *yourself* for the sake of relationships, social engagement, and the practicalities of living in a shared space?

  • Congal Claen

    Hi Rory,

    Only to happy to help. Here’s a link…

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Celtic_Revival

    Notice the names of those who crop up.

    You’ll also be aware no doubt of far right groups in Europe who use celtic crosses for their symbology. I wonder why that is Rory?

    Support for Irish Gaelic is fine. As is playing “native” sport. However, not when it is used to divide. Which is what has been done in Ireland. And quite deliberately so…

  • galloglaigh

    I’m thinking lemon marmalade and toast for breakfast. What do you reckon Turgon? Or have you had enough already?

  • carl marks

    Reader (profile) says:
    30 October 2011 at 9:45 am

    An Sionnach Fionn: To grant a civil or human right but then to impede the free will to exercise that right is to have never granted the right in the first place.
    To a very large extent, you have freedom of speech, in any language. Do you use that freedom to the uttermost extent every time you leave the house? Or do you restrain *yourself* for the sake of relationships, social engagement, and the practicalities of living in a shared space?

    unionisn and unionists would be taken seriously in this if for example they instead of insisting on the right to walk wherever they wanted waving flags and following what are in fact sectarian bands, they would stick to the areas where they are welcome or perhaps recognise the feelings of local residents who object to such displays.
    But we hear so much about their rights in the marching season, and claims of intolerance from the nationalist community, yet a street sign in Irish or as in another thread on a toilet door at queens is a insult to far.

  • I think better understanding all round is not only a good idea but the experience is great crack. Here’s a short quote from Romans 12:10 which I once saw many years ago linked to my birthday: “Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another.”

    Better understanding is particularly useful for decision makers as the lack of same can easily make difficult situations so much worse.

  • Old Mortality

    ASF
    “Bilingual and multilingual societies are the norm across Europe. Why should this particular north-western enclave be any different?”
    It is not any different. Every day I overhear people speaking their native language which I take to be Polish or Lithuanian. I’m pretty certain I never hear any other language spoken but there must be a few people out there who could, if they felt so inclined, conduct a conversation in French, Spanish or any other language with which they might be acquainted such as Irish.

  • @Reader,
    With respect, that is a false argument. Qualifications of the right to freedom of speech are generally taken to refer to words, phrases or slogans deliberately designed to upset, insult, anger or intimidate another person or persons. Speaking a national “language” cannot be taken as falling into any of those categories.

    If that was true one could argue that the British ethnic minority in Ireland use the English language to upset, insult, anger or intimidate others, therefore its use should be prohibited.

    Yes, of course, one can voluntarily alter one’s spoken language depending on the situation one is in (for instance, engaging in a conversation with the speaker of another language). However, the word is “voluntarily”. There is no free will for Irish speakers in the context of being second class citizens – even in a “shared space”.

    To argue that the Irish language is more partisan than the English language is itself partisan.

    @Old Mortality,
    “Official bilingualism” and a multilingual society are different. What Irish speakers seek is legal equality with their English speaking peers and a recognition of their indigenous language and culture in the “shared space” referred to above.

    A bilingual society of equals is of no threat to anyone.

  • “Could – or should – the GAA help depoliticise the use of the Irish language?”

    How?
    By ordering it to be removed it from their shirts, club names etc?
    That would “depoliticise” it?
    No, of course not. Maybe individual members of the organisation, if so concerned, could put more pressure on their political representatives to do that particular job. But it’s politicians who, by and large, “politicise” and “depoliticise” cultural stuff and the Irish Language is most certainly no exception in that regard.

    Do the GAA need to address the gap between their perception of themselves and the perception of unionists?

    Here’s a part of a quote from Livingstone of the ATN and the late, much-lamented, Daily Ireland fame:

    “…the stark fact is that the Irish team doesn’t need Rangers fans, Prods, unionists, or whatever you want to call them.”

    The “Irish” team in this case being the Republic’s football team.
    Ok, crudely put but not any the less true for that. And it’s exactly the same for the GAA in Ulster, they don’t need “Rangers fans, Prods, unionists, or whatever you want to call them” to continue to prosper. They don’t even need them to continue to get govt funding because under the cultural diktat of the Peace Process what one side gets (eg the Orange Order) the other must surely also qualify for.

    Do they want the prods, that’s the more tricky question.
    If they do, then they don’t need cosy chats with Dr Hamilton to already know exactly the main reason puts off some becomes more actively involved: the close identification (without any kind of censor from HQ) of a few clubs and tournaments with the republican terror campaign.

    But that “some”, although including myself, is a minority of Unionists I know- most couldn’t care less how their local team or county performs. So forcing certain clubs and individuals to change their ethos/prejudice for the sake of a very uncertain return is a very risky business indeed. Objectively then it’s probably not worth the hassle… whether it is morally is a diferent question.

    Can the GAA play a part in making the decade of centenaries a positive experience for all of society?

    Again, the GAA, to this outsider anyway, appears more of a loose collection of pretty independent units rather than an all-powerful central management committee setting out the rules of conduct.

    Saying that, it could, as I mentioned earlier, pull up those clubs who play the provo and ethno-nat card too provocatively but I don’t think they really got that much to lose in terms of alienating their core support-base if they don’t.

  • Congal Claen

    To elevate Irish gaelic to the status of the official first language and expect equivalence with English would be similar to the elevation of Anglo Saxon to the same position within the UK.

    I think we can all imagine what section of the UK would call for that.

    The preservation and study of Anglo Saxon is fine. To use it to divide is not. The same is true of gaelic Irish.

  • @Congal Claen,
    The point is not elevate the Irish language in the North of Ireland to the status of “official first language” but to the recognise its status as being that of co-equal with the English language in that region of Ireland (English being the de facto “official first language” of the UK).

    Both languages can, and should, co-exist in the north-east of the country on an equal “official” footing. One as the indigenous tongue, the other as a newer but now adopted and assimilated foreign tongue. Yes, of course, both languages carry ethno-national connotations with them but Nationalists can speak English just as Unionists can speak Irish. And do so, in both cases.

    I’m not sure what your point is with “Anglo-Saxon”? Modern English is a hybrid of various Anglo-Saxon dialects with mixtures from other languages, primarily Norman-French. It is the “official” language of the UK for all practical purposes, in governance, law, society, education and business.

    The Welsh and Scottish languages are effectively co-official with the English language in Wales and Scotland under recent regional and Westminster statues so there is no impediment (except discrimination) to implement similar equality legislation in the North of Ireland.

  • Old Mortality

    ASF
    ““Official bilingualism” and a multilingual society are different”
    You are indeed correct. The distinction is that official bilingualism enables a job creation scheme at public expense. Whereas a Lithuanian who appears before the courts may require the services of a translator in the interests of justice, an Irish speaker may demand such a service solely in the interests of point scoring and providing a handy little earner for someone who shares his linguistic enthusiasm.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Congal

    You keep trying to get someone to bite with this silliness, but all that happens is that people keep telling you how silly you are.

    Turgon

    Whatever.

  • Ulidian

    An Sionnach Fionn

    I stand to be corrected here, but you can already have bilingual street signs. I guess the point is that they’re only put up where the local people consent to them – is that not your real problem?

  • @Old Mortality,

    With respect, that is not an argument it is a prejudice.

    An Irish speaker might ask for a translation service in an English speaking court if he or she felt more comfortable communicating in their native language. Though, of course, in fact they couldn’t since their language is banned from use in British courts under a 270 year old law – that is a British law in Ireland.

    If the Irish speaking community or the Irish population as whole in the North of Ireland is to be on a level footing with the English speaking community or the British population as a whole, such equality can only come through official recognition and legislation. The North of Ireland is, to use the cliché, “shared space”. That means the recognition of two separate, but equal, traditions and the sharing of the institutions and resources of the “state” accordingly.

    @Ulidian,

    I don’t have a “real problem” as you put it beyond a simple request for equality and respect. Looking at the counter-arguments being put forward here the problem seems to be with that request.

    I would advocate official bilingualism across the north-east of Ireland in order to recognise and accommodate the two communities there and their diverse traditions and cultures.

    If your point is that street signs, or any other public signage, should reflect the wishes of the local community, then would you be happy with “Londonderry” being officially recognised as “Derry” to reflect local feeling?

    Would you accept parts of Belfast, or Armagh or Tyrone, having road signs and notices in the Irish language only while other areas had equivalent signs in the English language only? That is the logic of the point you have made.

  • Reader

    carl marks: unionisn and unionists would be taken seriously in this if for example they instead of insisting on the right to walk wherever they wanted waving flags and following what are in fact sectarian bands, they would stick to the areas where they are welcome or perhaps recognise the feelings of local residents who object to such displays.
    Actually, I don’t have a flag, or a sash, nor do I belong to a band or follow one about the place. And you, very, very, nearly got the point, but not quite. How do you feel about shoving your rights in someone’s face? And how do you feel when they do the same to you?

  • Reader

    An Sionnach Fionn: However, the word is “voluntarily”. There is no free will for Irish speakers in the context of being second class citizens – even in a “shared space”.
    I missed the place where Hamilton suggested anything other than voluntary self-restraint. Could you point it out to me please?
    And I’m not sure even what your second sentence means. People who speak Irish in public usually seem very pleased with themselves. And why not – everyone assumes they are at least bilingual.

  • @Reader,

    You’re quoting me somewhat out of context. One may speak in another language with a non-speaker if one chose’s to do so (or have the ability to do so), out of common courtesy and respect, but in most other contexts the right to use one’s own language in one’s own country must surely be recognised.

    Dr. Hamilton’s argument seems to be that Irish speakers should not use their language because it offends those from the British ethnic minority in Ireland who object to any form of ‘indigenous expression”, including language. In other words you can be Irish just don’t be Irish around here. There is no “voluntary” nature in that. Further, the intolerance towards Irish speakers has been institutionalised for decades (or rather, centuries) rendering them, as I said, second class citizens.

    My argument is that from mutual recognition grows mutual respect and tolerance. Respect us and we will respect you. Whether the British community in the north-east of Ireland like it or not they share that region, and this island, with a community with a very different identity and culture, one that many wish to freely express and promote.

    I have no wish to force the British minority in Ireland to speak Irish. In return they should have no desire to make the Irish majority in Ireland, or any part of that majority, speak English.

    That is why “official bilingualism” exists. To accommodate more than one population or ethnicity or nationality. If the British Unionist community were really interested in the long term survival of “Northern Ireland” would it not behove them to make it as welcoming and comfortable place for all its inhabitants?

  • unicorn

    @fitzjameshorse1745

    But in the context of Dr Hamiltons latest statement that
    “It is not always wise to use a right to its fullest extent if in doing so we increase resistance to that right”.

    I find this difficult to understand bearing in mind that he seemed rather hopeful that the residents of Ardoyne tolerate aspects of Protestant culture (he is NOT of course an Orange Order member)..
    He appears to be saying that the GAA should not be fully insistent on its rights but its ok for Orange Order people to insist on their rights.

    You seem to under the mistaken impression that the “residents of Ardoyne” have a right to forbid the Orange Order from walking through a particular roundabout. This is an error. All have a right to process on a public highway other than by specific restriction of the Crown.

    The duty on the residents of Ardoyne to tolerate an Orange Parade is no different from that of a Bangladeshi in Tower Hamlets to tolerate the EDL, an investment banker walking down Threadneedle Street to tolerate someone carrying a placard saying “Banker’s greed stole my local library” or for Iris Robinson to tolerate a Gay Pride procession. It is the duty we all have at all times in a public place not to impede or assault those exercising their lawful use of a public space. That includes a right to profess and express opinions with which we strongly disagree.

    The duty that Ardoyne residents have not to assault or impede an Orange march are no different from those that Shankill residents have not to assault or impede someone walking up the Shankill in a Celtic top. There is no such thing as a right of “residents” to impede the lawful use of public space open to all British citizens on the grounds that someone is doing so while wearing unusual clothes and playing a flute. Such a “right” simply does not exist.

    Where Crown servants such as the Parades Commission or the Metropolitan Police restrict the use of the public space they are doing so in the name of the Queen’s peace which is a duty to all citizens whether they lie on Ardoyne Road, Twaddell Avenue or Penny Lane, Liverpool, the buck ultimately stopping at the Houses of Westminster to which all have an equal right of influence. The guy on Ardoyne Road has no more right to forbid an Orange march at the roundabout than the guy on Twaddell Avenue or even the guy on Penny Lane. That right rests with the Crown and whoever they have delegated that power to.

    Bilingual street signs are very different. An Orange march is an exercise of the right to freedom of assembly by private citizens. Equivalent to a private citizen standing in the street and speaking Irish into a loudhailer. A DOE workman taking down a monolingual sign and replacing it with a bilingual sign is acting as a servant of the Crown and must therefore be subject to all the restrictions of permission to which citizens are entitled to ask of the government. A particular street does not have a “right” to either a bilingual or monolingual street sign. That is the right of the Crown. If the Falls Road had a legally erected bilingual street sign and I was to throw paint over it the resulting court case would be “Regina versus unicorn” not “Falls Road residents versus unicorn”, since I would be impeding the Crown’s right to put it there. Falls Road residents do not have such a right for me to impede.

  • unicorn

    @carl marks

    unionisn and unionists would be taken seriously in this if for example they instead of insisting on the right to walk wherever they wanted waving flags and following what are in fact sectarian bands, they would stick to the areas where they are welcome or perhaps recognise the feelings of local residents who object to such displays.
    But we hear so much about their rights in the marching season, and claims of intolerance from the nationalist community, yet a street sign in Irish or as in another thread on a toilet door at queens is a insult to far.

    I’m not sure why you don’t see the distinction. A person has a right to stand outside the Student Union on the public street with a t-shirt or placard with Irish emblazoned on it but the Student’s Union does not have a right to bilingual toilet signs since as a workplace it has a duty to provide a neutral working environment under law.

    The distinction is that the former is personal and private while the latter is collective and public. We are allowed to be racist or politically partisan in choosing our friends or marriage partners or who we attend a public demonstration alongside but we are not permitted to be racist or politically partisan in choosing our employees or choosing who can be a customer in our pub or shop because there we have a duty to the public at large to be fair and neutral.

    An Orange march is like the guy standing in the street with Gaelic on his shirt speaking Gaelic to his friend standing beside him. A bilingual toilet is like Harland and Wolff hanging up pictures of the Queen.

  • Nunoftheabove

    unicorn, reader et al

    This pre-occupation with rights and entitlements and the exercise of them is conspicuously narrow and more than somewhat tiresome to read. Other approaches should be taken into consideration, whether in relation to the Irish language, to orange marching and so forth.

    Ethically speaking, aspects of utilitarianism, rights, common good theory, virtue, fairness and/or justice can and should be blended here in order to bring some perspective to these matters, I’d suggest. In summary:

    (i) consider what benefits and what harms will each course of action produce, and which alternative will lead to the best overall consequences.

    (ii) consider what moral rights do the affected parties have, and which course of action best respects those rights.

    (iii) consider which course of action treats everybody the same, except where there is a morally justifiable reason not to, and does not show favouritism or discrimination.

    (iv) consider which course of action advances the common (that’s common, people) good.

    (v) (no sniggering…) which course of action develops moral virtues?

    Answering each of these questions won’t provide an automatic solution to these (ultimately moral) problems but it would however help identify most of the important ethical considerations and enable a more robust framework for debating them and, willingness permitting, solutioning them politically. Like I say, talking solely about very narrowly defined rights and entitlements to the exclusion of any other considerations is intellectually weak – or incurious, to say the very least of it – and ethically unsound.

  • Harry Flashman

    @ An Sionnach Fionn

    “Roman Catholics have the right to vote in the North of Ireland: but they shouldn’t exercise that right if it annoys others. Black men and women have the right to equality in South Africa: but they shouldn’t exercise that right if annoys others. Gay men and women have the right to live gay lifestyles: but they shouldn’t exercise that right if annoys others. And so on and so forth.”

    Orangemen have the right to walk down a road, but they shouldn’t exercise that right if it annoys others.

    Is that the sort of thing we’re talking about?

  • @unicorn,

    How is the Irish language any less “neutral” than the English language? If we accept your point that the use of a language on public signage would violate those legal restrictions placing an onus on employers in the North of Ireland to provide a “neutral working environment” then it obviously follows that an argument can be made against the English language too.

    How is a person standing on a public street wearing an Irish language tee-shirt or holding an Irish language placard “personal and private” and therefore acceptable but Irish language signs and notices on that street are not acceptable?

    Bilingual signage would most certainly not fall under any rational form of legislation designed to prevent workplace intimidation or discrimination. Does it do so in Wales or Scotland?

    A bilingual toilet (or rather the signage on it!) is like Harland and Wolff hanging up pictures of the Queen of England AND the President of Ireland. It’s called equality. If you don’t want pictures of either head of state in the workplace fair enough. But then apply that “logic” to the area of language rights and get rid of the English language too.

    As it is, the exclusive use of the English language in public spaces is no more than the equivalent of those with an Irish identity and citizenship being confronted with pictures of the Queen of England every day across the north-eastern part of Ireland.

    Is that “neutral”?

    @Harry Flashman,

    Orangemen have the right to walk down the road so as long as they do so within the law and with due respect and cognizance of the wishes of local communities. In principal I have no objection to Orange marches anywhere in Ireland. The Orange Order, for good or for ill, is part of the cultural identity of the British ethnic minority in this nation and we must accommodate that identity if we are to progress towards the peaceful reintegration of the north-east with the rest of the national territory. It will mean difficult, perhaps painful, compromises for all involved.

    If the price to pay for swapping the present system of institutionalised discrimination in the North of Ireland to one of official bilingualism involves the Orange Order marching down the Garvaghy Road then they are welcome to do so.

  • Harry Flashman

    “If the price to pay for swapping the present system of institutionalised discrimination in the North of Ireland to one of official bilingualism involves the Orange Order marching down the Garvaghy Road then they are welcome to do so.”

    If you don’t get your bilingual signs then the Orangies don’t get to walk down the street, I see.

  • Harry Flashman

    Oh and by the way this statement is absolute twaddle;

    “If we accept your point that the use of a language on public signage would violate those legal restrictions placing an onus on employers in the North of Ireland to provide a “neutral working environment” then it obviously follows that an argument can be made against the English language too.”

    English in Northern Ireland (unlike in genuinely bi-lingual societies like Quebec) is the lingua franca. Everyone speaks it and everyone is fluent in it and everyone uses it every single day. To use English on signs is perfectly neutral and non-contentious.

    To use English on public signage is a matter of common sense and practical functionality, to use Irish on signs is a political gesture, it in no way adds to the functionality of the sign and solves no practical problem other than satisfying a political need.

    To raise a language understood by only a miniscule amount of people and who speak English anyway to the same level as English cannot be regarded as neutral or egalitarian.

    I have by the way no objection to the use of the Irish language but let us at least stop losing the run of ourselves. Let us not insult each other’s intelligence by pretending that English and Irish have equal status and if you cannot have one then you shouldn’t have the other.

    That’s plain nonsense.

  • slappymcgroundout

    Harry, yours would be well and good if there wasn’t a history of discrimination against the language. And not just Irish, but Scottish as well. Dewi can chime in re Welsh and if anyone has lost their Breton, you too can chime in. Maybe it is “urban legend”, but I once heard that if you were caught speaking Breton at school, that they tied a wooden shoe on a string around your neck. Some tried the same here, except it wasn’t a wooden shoe on a string around the neck but a mouthful of lye soap, to be administered to our Injun friends.

    So, Harry, when does the conquest well and truly end? And since Turgon and some others are all for repentance and atonement, how does one repent and atone for the destruction of the language? You might start with something like this (note, the following is a pdf file)(and see item (4) of the findings and might I report that you and some others stand accused of the same):

    http://www.nabe.org/files/NALanguagesActs.pdf

    And, Harry, drop the “political” and sub in its place “human” and “spiritual”.

  • Harry Flashman

    The loss of the Irish language, and it is lost to all intents and purposes, is a cultural tragedy but it will not be reversed by adding, often made-up, Irish words to perfectly comprehensible public signage.

    To do so is simply a political gesture, and yes I make no apology for using the term “political” for that is what it is.

    We are supposed to be going the way of neutralising Northern Ireland’s public spaces, nothing offensive to anyone’s eye must be tolerated in the new dispensation.

    Like I say I have no objection to Irish but you can’t have it both ways. I had no problem with the historic honorific title of “Royal” in the name of the local police force but it wound a lot of people up so it had to go, same with Royal Crests in the courtrooms, pictures of the Queen in British government owned factories doing contract work for the British government were a no-no.

    Fair enough, the get-alongers want a bland neutral public space, no culture anywhere, so be it; then no bi-lingual signage.

  • Nunoftheabove

    This is eye-wateringly tedious zero sum game silliness all the hell over again.

    The slightest bit of imagination or maturity here would result in some form of meaningful and sustainable trade-off. One of many thousands of possible permutations by way of example: agree to voluntarily end contentious orange parades and ‘in return’ back away from unnecessary mandatory use of Irish in aspects of public life where it’s not needed or valuable and instead invest a proportion of the money saved (e.g. from routine Stormont bilingualism) to fund politically neutral Irish language programs accessible to all and at a cost the local taxpayer is content to support. Nobody either needs or benefits from street signs in Irish (I refuse to believe that anyone’s genuinely offended by them but let’s float above that and concentrate on requirement and public good rather than ‘me me me’ preference/want/right/entitlement for the moment) or addressing comments in Irish in the assembly, nobody actually needs or benefits from contentious orange parades. Thus, SF’s ‘ownership’ for the language piece falls away and the issue of the promotion of (sic) language is depoliticized (the language in itself apolitical per se), orangeism retains its rights and what’s left of its dignity but exercises them in a respectful manner to its, as it were, heart’s content. Nobody loses and we all move the hell on up the evolutionary road a mile or two, appropriate to the century we live in. Bloody sickening to hear this endless whine whine whine about rights and entitlements as if it’s the only possible basis upon which anyone can ever claim to be able to exercise a choice over whether we do or don’t do what we believe we’re allowed to and whatever the hell we like whenever we like. Adulthood requires just a little more discernment than that.

  • Harry Flashman

    Remarkably sensible post there nun.

  • antamadan

    Harry, reasonable posts but; there are bilingual signs in parts of Wales (English and Welsh ) and Brittany (French and Breton) where everyone can speak the dominant language and it is ‘non-contentious’. It’s a matter of respect.

    I think unionists are barking up the wrong tree long-term in making it as difficult as possible to have Irish as well as English on the signs, and then complaining that Irish on signs is marking the area as republican. All it’s doing is pushing Irish into only the more republican ghettos, breeding resentment, and making unionists more likely to associate the language with republicanism.

  • Congal Claen

    Maybe we should just have Gaelic signs on streets where the majority of the residents are fluent in Gaelic?

    Now if only I could get the contract for installing English only signs…

  • Nunoftheabove

    Congal Claen

    If you’re thinking of installing the signs then that may prove to be some form of, ahem, sign of some inability to achieve or maintain erection my dear boy.

    Consult a competent physician in early course.

  • Congal Claen

    Cheers Nun,

    I’ll bow to your superior knowledge on the subject. Pun intended!

  • Old Mortality

    ASF
    “That means the recognition of two separate, but equal, traditions and the sharing of the institutions and resources of the “state” accordingly.”

    Which must mean additional public expenditure, so reinforcing my view that the principal object of Irish language activism is to insert its paws deeper into the public purse.

  • JR

    Harry,

    With regard to the Irish Language you seem to be utterly ignorant.

    More often than not the Irish printed on the sign is the original place name, While the English translation is usually meaningless, to anyone with a basic understanding of Irish there is an immense amount of information about the history, geography, geology and especially the ecology of an area contained within an Irish place name.

    I speak Irish every day of the week. I have chatted about family, friends, the weather, nature, told ghost stories, read bedtime stories in Irish. I worked in a factory in west Galway for a number of years exclusively through Irish, I even opened a bank account through Irish but I can honestly say I have never had a political conversation in this “political language”

    The Irish language may be dead to you but it is not to me and many like me. In South Armagh, South Down, Belfast, The sperrin region and other regions there are strong Irish speaking communities alive today under the radar. The claim that people only use Irish as a political tool is a self fulfilling myth. It didn’t start with the GAA or Irish on road signs and won’t end with it.

  • Nunoftheabove

    Congal Claen

    Careful with that punning now, wouldn’t want it becoming ahem, ‘habit-ual’.

  • lamhdearg

    heres a suggestion, if you can not stop the games officials, refs and linesmen, from being battered black and blue, by player and fans alike, best to wrap it up.

  • Eddie (Eamonn) Mac Bhloscaidh

    ‘Street-signs’

    Given that the ban on the Irish language has been abolished and is unlikely to be reinstated, this debate is a little academic.

    Directional signs are another matter, given Sinn Féin’s support for the continuation of a ban (in direct contradiction to Scotland and Wales), this is likely to remain to case.

    You could tear down every bilingual sign in the North and I assure all, it would do nothing to calm (the majority of) unionist’s detestation of Irish and would do absolutely nothing for a shared future.

    No Gaels, no shared future, I think that is an axiom.

  • Alan N/Ards

    I’m not a big fan of the gaa but I do enjoy watching the game on the tele. It is obvious that the gaa is more than just a sporting association and that is the bit that I struggle with. The first time I watched the game was in the 80’s when channel Four screened the final from Croke park. I can’t remember who was playing or indeed won the match, but I do remember the speech made by the president of the gaa after the game. His speech was political and nationalistic. He spoke about the “artificial border” on the island of Ireland and so on. I didn’t watch it again until two years ago.

    It’s not the game unionists dislike (well this one anyway) it’s the added on bits ie grounds named after members of killer gangs, the need to prove yourselves as irish by playing the soldiers song and flying the tricolour at games. Can you only be irish if you embrace these things?

    While I believe the gaa is moving in the right direction, I’m not sure that they really want unionists to part of their orginisation. I would love to see a number of clubs being started in unionist areas to play the game. Hopefully they wouldn’t be named after a dead loyalist killer. I wouldn’t want them to be under the control of the gaa as I don’t believe unionism and the gaa are compatible. Maybe this is the way forward.

  • Unfortunately we seen to be getting nowhere here. The Irish community in the North of Ireland asks for the recognition of its identity, culture and language, and equality with those it shares the region with. The British community refuses. Even those who one presumes would style themselves as “Liberal Unionists” seem incapable of moving beyond the “Pale” mentality.

    Frankly, I find it depressing.

    So I’ll finish with a sample list of nations in Europe with State-recognised linguistic, ethnic or national communities, and where bilingualism or multilingualism is legislated for in public and/or private services:

    Austria, one official language, German. Croatian, Hungarian and Slovenian official regional languages.
    Belgium, three official languages: Dutch, French and German.

    Czech Republic, one official language, Czech. Polish official regional language.

    Finland, two official languages, Finnish and Swedish. Sami official regional language.

    Germany, one official language, German. Low Saxon, Frisian, Romany official regional languages.

    Italy, one official language, Italian. German, French, Slovene, Ladin, Sardu, Friuli, Occitan official regional languages.

    Kosovo, two official languages, Albanian and Serbian. Turkish, Bosnian, Roma official regional languages.

    Luxembourg, three official languages, Luxembourgish, French and German.

    Malta, two official languages, Maltese and English.

    The Netherlands, two official languages, Dutch and Frisian. Low Saxon and Limburgish official regional languages.

    Portugal, one official language, Portuguese. Mirandese official regional language.

    Romania, one official language, Romanian. Hungarian and seven other languages official regional languages.

    Slovenia, one official language, Solvene. Italian and Hungarian official regional languages.

    Spain, one official language, Spanish. Basque, Galician, Valencian, Catalan and Aranese official regional languages.

    Sweden, one official language, Swedish. Finnish, Meänkieli, Romani and Sami official regional languages.

    Switzerland, four official languages, German, French, Italian and Romansh.

    If much of Europe can live with multilingual societies and communities, provisioned and protected by the states they share, why can’t we?

  • Decimus

    The Irish community in the North of Ireland asks for the recognition of its identity, culture and language, and equality with those it shares the region with.

    Does it ever consider that its opposition to unionist culture etc might be counterproductive in that regard?

  • Nunoftheabove

    Decimus

    You’d need to define what you mean by unionist culture in order for anyone to offer a semi-informed response to that.

  • Decimus

    You’d need to define what you mean by unionist culture in order for anyone to offer a semi-informed response to that.

    I was thinking specifically of the Orange element of unionist culture which appears to be under constant attack from republicans. Except when they are standing for Presidencies of course.

  • Nunoftheabove

    So the term unionist culture is, you’d admit, inappropriate without that substantial qualification. It would also be nice also if you’d accept that it isn’t only Irish republicans, nationalists or catholics who don’t hold the orange order in high esteem.

  • Decimus

    I have no problem with accepting that. The point that I am attempting to make is that if people want their culture to be accepted and tolerated then it might be an idea for them to accept and tolerate the culture of others.

  • Nunoftheabove

    Decimus

    I am not in any way belittled, demeaned, diminished, offended or embarassed by the Irish language. I can’t say the same about orangeism. There simply isn’t any equivalance.

  • Decimus

    I am not in any way belittled, demeaned, diminished, offended or embarassed by the Irish language. I can’t say the same about orangeism.
    There simply isn’t any equivalance.

    That is your opinion, and I’m sure it is very important to you, but I can’t see how it has any relevance to the point that I am making.