“The only way to neutralise the U.K. prefix…”

Nevin pointed at a rare tree of relevance in the comment zone yesterday.  It’s the full statement from the former Sinn Féin “Director of Unionist Engagement“, now “Sinn Féin Junior Minister”, Martina Anderson, on the reluctance of some within Comhaltas to host the all-Ireland Fleadh in Londonderry during the UK City of Culture year[That would be the Northern Ireland Executive Junior Minister? – Ed]  Quite.  It’s now being covered, 4 days after being issued, by the Derry Journal.  How other media outlets missed it is another matter… From Martina Anderson’s statement

“The spurious reasons that those opposed to the bid are using to derail the bid are so ludicrous that it beggars belief. Their only objection seems to be the U.K. prefix to the working title of the series of events that will encompass the ‘City of Culture’ yearlong festival in 2013. While I can understand and empathise with the sentiments of those who object to this prefix, I do not understand, nor do I agree that we should therefore surrender the opportunity to showcase the fact that Derry is historically the epicentre of Irish Culture and history.

“Everyone who is proud of the Irishness of our City, while at the same time respecting the cultural diversity within it, needs to cooperate to ensure that it is portrayed throughout the world as the City of Irish Cultural and historical significance that it is.

“If successful in their objections the small minority opposed to this bid will be self-defeating as without a strong Irish Cultural flavour to the events they will only succeed in allowing our historic Irish City to be portrayed throughout the world as a ‘City of U.K. Culture’ devoid of Irishness . The only way to neutralise the U.K. prefix – which I doubt if anyone outside of here will take any notice of – is to take ownership of the project by making sure that the events that will make an impact on the world stage are those reflecting the reality that this is an ‘Irish City of Culture’ regardless of working titles or tags.”  [added emphasis]

How is that “shared future” strategy coming along?  [It’s a “psychological” barrier – Ed]  It’s a common one.

[And it’s just as well it wasn’t a unionist politician wanting to “neutralise” the Irish element of the city… – Ed]  Indeed.

The clue, again, is in the name…

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  • “Nevin pointed at a rare tree of relevance”

    Thanks for the complement, Pete. If you’re not a bit more careful you’ll be accused of being a closet TUV supporter 🙂

    As a seasoned ‘culture wars’ observer and participant it’s good to see Mark Durkan IMO promoting a sensible approach. And by the way, the Derry oak is very common.

  • iluvni

    I wish they’d hurry and make their minds up. I’d like to pencil the dates in my diary and get my accommodation booked up.

  • sliabhluachra

    Good on Comhaltas for hilding form against this two nationist term. When Churchill made his fight em pon the beaches speech, he spoke about “our island nation” which he called “Britain”. Using the UK and the laughable “Northern Irish” labels is a recent propaganda gambit.

    Though Derry has an emotional resonance for the Unionists, it can hardly be considered “historically the epicentre of Irish Culture and history”.
    They follow soccer there for a start and the historical Irish (=RC) areas were more of an Irishtown appendage, caused by Donegal people coming in for work.
    There are much more Irish places to have it than Doire Chearca.

  • It’s hard to know how to read Martina’s intervention. It’s my impression that those promoting the city as the venue for Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann 2013 these past three years hadn’t tested the waters at county, province and national level. I suspect that when it went pear-shaped and public she lost the run of herself.

  • ranger1640

    Pete, just a wee point of order! I know a lot of posters and readers on here can read and speak Irish. However I am not one of them so can you translate the following: comhaltas and Fleadh?

  • ranger1640, this link provides both the meanings and the pronunciations. It translates Comhaltas as ‘association, gathering, brotherhood’ and Fleadh as ‘festival (or “feast”) of music’. They’ve missed out on ‘crack’ as the source of ‘craic’.

  • sliabhluachra

    and Nevin: what is Dun Uladh, which we get by following the Ulster links on your link.

  • Harry Flashman

    “They’ve missed out on ‘crack’ as the source of ‘craic’.”

    ‘Craic’ is an abomination created by Dublin journalists in the mid-1980’s, an utterly contemptible creation.

    “Crack” is the word, it is an English word, it was the word and spelling that we, in Derry at least, always used, it comes from the same root as wisecrack, crack a joke, get cracking etc.

    ‘Craic’ should be taken out to the backyard and shot.

  • sherdy

    ‘Crackpot’ – one who indulges in craic!

  • sonofstrongbow

    I suppose it’s inevitable that there will be occasions when Sinn Fein’s masquerade as ‘peace processors’ will be breached and we’ll get a glimpse that will reveal the old mindset has ‘not gone away you know’.

    As the residents of Londonderry’s Fountain Estate were again subjected to a display of the city’s unique “culture” over the weekend I’m sure they were cheered by Ms Anderson’s idiosyncratic take on Londonderry as a UK city.

    I for one am looking forward to hearing the 2013 events’ title that, I assume, Sinn Fein is busy working up.

  • sliabhluachra, Dún Uladh is a Comhaltus regional resource centre in the middle of Ulster whilst being, at we sometimes phrase it, in the middle of nowhere; it’s the sort of location I can identify with. It’s about one mile east of the out-shirts of Omagh on the B4 Drumnakilly Road to Carrickmore.

    Dún Uladh Regional Centre is privileged to host many concerts featuring top class artists.

    It looks at first sight to have the facilities for a fleadh until you appreciate that pub sessions form part of the ambience of the gathering. As far as I can see the pubs are several miles distant so that probably rules Dún Uladh out as a major fleadh venue.

  • “‘Craic’ should be taken out to the backyard and shot.”

    This isn’t France, Harry; borrowing is common to most languages. ‘Gie us a bit o yer crack’ is a term I heard years ago – so it needn’t necessarily get up any but the most sensitive of noses.

    I’d expect Martin to nudge Martina gently back onto the ‘respecting the cultural diversity’ path when the flurry of words has abated.

  • Decimus

    I suppose it’s inevitable that there will be occasions when Sinn Fein’s masquerade as ‘peace processors’ will be breached and we’ll get a glimpse that will reveal the old mindset has ‘not gone away you know’.


    I’m still waiting for a glimpse of them as ‘peace processors’. If unionists came out with some of the crap that they do in reference to what is supposed to be a multi cultural community event there would be hell to pay.

    Any unionist who wants a glimpse of what life would be like in a united Ireland need only look to that dump for inspiration.

  • sliabhluachra

    I was more interested in its name. Donegal, the fort of the foreginer is easy enough. I alays took an Dun, Co Down for granted, as forts would be common there.
    But Dun Uladh looks like it would have been smack in the middle of O’Neill country. Hardline Brits out pre 1599.

    Harry Flashman’s crack/craic is interesting. Seems most odd in this day and age that the Irish version of an English/Scots word would conquer English but there we have it.

  • sliabhluachra, Dún Uladh would probably be translated as ‘fort of the Ulsterman/Ulster’; it doesn’t cater for the whole of Ulster, it shares it with the Oriel centre. It may be a new name for the new centre; I’ve not seen its use in any other context.

  • Scáth Shéamais

    I’ve yet to hear anyone except Martina Anderson suggest that the UK prefix is the reason for opposition to Derry as a venue for Fleah Cheoil na hÉireann next year.

  • sliabhluachra

    CCE was and probably still is, at heart, a family oriented outfit with little active interest in politics. Unlike Conradh na Gaeilge, for example, they would not have been involved in H Black marches or the like. That said, I did know fully signed up PIRA activists who were in CCE and who were accomplished dancers.

    CCE would decide where to hold the fleadh for ther own good reasons. Listowel got it many times because of its big square, its many pubs and the ease of getting accommodation.
    Derry would, of course, present security risks to naive southerners who might wander into the wrong area and no doubt CCE would look at issues like that. Though the horders of indolent Bogsiders would present another headache, I would imagine a bigger issue would be in the Provos trying to use the Fleadh to colonise CCE and Ms Anderson’s statement would bear that out.
    To say that “Derry is historically the epicentre of Irish Culture and history” is plainly stupid.
    As regards CCE’s aims, Crossmaglen would make a much better venue: small, cosy and welcoming, the way CCE like it. Let the Feadh go to Cross and the OO et al go to Derry’s walls to showcase its culture. Win-win.

  • minibusdriver

    sliabhluachra you’ve a lot of issues going on there, i see you’ve joined the “anywhere but derry” brigade – as a trad musician from derry city I can tell you that your perception of what derry is very different to what i see every day of the week. Its bad to see people being so negative over what would be a great thing for derry.

    But why let truth get in the way of a good story eh?. you have to put in a bid to get the fleadh. do cross have their bid package in?

  • aquifer

    Derry could win big with the City of Culture thing long term if they keep it cheerful and charming. Think of all those touring caravanners who don’t like speaking French anyhow, and bring their own extra accommodation. And all those Donegal holiday homes and hotels transferred from 3 month liabilities into nine month performing assets.

  • “Its bad to see people being so negative over what would be a great thing for derry”

    Agreed, minibusdriver. I’ve not been to a CCE event but perhaps CCE could consider doing a little reaching out itself eg to the Loyal Orders. Different Drums of Ireland manages to incorporate a wide range of drumming styles, including the use of the Lambeg drum beloved by some! A little bit of imagination could be more productive than much of the current politicking.

  • sliabhluachra

    Minibusdriver: I have no problem with Derry getting the Fleadh though I imagine CCE might and Ms Anderson’s statements cannot help Derry.
    Checking cityofculture.2013.com, I see soccer stars supporting Derry and being highlighted but no GAA stars. Derry is a largely soccer town and the sight of Sinn Fein leaders swanning around pretending to be into Irish music might be a bit much to bear.
    The Fleadh should go to wherever best serves the needs of CCE, not of Sinn Fein. If it is Derry, or North |
    Belfast ok as long as it is what CCE want and CCE do not have to sup with the devil.
    Having Martin McGuinness hogging the limelight as he did when CCE visited Derry does not help. He is supposed to be MP for Mid Ulster, which does not include Derry.

  • Mike the First

    Harry Flashman

    I remember as a teenager in the early/mid 1990s seeing “craic” in print for the first time in a newspaper and wondering what this word was (I imagined it was pronounced “crake” as it happens!) – I’d grown up using the word “crack” (however one wishes to spell it) and until that point had only ever seen it written as c-r-a-c-k. Within a few years it seemed c-r-a-i-c had taken over and the previous spelling had all but gone from the media and publications.

  • Pete Baker

    And back to the actual topic…

  • Harry Flashman

    “I remember as a teenager in the early/mid 1990s seeing “craic” in print for the first time in a newspaper and wondering what this word was.”

    “Crack” was very much a Northern term, it emigrated south and some time around the mid-80’s it transmogrified into ‘craic’, I first encountered the term in student magazines in Dublin in 1985. Papers like the Irish Times didn’t adopt it until the early 90’s when it became associated with the revivified Irish social scene of Temple Bar and the Galway races and Irish pubs opening around the world.

    Ireland has reverted back to its natural state of dreary, drunken melancholy, we have left the giddy days of the Celtic Tiger far behind us, Irish bars around the world are turning into karaoke joints where young Asians can sing the latest Korean boy-band sounds.

    This is the proper order of things, it’s who we are. We don’t do glee in Ireland. Can we now go back to the good old fashioned, dour, Northern English/Lowland Scottish word “crack” again?

  • “[It’s a “psychological” barrier – Ed] .. The clue, again, is in the name…”

    I’m pleased to see that the inappropriate ‘political psychosis’ label has now been dropped from this conversation. I’ve pointed out on a number of occasions that the clue isn’t so much in the name – ‘the UK’ has at least three geographical entities – as in the constitutional ‘tug-of-war’ that continues to dog the outworking of the 1998 Agreement.

    “The only way to neutralise the U.K. prefix”

    The prefix has been ‘neutralised’ in the OFMDFM Draft Programme for Government 2011-2015 which was published on 17 November 2011 – responses by 22 February 2012 – under the authority of Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness:

    provide financial and other support across government to ensure the success of the Derry/Londonderry City of Culture 2013 .. p8 and p32

    2012/2013: Creative industries hub in place at Ebrington

    2013/2014: Visitor numbers to the City and visitor spend doubled

    2014/2015: City of Culture programme supported and delivered

    Jim Allister tabled a question yesterday in response to Martina’s press release, a press release that I flagged up here on Slugger on Sunday [I stumbled on it in a Google news trawl]:

    While the Draft Programme for Government mentions the City of Culture a number of times, significantly, it never refers to Londonderry as ‘the UK City of Culture’.

    “On foot of this I tabled a question to co-First Ministers Robinson and McGuinness asking, “given the terminology used in the draft Programme for Government, whether it is Executive policy to delete reference to the United Kingdom in referring to Londonderry being the UK City of Culture.” While OFMdFM claimed that “No such policy has been determined by the Executive”, patently this is the adopted practice, otherwise a formal document such as the ‘Programme for Government’ would undoubtedly deploy the proper title, ‘UK City of Culture’.

    “Now that a Junior Minister in OFMdFM has come out with such an overtly sectarian and divisive statement any doubt which one might have had about the matter has been removed.

    Curiously enough the DCMS 2009 working title is ‘City of Culture’ and the OFMDFM draft programme for government echoes that title:

    Liverpool’s success last year brought pride, confidence and real economic regeneration to the area. Their triumphant year shows that the title of City of Culture will be a prize very much worth having, with a huge amount to play for. … Ben Bradshaw

    Tacked on in the Notes to Editors you’ll find scope for a measure of flexibility:

    The winning city will be provided with the title of UK City of Culture for their year, and given rights to the UK City of Culture brand, with scope to tailor it to their own city if desired.

    Can I recommend the merits of a greater use of primary sources?

  • Note to self: double check HTML tags 🙁

  • FuturePhysicist

    How’s about redefining that UK to mean “Ulster’s Kindred” or something like that instead of the United Kingdom, at least in terms of the politik.

  • @Harry Flashman
    Parts of what you say about craic are true but your timelines are way off. I was born in the west of Ireland in 1972 and it is a word I have used all of my life. When I was younger it was used even more in Irish than in English. Your idea that it was first used in Irish papers in the 1980s is about a decade too late. The OED cites it being used in 1972 in the Irish Independent in an article about a Fleadh funnily enough (see below). The propagation of the word is accredited to Seán Bán Breathnach and that might explain why we used it so much when speaking Irish (since the Irish language scenes was a domain associates with good times back in the day).

    From OED:
    craic, n.
    Brit. /krak/ , U.S. /kræk/ , Irish English /kræk/
    Etymology: < Irish craic (1968 or earlier) < English crack n.(see crack n. 5). Compare Scottish Gaelic craic , crac (1993 or earlier). The English word was apparently introduced from Scots into Irish English via Ulster in the mid 20th century and subsequently borrowed into Irish.

    Within Irish, the word was popularized by the phrase ‘beidh ceol, caint agus craic againn’, lit. ‘we will have music, chat and crack’, the catchphrase of the Irish-language television programme SBB ina Shuí , running from 1976–83.

    It is unclear whether Scottish Gaelic craic is < Irish or < Scots, and whether the use of the English form craic in Scotland is after Irish English or Scottish Gaelic.

    Fun, amusement; entertaining company or conversation; = crack n. 5c. Freq. with the.
    1972 Irish Independent 8 July 18 Traditional musicians, singers and dancers gathered for the ‘craic’‥during Flea Nua '72.
    1988 Feminist Rev. No. 29. 65 We were always slagging each other,‥we had a good craic anyway.
    1993 T. Parker May Lord in His Mercy be Kind to Belfast x. 144 Have a bit of a drink of a Friday night in the pub, and a bit of the craic‥blah blah blah.
    2001 Herald (Glasgow) (Nexis) 8 Jan. 14 The serious individual who doesn't want the chat or the craic or the crappy cappuccino that goes with it.
    2005 D. McWilliams Pope's Children i. 4 We must also be the ones who are most fun, loudest, best craic and most off our head.

  • Harry Flashman

    “Your idea that it was first used in Irish papers in the 1980s is about a decade too late.”

    Very interesting, oranje, however I would contend that the generalized use of the word in its Irish form in English didn’t come around until I said it did, ie mid-80’s.

    The first reference in 1972 is noticeable in that it refers to craic at the Fleadh, where the Irish term would be appropriate, the use of “craic”, as opposed to “crack”, to describe plain old getting pissed on a Friday night is very much of mid-80’s vintage.

    But thank you for that, I hadn’t realized the term was as old as that.

  • sliabhluachra

    Regarding crack/craic: Did the great Ronnie Drew (peace be upon him) wax about the crac/craic being good in Cricklewood? The monologue was written by SFWP supporter Dominic Behan in the early 1960s.

    Now, my friends, that puts crack/crai as early 1960s and, as it has a culchie sound about it, it was the invention of neither Behan nor Drew.

  • Pete Baker

    And, again, back to the actual topic…

  • Harry Flashman

    “Did the great Ronnie Drew (peace be upon him) wax about the crac/craic being good in Cricklewood?”

    Like Barney Rush (mid 1960’s) and Christy Moore (1978); “The Crack Was Ninety in the Isle of Man” and Jennifer Johnson (1977); “I’m sorry if I muscled in on Saturday. Did I spoil your crack?”, Shadows on Our Skin, and Brian Friel (1980)”You never saw such crack in your life, boys” Translations, I am sure Ronnie Drew referred to the “crack” in Cricklewood.

    I’m going with linguist Diarmaid Ó Muirithe who wrote in the Irish Times “the constant Gaelicisation of the good old English-Scottish dialect word crack as craic sets my teeth on edge.”

    Hey Pete, Derry’s been done to death, this topic is much better crack, so it is hi.

  • Pete Baker

    “Hey Pete, Derry’s been done to death, this topic is much better crack, so it is hi.”

    And it’s completely irrelevant.

    So it goes…

  • sliabhluachra

    McAlpine’s Fusiliers with Ronnie, was/is a a craicing and very evocative song: perhaps it gives a picture the craic was good in C’wood in the 1930s and that helped popularise it, the way The Fields of Athenry sounds like it was written in the 1880s not 1980s.
    Regarding UK: David Cameron was on the radio today more or less saying the UK= Scotland + England and both sides of the UK should stay together.
    Bototm line: Wales has been an afterthought sinbce before Agincourt and the Teddy Bear’s Head of the 6 cos stilll does not figure much at all. CCE are right to object to the term as modern Derry is in Irish land (thus Coleraine got the UU). The fact that Martina Anderson and other are happy to be Servants of ther (Half) Crown changes nowt.

    To get back to crack/craic: Has anyone ever had the pleasure of speaking to people from Leeds? It is all very Eliabethan with thee and thine. Most odd.

  • Harry Flashman

    “It is all very Elizabethan”

    Actually most of what people refer to as “Derryisms” and consequently ungrammatical English are in fact remnants of Elizabethan English from when the language first arrived in the town.

    For example, “doubt” as in “fear”, ie looking at one’s watch and realizing a friend is not going to make it on time, “I doubt he’ll be late”, which has precisely the opposite meaning of the word “doubt” today.

    Another one is “starve” meaning to be very cold, “Come inside it’s freezing, you’ll starve”.

    The prepositions “forbye” and “forenenst” were two of my Granny’s favourites.

    The pronunciation of “greasy” to rhyme with “easy” and “devil” as “divil” (with “divilment” for bad behaviour) are other examples as is calling a shed a “shade”, all types of grammatical, if somewhat antiquated, Derry English, recognisable to William Shakespeare.

  • “Another one is “starve” meaning to be very cold, “Come inside it’s freezing, you’ll starve”.”

    I am doing an OU degree in English Lang. and Lit. at the moment and interestingly this same usage occurs several times in “Wuthering Heights” and is attributed to the contemporary Yorkshire dialect in the footnotes. There is one character (Joesph) whose dialogue is written in dialogue is written in dialect but I just can’t give him a Yorkshire accent in my head because it reads so much like modern (Ulster) Scots.

    “Has anyone ever had the pleasure of speaking to people from Leeds? It is all very Eliabethan with thee and thine. Most odd”
    It is fascinating that Yorkshire dialects retain this form. In Ireland we get around it another way because thou forms are largely replaced by you and you forms by ye. Standard English speakers have a real issue with this because they have to keep qualifying the you (e.g. you, I mean the two of
    I was just reading about the disappearance of thou in David Crystal’s “The Stories of English. Interestingly it seems that Standard English had already dropped thou by the time Shakespeare was writing though he would have used it in his home dialect. The reason he uses it so much is for dramatic effect because you can easily show a change in mood by switching from thou to you or to indicate a difference in rank. He uses a great example from King Lear where Lear addresses his first two daughters as you and then Cordelia, his favourite, as thou before switching to you when he is angry with her.

    Evidently the Quakers tried to bring bach thou but unfortunately failed. In my opinion English is a poorer language for having dropped the distinction.

  • “The only way to neutralise the U.K. prefix…”

    The prefix has been, er, dropped in today’s communique from David and Enda:

    We welcome the progress being made in the areas of culture and tourism. The centenary of the Titanic this year, and initiatives such at the designation of Derry/Londonderry as the 2013 City of Culture, are opportunities to attract international attention and new visitors.

    This should please Martina though it may annoy SF critics.