Britain: “England plus a couple of other bits”

Alex Massie’s criticism of Ed Miliband’s take on Britishness raises a question Irish unionists ought to be well placed to answer. If Britishness is no longer defined so much by institutions as by “culture”, what then is this Britishness of which unionists speak?

And if Britishness can’t be adequately defined isn’t it already redundant?

And if Britishness is conceptually redundant, has the U.K. any positive, coherent long-term purpose?

According to Massie, Miliband inadequately understands Britishness as effectively “… England and a couple of other bits”, an instinct he attributes to an English bias that’s no doubt recognizable to Slugger’s readers.  (Though Alex may bristle at the point, I’d add that this English view is pretty much identical to the perspective held by everyone outside the UK too, to the extent that any of them give a hoot.)

While Massie does a decent job puncturing the premise of Miliband’s grasp of Britishness he either missed a chance to bring home his own case for a meatier, more accurate definition or he was simply unable to do so. I suspect the later and minus a compelling and coherent positive case for, questions about the U.K’s ultimate sustainability can’t be ducked.

So step up Slugger. If anywhere we’ll hear the positive case for Britishness, surely it’s on Slugger? So over to you…

But before we get started, see if you agree with Massie’s ‘non-English’ attempt to kick-start a more robust definition of Britishness (Warning to our stauncher Ulster brethren and our more hard-core Gales: Massie’s entry-point may provide a head-melting experience):

 “Is (southern) Ireland a truly foreign country? I hazard that it is not. Ireland remains a contributor to and beneficiary of a broader brand of “Britishness”.

How southern Ireland does this Massie neglects to say. Your suggestions are welcome but I ask, can one credibly claim that the south of Ireland ‘contributes’ more – whether to the language, ‘pop culture’, political life, economy, foreign policy, or any facet of British life –  than, say, the United States of America? Surely not. Yet no Brit with a straight-face could equate the vast US influence on and ‘contribution’ to Britain with any stateside retention of belonging to ‘Brand Britain’.  (Surely modern Britain is not that insecure?)

Massie later writes, “Even those who have left contribute to Britishness even if they do not always recognise or value their contribution. You can’t just switch these things off.”

My take: A ‘British project’ designed and implemented for centuries on precisely the demand, backed by the threat and use of violence, that people “just switch off” their sense of being Scottish, Irish or most any other identity that was resistant to London’s designs, has come, we’re now told, full circle: Britishness not only tolerates but depends on a plurality of contributing identities for its cultural raison d’être. A little brass-neckish, sure, but not a contradiction; indeed these are grounds for a considerable pride (unless the multiculturalists foolishly ditch the anchor).

This point – how identities once forged in opposition to an imperial project are now embraced in a pluralist one – will, I predict, be deployed by far-sighted Scottish unionists in a way English unionist are unlikely to appreciate.

For Britishness – for unionism –  to secure itself it needs to embrace nationalisms rather than take them on. Irish unionists have no excuse for ignoring or refuting this and though they’d be wise to think it through, past form suggests they’re more likley to foolishly pass up the opportunity inherent here. Though there’s no faster way to render a nationalist docile than to embrace his flag, today’s Stormont indicates that Irish unionists are miles from appreciating the opportunities such an approach to defining Britishness would provide them.

Massie, I suspect, instinctively realizes that the greatest threat to the union in Scotland is the English defining Scottishness as secondary identity in Britain.

Despite ignoring decades of evidence, will Irish unionists ever act on the same lesson?

Put another way, if there was a full embrace of Irish identity from Stormont down, how many Irish nationalists would be determined to leave the U.K?

Is today’s Britishness really more about a culture of contributing regions, as Massie suggests? Test: Let’s see if any unionist can resolve the contradictions where they’re sharpest – in Belfast – by welcoming the place of green. Get it right there and the union is stronger than ever.

Alternatively, by sharpening the contradictions eventually the chord could snap.

  • Rory Carr

    My own experience in England has been that, when welcomed as Irish, the welcome comes because I am Irish not because I am Northern Irish or “British” as Massie might prefer.

    Indeed were I to narrow my Irishness down to being Northern Irish, other than as a response to an enquiry regarding my accent, I might be met with an uncomfortable silence which, in the past, I have sometimes defused by following upwith, ” You know, the occupied part.”

    This response has invariably been met with good humour and normal service resumed. We understand each other.

  • salgado

    Rory – I have never experienced any awkwardness in England if I say I’m Northern Irish (not from English people anyway, I only seem to have problems with people from Cork – or rather they have problems with me).

    Having said that, people seem to think my accent is Scottish.

  • sdelaneys

    I spent some years in England,mainly London, a long time ago and my sth Armagh accent caused problems with people from Cork thinking I was from Belfast while those from Belfast thought I was from Cork and a lot of English thought I was from Liverpool and a man on a telephone call once asked me if I was Jamaican.
    Throughout my time, about 10 years there, being Irish never caused me a problem. I worked initially in an office which had some contact with Ireland and occasionally somebody would ask me thinks like “Kildare, is that Belfast or Dublin?”, and the same applied to places like Derry or Newry, so little was their knowledge of Ireland.

  • Mike the First

    salgado

    “I have never experienced any awkwardness in England if I say I’m Northern Irish (not from English people anyway)”

    Nor me, and I lived in England for three years.

    Ruari

    Does using the label Northern Irish to refer to Northern Irish unionists present you with a problem?

  • Mick Fealty

    A couple of points worth making:

    I think it may be a projection from the (small r) republican mindset that suggests notions of nationhood have to be explainable before they can be validated.

    Often what republicans fail to comprehend is that the British personality is bound together in the rather human constitutional personality of the monarchy. Alex Salmond knows yhiz only too well and has increased the capacity of his nationalist project to grow by growing his own version of Britishness in the form of the “social union”.

    By acknowledging the common bond of history Salmond denies pro union forces a powerful vantage point (tradition and history) in which to dig in. It’s this I think that’s compelling Alex to take a softer view of the union to accomodate the demand for greater autonomy in Scotland.

    In Slugger’s earliest days we tried to explore some of these questions of what the union means, fairly extensively with various shades of unionist opinion. People like David Ervine, Michael Gove, David Brewster, Bert Ward, Liam Kennedy, a shorter piece from a long interview with Nelson McCausland, and a less structured interview with Quentin Davies who was Tory shadow SoS at the time (he later jumped ship to Labour).

  • Brian Walker

    I agree with much of what Mick’s says. This debate is like what I imagine scholastic philosophy to be. You can get enjoyably sucked in but alternatively you don’t need to ask how many angels dance on the head of a pin.

    There’s something a bit weird about assuming the Union serves no useful purpose.It manifestly exists as one of the most stable polities around.

    Devolution to the surprise of its advocates has encouraged a reappraisal which has prompted a review of first principles for the first time in about a century, when “Home Rule all round” was a Liberal party notion that never took off.

    The depth of the failure of the Union in Ireland may tempt many of us Irish to read across too much into current debates in GB. These debates at front line level are in its infancy, in contrast to the late mature/senescent quality of the debates in both parts of Ireland.

    Mick is right. As I’ve noted myself, Alex Salmond is putting out a form of soft independence to try to maximise the appeal of SNP separatism to agnostics and waverers. (He has even banned the word ” separatism” and even encourages the use of “British”).

    His strategy would boggle the mind even of John Redmond, never mind Dev.

    All the same, clever stuff for our day. But perhaps too clever by half?

  • Barnshee

    The reasons for the union are gone. The preservation of the sucession – (under attack from Spain and France for example) was a major force. There was a need for access to harbour/airfield facilities in wartime a need now also largely gone.

    The reasons, from Englands, point of view were never economic the fringes are in fact a pain in the arse economically and England has shown enormous toleration in subbing them directly (NI Scotland ) or allowing others (the ROI) to dump surplus populations in England when they balls up their economies.

    The main ” danger” to the Union would be the loss of patience and toleration by the paymasters then the whingers would get their comuppance (or “freedom” as they call it)

  • When you say a word over and over and over it quickly loses any hold on what it is defining and you come to recognise that it is just a word and any random word could have been chosen to describe the thing. (a rose by any other name…..). Therefore the words “British” or “Irish” by themselves are fairly meaningless and I imagine that people are a more complex mix of ideals, identities, and aspirations than a simple word betrays. We are constantly confronted with sympathies, ideals, shared values on certain subjects, grudging admirations, human interactions from all sides. We love schadenfraude when the fall comes when anyone gets up themselves (England football team, Celtic Tiger). We watch and listen to BBC and love it for what it is – same for NHS but we love the literature and free spirits of the Irish.

    I reckon most people are a bit shit bored of being pulled from one camp into another by people they don’t know who stick labels on them for their academic sport and one-upmanship. It’s a bit like the Mormons who have been baptising people as Mormons without their knowing – even the dead!

    For where this takes us in the future – we will be led by our interests and we will not unite in any movement until we are forced to decide. We will choose to send out kids to university and careers in Ireland, England, Germany, US. We will holiday in London, Kerry, Scotland. We will watch the BBC and read the Irish Times.

    What is the task for us as a people which will create a common goal? That question stands as much for both sides. Until there is a purpose and goal to work together to achieve most people will flick their heads in this debates general direction and say “how’s she goin?” and move right along. Is there a national goal?

  • “today’s Stormont indicates that Irish unionists are miles from appreciating the opportunities this would offers them.”

    Ruarai, why did you use the term ‘Irish unionist’? Have you not looked at the NILT Life and Times survey or at the names used by unionism: Ulster Unionist Convention 1892, Ulster Unionist Council 1905 and Ulster Unionist Party? Instead of attaching labels to groups it’s probably more useful to use those they apply to themselves.

  • Gerry Lvs castro

    It’s very difficult to define ‘Britishness’ or ‘Irishness’ in neat terms, not least as there is so much overlap in many areas.

    Speaking purely for myself though, ‘Britishness’ is a sense of being a part of a major entity (both past and present) rather than an insular backwater.
    It’s the vast cultural difference between visiting London and visiting Dublin. London has a truly awesome history, wonderfully preserved, a truly multi-cultural society and a real sense of place in the world. And yes it’s corny as hell, but the monarchy, with it’s pomp, palaces and soap opera, is a vastly more attractive proposition than a president. Even in 2012, 75% of the population are in favour of retaining it.

    Britain is, by and large, a secular, right of centre society. Ireland has via the most recent census, yet again proved itself, against all common sense, to be willing to tie itself overwhelmingly to the Roman Catholic church.
    The 90 year history of the ROI is defined by almost constant emigration, church abuse at every level of society, consistent corruption amongst it’s politicians and a depressing inability to run it’s own financial affairs.
    It’s most recent debacle has seen a distinct lurch to the left, with the real possibility of SF being a major player in the next govt.

    That’s before we look at the concept of Irishness, which from a Unionist perspective, is defined by GAA, compulsory Irish language schooling, virulent, if selective, anti-Britishness and the glorification of Irish rebels.
    Within the context of an Irish nation, these are all more than fair enough, but from a Unionist perspective, they’re entirely foreign, and go some way to explaining the huge fall in ROI Protestant numbers over the last century.

    Feeling ‘British’ isn’t as simple as fish and chips or the Queen, it’s an entire cultural identity from birth.

  • Framer

    The English have never ceased to regard the south as another part of Britain, if Irish.
    And can you blame them – they still speak English.
    They do not take the south’s independence seriously, especially as Irish citizens are treated identically to British citizens – no passports, no travel restrictions etc.
    Given nearly a quarter of English people have Irish relatives or ancestors they are also just reflecting their own reality.
    For Ulster Protestants, on the frontier of the UK, there is no requirement to define their own Britishness as anything more than what they are not – Irish nationalists. That negative sentiment remains totally unifying.

  • Mister Joe

    Is it a bit like what a US Judge said about pornography? Can’t define it but know it when I see it.

  • tyrone_taggart

    Framer

    “And can you blame them”

    Yes,

    “Irish citizens are treated identically to British citizens – no passports, no travel restrictions etc”

    “Großbritannien” would like to use Passports between the two Island. I think Unionists objected? I don’t know on what grounds?

  • tyrone_taggart

    Mick Fealty

    “Often what republicans fail to comprehend is that the British personality is bound together in the rather human constitutional personality of the monarchy.”

    Princess Margaret, Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales, and Diana, the Princess of Wales, as well as Sarah, the Duchess of York….”Ballysally Estate” ?

  • Reader

    tyrone_taggart: I think Unionists objected? I don’t know on what grounds?
    Civil rights, I assume.

  • tyrone_taggart

    Reader

    “Civil rights, I assume.”

    Does Ryanair not already demand a passport?

  • SK

    That’s before we look at the concept of Irishness, which from a Unionist perspective, is defined by GAA, compulsory Irish language schooling, virulent, if selective, anti-Britishness and the glorification of Irish rebels.
    ____________

    I think that’s a caricature of modern Ireland, a lazy means for folks like yourself to justify your instinctual hostility for anything south of Newry.

    The irony is that whenever (Ulster) unionists decide to elaborate upon their “perspective”, they invariably reveal themselves to be as petty and backwards and un-British as it possible to be.

  • tyrone_taggart

    SK

    “I think that’s a caricature of modern Ireland, a lazy means for folks like yourself to justify your instinctual hostility for anything south of Newry.”

    I think he could have been including Newry ? 🙂

  • Mick Fealty

    TT,

    If you cannot engage in civil exchange then you need to find somewhere else to exercise your rapier sharp wit.

  • tyrone_taggart

    Sorry what was uncivil in what I wrote?

    The “monarchy” includes:

    “Princess Margaret, Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales, and Diana, the Princess of Wales, as well as Sarah, the Duchess of York”

    The good people of ”Ballysally Estate” had the same treatment with an in-depth TV coverage of there lives.

    What was unreasonable in pointing that out?

  • tyrone_taggart

    Reader said that asking for a passport was against peoples “civil rights” and all I did was point out the fact that we currently do have to show a passport. It is only the sea crossing that one is not required.

  • Reader

    tyrone_taggart: Does Ryanair not already demand a passport?
    I think they have it in for everyone, not just us:
    http://www.ryanair.com/en/news/ryanair-reminds-passengers-of-id-policy
    By the way – Civil Rights are the rights you get from your government, which hasn’t sub-contracted border controls to airlines (yet)

  • Gerry Lvs castro

    That’s before we look at the concept of Irishness, which from a Unionist perspective, is defined by GAA, compulsory Irish language schooling, virulent, if selective, anti-Britishness and the glorification of Irish rebels.
    ____________

    SK: I think that’s a caricature of modern Ireland, a lazy means for folks like yourself to justify your instinctual hostility for anything south of Newry.

    SK How do you feel any of the above are incorrect?
    How would you define Irishness?

  • tyrone_taggart

    “Civil Rights are the rights you get from your government”

    I am with Jefferson(see below), and your civil rights can be taken away by private firms as quickly as governments if one allows them to get away with it.

    911 security lets take away people rights…..can I have your passport please. Do you know of a single terrorist who could not get on a plane due to the lack of a passport?

    Jefferson
    “a free people [claim] their rights as derived from the laws of nature, and not as the gift of their chief magistrate.”

  • SK

    I’m conscious that this is a thread about Britishness, so don’t want to fly off on too much of a tangent.

    We are not, by and large, anti-British. Nor are we Irish language zealots who spend our leisure time singing songs about the old RA while clutching a hurl. Your shopping list of anti-Irish cliches is, for lack of a better term, bollocks.

    I think some unionists perpetuate this kind of thing because moaning about the southern bogeyman has become a part of your identity, your Britishness. It’s a shallow hue of Britishness, possibly better described as “not Irishness”, and it’s pretty repugnant, quite frankly. It could be why the original Brits on the island next door treat Loyal Ulster as a kind of mad cousin, invited to the odd special occasions but otherwise left to it’s own devices.

    I’m not saying that we are without fault, but your cobbled together, Punch-esqe interpretation of what it is to be Irish simply doesn’t reflect reality anymore.

  • Gerry Lvs castro

    Point taken SK, but whether my ‘cliches’ are right or wrong, the south clearly isn’t selling itself, given the results of recent northern polls, and it’s something that goes well beyond the current financial crisis.

    Almost 100% of protestants and close to 50% of catholics appear to favour a continued link with Britain. While only a portion of these would define themselves as ‘British’, it’s fair to say that the notion of full independent Irishness remains elusive.

  • tyrone_taggart

    Gerry Lvs castro

    GAA = English teams play in the all Ireland.

    Irish language schooling = Welsh language schooling

    anti-Britishness = Do you have an example? I cannot think of one?

    Glorification of Irish rebels (republican) = Oliver Cromwell arms (republican)

  • antamadan

    Gerry Lvs Castro
    I sympathise to some extent, but you really just said you visited Dublin and London and found London more impressive. It’s not a great reason for NI being part of the UK. Maybe southern and northern Ireland are equally crap compared to London.

    Again it’s like the unionist who pointed out that UK weather (London) is better than RoI weather (Donegal), so he’s glad he’s in the UK

  • Mike the First

    tyrone_taggart

    “Reader said that asking for a passport was against peoples “civil rights” and all I did was point out the fact that we currently do have to show a passport. It is only the sea crossing that one is not required.”

    Complete and utter rubbish. I’ve flown to other parts of the UK umpteen times this year and have never shown a passport.

  • Gerry Lvs castro

    antamadan and tyrone — my post was merely a personal opinion. Notions of ‘Britishness’ or ‘Irishness’ are largely indefineable. All I can tell you is that NI Protestants quite clearly identify with Britain rather than Ireland.

    My supposed ‘cliches’ of the south are nevertheless the main factors differentiating the two identities — take away Gaelic games, the Irish language and assorted patriots and there really isn’t that much difference. Or is there?
    I can understand SK’s reluctance to deviate from the thread, but I really would be interested to know how Irishness is defined if not by the ‘cliches’ I mentioned.

    ”It’s not a great reason for NI being part of the UK.”

    The reason for NI being part of the UK is that a majority clearly wish to remain there. A checklist of positives isn’t required. Each vote is a personal preference.

    Whatever the reason, the fact is that, despite the RM’s best efforts of persausion and extreme violence, there is still no groundswell of support for a UI. The GFA appears in hindsight to have been a devilishly clever device. Nationalists can have the best of both worlds — the relative prosperity of the UK with a full Irish dimension, while Unionists can continue to be UK citizens and celebrate their Britishness, all with a backdrop of peace unknown to the previous generation.

    The most recent poll demonstrates yet again that attempts to persaude Unionists (and indeed many Nationalists) into a UI are simply pointless. The constitutional question needs to be parked, as NI is now one of those unique places where you can identify yourself as Irish, British, Northern Irish or none. Explaining why may not be quite so easy.

  • tyrone_taggart

    “Gerry Lvs castro”

    “NI Protestants quite clearly identify with Britain rather than Ireland.”

    Then why do they support the NI football team? Ulster rugby?

    I have no problem with someone being “British” but “NI Protestant” what do you make of the British Welsh who love there own languge and fully support their own Celtic culture? I dont get the impression that your version of Britishness is one that the Welsh would accept?

  • tyrone_taggart

    Mike the First

    “Easyjet and Ryanair both insist on passports for adults for domestic flights.”

  • Gerry Lvs castro

    ”Then why do they support the NI football team? Ulster rugby?”

    They’re the local version of games associated with Britain. Interest in Gaelic games amongst NI protestants would appear to be minimal.

    ”I have no problem with someone being “British” but “NI Protestant” what do you make of the British Welsh who love there own languge and fully support their own Celtic culture? I dont get the impression that your version of Britishness is one that the Welsh would accept?”

    The Welsh are doing their own thing and seem largely happy to do so within the context of the UK, something which it would appear they have in common with nearly 50% of Nationalists in NI.

  • tyrone_taggart

    “They’re the local version of games associated with Britain”

    What are you saying? Football is not particularly associated with Britain. As for Ulster rugby its not even 6 counties?

    “The Welsh are doing their own thing”

    I agree but is it British?

  • Reader

    tyrone_taggart: I agree but is it British?
    On average, more British than the Pictish, Saxon, Danish and Norman mix across most of the rest of the island.

  • tyrone_taggart

    “On average, more British than the Pictish..”

    I would agree.

    I am interested in the fact that those things NI Unionists complain about in “Irish” people are also to be found in the Welsh(British). The inability for Unionists to “respect” a Celtic language is one they find particularly offensive.

  • Mister Joe

    Amusing (?) anecdote. I was on a visit to North Wales many years ago and decided to go for a pint. At the door of the pub I could hear both English and Welsh being spoken. As soon as I walked in, the English words disappeared.

  • Gerry Lvs castro

    ”I am interested in the fact that those things NI Unionists complain about in “Irish” people are also to be found in the Welsh(British). The inability for Unionists to “respect” a Celtic language is one they find particularly offensive.”

    Difference: The Welsh have no wish to subhume the part of the UK I live in into a Welsh nation.

    I personally have zero problem with respecting others wish to speak the Irish language. I don’t however have any interest in learning it myself or in having it taught as a compulsory subject in my children’s school. Unfortunately the language has become highly politicised in NI, something which I’m sure you’ll agree is not entirely the fault of Unionism.

  • tyrone_taggart

    “The Welsh have no wish to subhume the part of the UK I live in into a Welsh nation.”

    You are part of the Irish nation?

    ” the language has become highly politicised in NI”

    It is entirely the fault of Unionism. Did the state set up there educational system to teach the language?

  • Mister Joe

    You really should shed that inferiority complex.

  • Gerry Lvs castro

    ”It is entirely the fault of Unionism. Did the state set up there educational system to teach the language?”

    Quite obviously not and given the vast amounts of money thrown at Irish in the Republic with remarkably woeful results, it was a sensible move.

    The only political party in NI that has pushed the language agenda is SF.

  • tyrone_taggart

    “The only political party in NI that has pushed the language agenda is SF.”

    The sdlp may disagree with you but no matter we are on about being “British”.

    Why do you say “Quite obviously not ”

    On what grounds was it “obvious” that they would not teach it?

  • Gerry Lvs castro

    ”The sdlp may disagree with you”

    They’re welcome to but it’s hardly been at the forefront of their agenda.

    ”On what grounds was it “obvious” that they would not teach it?”

    How much popular support would there have been in 1921 NI for Irish to be part of the curriculum? Had a referendum been held on the issue, would it have stood the slightest chance of being passed? Would it even pass today?

  • tyrone_taggart

    “How much popular support would there have been in 1921 NI for Irish to be part of the curriculum?”

    In Wales and Scotland the local language was being taught in the public schools. I do not think they had a public vote on the matter? The British prime minister at the time only spoke English as a second language.

    Yet again on what “British” grounds did you say “obvious” that they would not teach it?

  • anne warren

    Am so sorry a discussion on what being British means has ended up in a tit for tat on the status of Gaelic in NI.

    On a visit to Scotland a couple of years ago HRH Charles, Prince of Wales, commented about Britain embracing all its native languages. The report is somewhere in the BBC archives. There’s nothing to object to in that point of view and I do not understand why anyone who calls him/herself British could or should.

    Having said that, I do not know what being British means.

    I know what being English means. A shared cultural background, ways of thinking, assumed common values.Which exist though unspoken. I presume a Welsh or Scottish person would say the same thing. I know there is a common background and way of thinking in NI, whether you are usuns, themmuns or the other sort. Maybe it’s a class thing. Maybe it’s not.

    I have the feeling that “Britishness” is felt as a construct that no longer wholly obtains. The forthcoming Scottish referendum is hastening the need to examine what exactly the UK is and means. Despite the Jubilee celebrations and the popularity of Her Majesty, I do wonder if the centre will hold for much longer.

  • Gerry Lvs castro

    Had there been any major public support for the teaching of Irish in NI schools, it would have been facilitated.
    The simple fact is that there wasn’t.

    All UK citizens are entitled to regard themselves as British irrespective of whether they wish to learn a minority language. There’s no reason why a Unionist can’t choose to learn Irish and still call themselves British. They simply choose not to.

    It’s a matter of choice — the ROI experience clearly illustrates that making the teaching of a language compulsory simply doesn’t work, and it’s difficult to see how placing it on the NI school curriculum in the 1920s would have produced any more than the derisory number of fluent Irish speakers we have today.

  • Gerry Lvs castro

    ”I have the feeling that “Britishness” is felt as a construct that no longer wholly obtains. The forthcoming Scottish referendum is hastening the need to examine what exactly the UK is and means. Despite the Jubilee celebrations and the popularity of Her Majesty, I do wonder if the centre will hold for much longer.”

    Anne I would agree with you. If Scotland goes, the UK will be severely destabilised and I personally hope it doesn’t happen.

    Britishness is, as this thread has shown, a difficult concept to define, but Irishness, with it’s constantly shifting European, immigrant and yes British dimension, is no longer what it was either.

    Despite all this time together in such an enclosed space, the two sides in NI clearly still don’t ‘get’ each other and the current arrangement seems to be the best we’re ever likely to get.

  • tyrone_taggart

    “Had there been any major public support for the teaching of Irish in NI schools”

    There was Irish taught in a lot of NI schools (ie there must have been public support for Irish). What we are on about is the state sector which did nothing in its sector to support the local language as was the case in Scotland and Wales.

    As I have already stated the Welsh in particular find Unionist attitudes to Irish language offensive to their idea of what it is to be British.

  • tyrone_taggart

    anne warren

    “Am so sorry a discussion on what being British means has ended up in a tit for tat on the status of Gaelic in NI.”

    Anne what I am trying to contrast is the difference between the Welsh view of what it means to be British and the NI Unionist one.

    As “Mister Joe” has pointed out the Welsh see there native language as part of what it means to be British/Welsh. When they see the treatment that Unionist give to people who want to use Irish they simply cannot understand it.

  • Reader

    tyrone_taggart: There was Irish taught in a lot of NI schools (ie there must have been public support for Irish).
    The fact that things happened in schools is not evidence that there was public support for it. It’s only evidence that there was sufficient support for the leaders that made the decisions.
    tyrone_taggart: What we are on about is the state sector which did nothing in its sector to support the local language as was the case in Scotland and Wales.
    But if the Welsh language enthusuasts had retreated to their own school system instead of remaining in, and influencing, the state system, they could have trashed the prospects for Welsh, too.

  • salgado

    “Having said that, I do not know what being British means.

    I know what being English means. A shared cultural background, ways of thinking, assumed common values.Which exist though unspoken. I presume a Welsh or Scottish person would say the same thing. I know there is a common background and way of thinking in NI, whether you are usuns, themmuns or the other sort. Maybe it’s a class thing. Maybe it’s not.”

    I feel that I experience this shared cultural background, common values etc. with other British people (be they English, Scottish, Welsh or N/Irish). If that is how you define English-ness and so on, then it is also how I would define British-ness.

  • tyrone_taggart

    “The fact that things happened in schools is not evidence that there was public support for it. It’s only evidence that there was sufficient support for the leaders that made the decisions.”

    In that respect then leveing Irish out of the Public educational system is down to the people who set it up.

    “if the Welsh language enthusuasts had retreated to their own school system”

    They did and they were all Welsh speaking.

  • Dewi

    “Amusing (?) anecdote. I was on a visit to North Wales many years ago and decided to go for a pint. At the door of the pub I could hear both English and Welsh being spoken. As soon as I walked in, the English words disappeared.”

    Every time I hear this urban myth I ask to myself why on earth they would have been speaking to each other in English?

    On a more general point the reason why Welsh people consider themselves British is because we are..

  • Reader

    tyrone_taggart: In that respect then leveing Irish out of the Public educational system is down to the people who set it up.
    Yep – most of the people who might have pushed to include Irish in the State system were busy shaping the maintained sector instead. Abstentionism.
    tyrone_taggart: They did and they were all Welsh speaking.
    Surely you aren’t suggesting that the vast majority of Welsh speakers opted out of the state system and set up a Welsh version of the maintained sector we have here? But if not, then what *are* you suggesting?

  • tyrone_taggart

    “most of the people who might have pushed to include Irish in the State system”

    Thank you so you are saying the “British “Educationalists who set up the state sector was not interested in or see any value in teaching “Irish” .

    What I have been saying is that the British Educationalists in Wales did not take that view of the local language.

  • tyrone_taggart

    “Abstentionism” ie not allowing Catholics to be educated was the cause of a separate educational system.

    As Edmund Burke, the philosophical founder of modern Conservatism said of it:

    “a machine of wise and elaborate contrivance, as well fitted for the oppression, impoverishment and degradation of a people, and the debasement in them of human nature itself, as ever proceeded from the perverted ingenuity of man.”
    Savage, John (1869)