Two new minority language community radio stations on either side of the Bann

OFCOM has announced five new community radio licenses today, of which one will be going Irish Gaelic and the other Ullans…

In its application, fUSe FM said it will “reflect the traditions, language and culture of Ulster Scots in Ballymoney and surrounding areas”.

Raidió G said in its application that it “will serve the Irish language community, and those with an interest in Irish language and culture within the broader English-speaking community, in the Greater Maghera Area in south County Derry”.

Among other community radio licences awarded by Ofcom is one for Belfast FM, which will serve over 55s in the city. Licences were also awarded to Chaine FM (Larne Borough) and Bridge FM (Portadown).

, , ,

  • How long does this farce have to continue? The outworking of northern Irish zero sum politics – our money is wasted to keep up a pretence that something exists so the other side can’t been seen to get something we didn’t.

  • Jack2

    Its a farce.

  • BarneyT

    Thats exactly it Ulick. Ulster Scots is an English dialect and you can dress it up as being dervied from Scots and various germanic strains before that. The germanic link illustrates its English derivation. If we recognise Ulster Scots as a separate language, then we will to assign similar status to the English dialects spoken on the Tyne and Mersey. It’s a reaction to the promotion and recovery of Irish.

    Joey Dunlop spoke ulster scots ye know! Evidence?

    Joes Dunlop walks into a cake shop and says to the vendor, “tell me, is tha a jam tart or a miringue?”. The vendor replies, “you’re absolutely righ Joey, tha is a jam tart”

    See the way I dropped the “t”….that makes it a language all of its own.

  • Floreat Ultonia

    Barney: arguably it isn’t even a dialect, just the occasional local word bulked out with odd pronunciation in a strong accent. And ‘hey’ at the end of every sentence, although on that basis the Glitter Band’s output qualifies as a dialect.

    I spent much of my childhood (60s/ early 70s) living abroad in such colonial outposts as the West Indies, Palestine, East Africa and Sri Lanka. Yet my older relatives from Ullans’ supposed rural heartland were quite straightforwardly understood.

  • JR

    I would say ádh mór top Raidió G and gud luck to FUSe FM.

    BTW, is it just me or is there somthing about the name FUSe FM seems like a cryptic message from the Ullans brigade to the rest of us?

  • Morpheus

    “is it just me or is there something about the name FUSe FM seems like a cryptic message from the Ullans brigade to the rest of us”

    🙂 Very clever

  • sherdy

    Are you sure the title isn’t Confuse FM?

  • sonofstrongbow

    Our ‘culture’ is better than your ‘culture’. Nay, nay, nay nay, nay!

  • JR


    I don’t feel that our culture is better than your culture, it is not for me to say but I think people from the PLU community get quite poor value for their cultural pound where ulster scots is concerned.

    It is clear to me that any public money spent on the Irish language (be that big or small) should be matched by money spent on cultural pursuits which are more PLU dominated. Maybe a project in traditional boat building to preserve the almost extinct skills of the men who built the Annalong and Kilkeel herring fleet, as just one example that comes to mind. There is alot more to the culture of the PLU community than Marching, bonfires and ulster scots.

  • jh25769

    Our ‘culture’ is better than your ‘culture’. Nay, nay, nay nay, nay!

    I don’t think anyone was actually saying that.

  • Barnshee

    This is the curse that is the TV/Radio licence
    Let these buffoons provide a subscription service ( + advertising if they can get it) and stand or fall on the funds so raised.. WTF are you doing spending public money on these outfits

  • sonofstrongbow


    Have another read of the two examples of cultural supremacist thinking provided by U lick and BarneyT.

  • jh25769

    I think Ulick was making the point that maybe this was done only because the Irish language station was approved and its only to keep Unionists happy. Whether this is true or not I don’t know, but they do have the right to make the point, I didn’t read it as saying one culture is better than another. As for BarneyT again I think it’s a valid point, what is the difference between a language and a dialect. Maybe it wasn’t made in a particularly sensitive way but I don’t think there was any supremacy intended. I could be wrong, but I didn’t read it that way.

  • Mick Fealty

    Well Ulick? Take the guesswork out of it fo us?

  • SK

    I wonder if I exaggerate my Dublin accent and throw in a couple of esoteric pieces of Tallaght slang, could I get a radio grant too? I could do a weekly slot on conversational Dublinese:

    Shtory boys- “Hello, how are you?”

    Scoops?- “Would like a drink later?”

    Stall the ball- “Please come along”

    There we go. Is my grant ready yet?

    Ulick is spot on. “We want one because they have one” is the mindset at play, and it sums the whole ‘Ullans’ racket up quite nicely.

  • Sp12

    “I wonder if I exaggerate my Dublin accent and throw in a couple of esoteric pieces of Tallaght slang, could I get a radio grant too? I could do a weekly slot on conversational Dublinese:”

    Only if you promise to take a taxi to the radio station in Belfast from Dublin to do the show and put it on expenses for the taxpayer to pick up.

  • sonofstrongbow

    There you go jh. Cultural supremacists always seem most comfortable operating in einsatzgruppen-like formations. It’s the Aryan thing to do.

    Bide your time. They’ll be more along any minute.

  • SK

    Quick, what’s the Ullans for “Godwin’s law”?

  • Sp12

    “There you go jh. Cultural supremacists always seem most comfortable operating in einsatzgruppen-like formations. It’s the Aryan thing to do.”

    If it was just nationalists that poked fun at Ullans you’d have a point, but it’s not, so you don’t.

  • Expat

    Call it a language or call it a dialect, it is a part of who and what the people are. The community values it and they are surely entitled to have access to its expression through radio if they wish. What can be the problem?

    Even better might be a single station that celebrated both elements of NI culture, they being afforded equal respect.

  • MervynM

    The hatred displayed by some of those posting on this subject is only matched by their ignorance. Those who have received the low power Radio licences are not getting grant aid. In aid, they are paying for their licences and will incur considerable cost in setting up their station. Perhaps some people on this site should read the report prior to jumping on a bigoted rant against Ulster-Scots. Anyone who listen to some of the Radio Ulster output of Irish, will see that there is as much English used as Irish.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    “Even better might be a single station that celebrated both elements of NI culture, they being afforded equal respect”

    Food for thought.

    To spice it up a bit, perhaps they could devote a part to Scottish Gaelic, a history of Scottish Gaelic in Ulster (like the original apprentice boys) and even a bit about Antrim Gaelic, as (I think, please correct if need be) it was the linguistic stepping stone between the Scottish and Irish Gaelic.

    That way ye have Irish Gaelic, Scots, Scottish Gaelic and loads of references to Protestant Gaelic speakers.

    Because things obviously aren’t confusing enough…

  • socaire

    MervynM @11.13. A bilingual society would be a very welcome step. I would hesitate to call myself a fluent US speaker but I can understand every word of the US programmes on Ráidío Uladh.

  • Sp12

    ” Those who have received the low power Radio licences are not getting grant aid. In aid, they are paying for their licences and will incur considerable cost in setting up their station. ”

    fuse’s primary sponsor has been the Ulster Scots agency for some time. Where does that money come from?

  • 6crealist

    “Anyone who listen to some of the Radio Ulster output of Irish, will see that there is as much English used as Irish.”

    Bullshit / bréagach / ye are nay right hi.

  • socaire

    Raidio G. Anybody got any details? Wavelength, coverage,when broadcasting starts etc?

  • JR

    “Anyone who listen to some of the Radio Ulster output of Irish, will see that there is as much English used as Irish.”

    Any english included in the Radio Ulster Irish language program content is there to make things a little easier for those who are trying to learn the Irish language. It is amazing how a few words of english thrown in allows the listner with a basic understanding of Irish to follow the gist of what is going on. This is an important step on the road to fluency.

  • BarneyT

    SOSB – no cultural supremacy intended whatsoever. I have read a lot of Ulster Scots and bounced publications off many folks from Scotland and they accuse me of taking the proverbial…following by “are you telling me someone is paying for this”…when they calm down and wipe the tears from their eyes.

    I would protect English, French and other recognised languages against what I believe is a fabricated language based on sounds and their phonetic spelling. Its English spoken with a Scottish derived accent laced with slang and phrases, which we know develop in most languages. Ulster Scots is an English subset without doubt. Clearly there will be phrases and words that have worked their way into English and then into Scots and Ulster Scots and the wider English spoken over here. “Scheuch” for example. We even use old English words, such as “craic”.
    So two things
    1. I stand to be corrected
    2. I accept Ulster Scots has a contribution to make in understanding phrase origin, in the same way that we should examine “Is maith sin”…commonly used throughout the UK (England predominantly) and Ireland i.e. “Smashing”.
    I support the efforts to restore a language on this island and the Irish language should be wrestled back from those that politicised it or tried to replace it with Latin and all effort should be made to demonstrate that it spans both main cultures. It is more relevant to us all than establish Ulster Scots as a formal language and ties us closely to what I will refer to as our brothers and sisters in Scotland. Ulster Scots is a valid and valuable culture on this entire island.

    I believe that latching on to Ulster Scots English pronunciation and promoting it as a language leaves the associated community open to ridicule as has been demonstrated many times. Supporting and pushing Ulster Scots as a language seems to serve an ironic need to gain separation from the mainstream UK (at least linguistically) as much as it strives to rival Gaelic initiatives.

  • ForkHandles

    bit negative on the comments front. how about just letting people get on with whatever interests them?

  • jh25769



    How about the crazy idea that if you don’t agree with it, don’t listen to it? Let those who do get on with it.

  • socaire

    yeah. How about inventing a country where all state forms and documents must be filled out in English and if there is another language that you don’t agree with, then don’t listen to it.

  • jh25769


    Isn’t that already the situation?

  • socaire

    Indeed it is! My clumsy sarcasm.

  • weidm7

    Now it’s the nationalists turn to be the bigots

    ‘It’s not a real language. It was made up for political reasons. It’s just gibberish’

    Sound familiar?

    How about, we let people do what they want? If it really is a silly made-up language like you claim, people will ignore it and it will naturally decline.

  • Personally I don’t think that Ullans is a separate language but it sure is an interesting dialect like many others across these islands.
    When I first brought my Canadian wife to visit Ireland, I warned her that she wouldn’t understand a word that my brother-in-law from Cork said. She understood him perfectly but had trouble with the Tyrone wans.

  • sonofstrongbow

    Oh I see! I’ve misunderstood the situation. It’s not Ulster Scots per se, it’s that its described as a ‘language’ that rankles. So no one is arguing that the Irish language is more relevant, more deserving of public money or radio airtime? Ok I get it now.

    Who’d have thought the Irish Language lobby would be so concerned with the choice of English words used by others anyway?

    If there is to be a ‘cultural’ spend let’s spread it as widely as possible. There can be no Hierarchy of Culture surely?

  • socaire

    I would be a great fan of WF Marshall’s ‘Ballads and Verses of Tyrone’ and probably spake her fluently – but – it is not a language. And Mr Joe, less of your anti-Tyrone bigotry.

  • crockaleen

    It is fairly safe to say that the debate over the status of Scots and Ulster-Scots will never be fully resolved. Given that there is no agreement on an international or academic level over the criteria used to distinguish dialects from languages in their own right, it is highly unlikely that we in Northern Ireland will put this age old question to rest by ourselves.

    Heinz Kloss, who made a well documented stab at defining dialects and languages, stated that Scots (presumably Lallans) was a ‘Halbsprache’ or an ‘Ausbau dialect’ – not distinct enough to merit the title of ‘language’ vis-à-vis Standard English but still used in a wide variety of low status functions.

    Based on this it would be easy to belittle Lallans/Ullans but it has to be remembered that Danish and Norwegian have an Ausbau relationship, not too dissimilar from that of English and Scots, although both are widely considered to be distinct languages despite reasonable levels of mutual intelligibility (and that’s before you reach the whole bokmål/nynorsk divide). They just happen to be spoken and taught in independent nations with extensive grammar manuals and dictionaries governing their use, alongside literature etc.

    What it boils down to in my eyes, is the extent to which Ulster-Scots deserves a revival as part of a crude quid pro quo with Irish Gaelic. With no official dictionary and no written standard forms, why the Assembly have even bothered forking out for some expert from up the country to translate official documents is beyond me. I’m all for sustaining and/or reviving culture and preserving the literary tradition, but reviving a dialect to rival a well established language will only continue attract derision from all sides.

  • From hanging around with me and picking up a lot of idiom and phrases,most Canadians think that my wife is from Ireland, somewhere around Co.Tyrone.
    In the absence of a smiley face, I assume I stand accused of being bigoted against myself.

  • Here is an idea, while all of you are arguing over the authenticity of both Ulster Scots and Irish, consider that every Euro spent on promoting these languages is a Euro that isn’t being spent to learn and promote foreign languages that are actually economically useful like German, French, and Spanish or Chinese, which might actually result in employment. People who are employed in well-paying jobs are not very likely to riot and build bombs or snipe at police. It’s just a thought for those who sponsor all of this indulgent cultural spending.

  • socaire

    Mister_Joe 🙂

  • News_Meister

    Irish Language
    The Committee on the Administration of Justice (CAJ) alleges in great detail, the Equality Commission has breached its statutory duty to positively promote the indigenous Gáelic language which the English state once sought to eradicate

  • JR


    It is not one or the other. I would estimate that at least 60% of those I know who can speak Irish are also fluent in another language. It is certainly a much higher percentage than those across the population as a whole. My fluency in Irish has enabled me to gain a basic grasp of German, French and Spanish much quicker than I otherwise would have. Anyway, there are far more jobs going for those with Irish on this island than any other language as a quick job search will tell you.

  • JR,

    Story from my youth. A woman was drowning at Bundoran and screamed for help. The lifeguard ignored her. A man ran up to him and told him to help the woman. The lifeguard said he couldn’t swim. “How the heck did you get the job?” said the man. The lifeguard replied “I was the only candidate who could speak Irish”.

  • antamadan

    Great story Mister Joe: Obviously total bullsh** but no doubt much repeated and believed in Orange circles.

    PS Shocked at your attitude to parity of esteeem on Enniskillen castle Mick. British subjects fly plenty of British flags (Orange marches etc) in Fermanagh. There are no Irish flags on official buildings like Enniskillen castle. Why should the minority get to make the call and get an English flag on an old gaelic castle? I presume an English King declared that the English flag should also fly forever on Dublin and Kerry castles. He certainly didn’t care about any Irish wishes.

  • antamadan

    Agree. instead of story I should have said yarn. I heard it in the context of a joke session.

  • Am Ghobsmacht


    “It is not one or the other. I would estimate that at least 60% of those I know who can speak Irish are also fluent in another language”

    Agreed, if you can get a handle on any of the gaelic languages then the languages like Italian or French would be comparatively easy to learn.

    I have a post Grad in Russian and by Christ it was a doddle compared to learning Scottish Gaelic…

    I appreciate what Tmitch was saying about the money being thrown at languages here.

    Personally, if we want Irish, Gaelic or whatever to be more widespread in the grim North then SF have to distance themselves from it.

    In all likelihood that would spell the end for Ullans (as the ‘foreign language threat’ would be a non-issue therefore a non-motive).

    The usual speel of a response is a lengthy CV of Republican achievements in the field of Irish language revival; they’re frustratingly impermeable to the fact that their association and indeed hijacking of the language has strangled it.

    I read a thesis on the decline of the Irish language (admittedly a fair whack of it was over my head) and there was a quote, which I shall misquote; “Daniel O’Connell, the Catholic Church and the state school system killed the Irish language…” (I’ll dig it up later), how long before SF are added to that list?

    I’d love to see it being taught in nursery schools across the board, but not a syllable till they’re out of the picture.

  • Am Ghobsmacht


    ” positively promote the indigenous Gáelic language which the English state once sought to eradicate”

    This a bit of a personal blind side of mine.

    Aside from the occasional and half-assed attempt at banning the language I know of very few concerted efforts to eradicate it.

    Granted, I haven’t looked particularly hard but I’m sure it would have fallen on my lap by now?

    I know there was the statutes of Kilkenny and such like and maybe the odd flair up every now and again that petered out.

    I know James VI wasn’t fond of ‘erse’ but that was more to do with his bias against the Scottish Highlanders.

    There is some mention of a ban in the early 18th century of it being spoke but I don’t know how long this lasted for and it was hardly a Roman/Latin vs ‘Dacian’ like transplant was it?

    So, with out over reacting, nor smug “here ye go!” rebuttals, could you point me in the right direction as I would genuinely like to find out more about this.

    PS Google searches don’t count, I can do that meself like…

  • socaire

    How about ‘All state business must be conducted in English’ before partition and post partition lip service to ‘first official language’. This ‘hijacking’ of the language intrigues me. If Gerry Adams speaks in Irish, it is hijacking but if Patsy McGlone does, then it is ‘respect and love for the language’. Anybody who goes to the trouble of learning Irish and then uses it cannot be accused of hijack. Does the use of the English language by scum of all descriptions indicate that they have ‘hijacked’ it and English must then be avoided. Unless a person is insulted in a language it is neutral. Methinks it is a class thing where it is respectable – if a little eccentric – for stoop types to use it but not working class. Imagine people like that knowing a second language?

  • RepublicanStones

    If there’s a constituency or listener-ship (is this a word?) for either radio station, who cares?

    One thing i would like to know from Ulster-Scots ppl, in Pomeroy when the residents were getting a fancy monument at either end of the village with the name Cabhan an Chaorthainn (townland) and Pomeroy there appeared a third name in what is presumably Ulster-Scots – ‘Appleschaw’. Up until this point nobody (at least nobody i knew) in the village was aware of this name and am I correct in thinking they got the apple bit from the Pom (Pomme being apple in french) in Pomeroy?

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    “‘All state business must be conducted in English”

    Well, that’s not what I asked for, I know about the discrimination but very little about the ‘eradication’.

    State business was conducted in English in most of the Empire I imagine, and as far as I’m aware a great many of the former colonies/countries/oppressed states still use indigenous languages alongside English.

    So, ‘eradication’ please, not ‘discrimination or favoritism’.

    As for the hijacking of the language, well, if you can’t see it then you just convince me that SF and indeed other Republicans are blinkered to the fact.

    What would it take to convince you?

    At what point would you think “hmmmm, I’m hearing a lot of bad craic/crack from the Protestant community that Republicans’ use and close embrace of the Irish language is fueling their hostility to it, maybe we could get a focus group together and check this out…”

    That sounded more sarcastic than I intended but ye get the idea.

  • Am Ghobsmacht


    Are you serious?

    Jesus wept…

  • sonofstrongbow

    Anyone who desires it can learn Irish, Ulster Scots, or for that matter Elvish. There is also, perhaps, an argument that a spend on the cultural associations of language is justified.

    However elevating any of ‘our’ languages/dialects/spaking as some sort of essential cultural or identity component is simply foolish. It becomes darker when use of any language is deemed to be a required badge of belonging and being without it supposedly renders one as somehow on the outside.

    The arguments used to demand language ‘rights’ can be facile at times. I especially enjoy those that say that learning language ‘a’ will make it easier to go on to learn language ‘b’. Whilst there is some evidence that being bilingual does aid acquiring further languages why not simply start learning language ‘b’. You therefore acquire the useful language without the interim step.

    The translation of officialdom into Irish and Ulster Scots is a criminal waste of resources in a society where everyone speaking either of those languages can understand English.

    Up in my neck of the woods in the Glens Irish language road and feature signs have been appearing. Some of these are on engraved stones at the roadside (some crazily placed at the verge, from a road safety perspective I wonder how they ever got planning consent). I’ve no idea who is funding them but a few pounds spent on potholes might have been a better option.

    Language is a tool for communicating (lets go for as wide a pool of recipients as possible) and locally English has shown itself both the tool of choice and the most internationally accessible. Lets leave minority languages in the private domain of any who choose to pursue them.

  • socaire

    Lets concentrate on using the scavengers and omnivores of the bird world – starlings? – and neglect/destroy all other useless breeds (ie economically unnecessary). We now have no variety and all bird functions are fulfilled. The English sneered at the Irish language – as all colonists do – and this attitude was passed on via the local running dogs. And as we all know, who better to ape their masters than the Irish. So Irish is tainted as bogtrotting peasant language and falls into disuse. But no answer yet as to the difference between Adams using Irish and McGlone. How does one raise the hackles of the ex-pats more than the other?

  • sonofstrongbow

    socaire has kindly illustrated the approach all too often observed in the Irish language lobby. Unfortunately for him in his mildly hysterical reposte he has referenced the local fauna.

    The survival of the fittest is a primary law in the animal kingdom; should other bird species be unable to sustain themselves they would go the way of the Dodo. Of course humans could intervene and pour resources into providing an unnatural natural habitat to protect any failing bird types.

    Alas, like the local language debate, perhaps only those birds deemed the most pretty and with the more vociferous lobby would get the bucks.

    I’m sure there must be a saying in Irish that translates as ‘a massive chip on the shoulder’ because it seems that Irish speakers do get rather chippy when anyone has the temerity to question the social value of publicly funded support for the language. This thin-skinned response quickly leads onto a liberal sprinkling of pejoratively used references to the “English”, “colonists” etc, etc.

    The British Empire was not alone in manufacturing a situation where the dominant nation’s language was the day-to-day official lingua franca.

    Interestingly, for example, those countries that emerged from the Austro-Hungarian Empire, in which ‘official’ language laws were also extant, were able to quite quickly regain the supremacy of their own suppressed languages.

    Why has the same not happened in Ireland? The Twenty-Six have been liberated since 1922. Why some ninety years later do the bulk of the population still go for the English Option?

    Could it be they recognise that English has much more utility in the modern world?

    As for those “ape” like Irish, as socaire so elegantly described them. Perhaps they were more than pleased with their ability to speak English when they fetched up on the shores of GB, the USA, Canada, Australia etc? Just a thought though. Do stay cool about it.

    Oh, should socaire feel the urge to respond to this post please do so in Irish. Surely there’s far too much mono-lingual chat on this thread already. 😉

  • socaire

    Tá focal amháin i do phost agus is é sin bun agus barr den mheoin atá agat. Agus an focal? ‘utility’

  • sonofstrongbow

    Most certainly, and especially when it comes to (finite) public funds, ‘utility’ is my credo.

    Full marks to you.

  • sos,

    If utility were the only yardstick we’d be living in even worse circumstances that those failed Eastern European “socialist” republics.
    And where is the utility in giving state assistance to those who cannot and never will be able to support themselves, through genetics, illness or injury?

  • sonofstrongbow

    Mr J,

    It’s a pretty substantial leap from having concerns about the wasteful expenditure on, for example, translating page upon page of Hansard into Irish/Ulster Scots (the context of this thread) to questioning public money spent on supporting those in society who cannot look after themselves.

    I’m (pretty) sure you’re not arguing that monies spent on indulging ‘culture’ should be justified on the grounds that it is equitable to caring for those who were born/became through no fault of their own disadvantaged.

    If that is your position then I’m afraid your moral compass needs put through a few ‘figures of eight’ to get it back on track.

  • sos,

    Your second paragraph is a non sequitur.

    If the context is simply on translating Hansard, and I don’t think it is, I wouldn’t support that in the least.

  • Ginger

    I’m not surprised that Socaire can understand every word of “Ulster-Scots” on local broadcast media : as someone brought up close to the foot of Slemish, speaking this barbarous dialect, I can assure him that what is currently broadcast is not authentic Ulster-Scots. It is simply a few easily recognisable dialect words, amid a sea of locally-accented standard English, a watered down version for general consumption. I laugh when I see these efforts listed as “in Ulster-Scots” : they bear about as much resemblance to authentic dialect as the unreadable goobledegook produced by government departments and organisations like the Arts Council.
    Of course, all this gives the ignorant the opportunity to have a good laugh and why not, I laugh at it myself. Anyone who has a real interest in the subject should get a copy of James Fenton’s book “the HamelyTongue,” as you’ll learn more in a few minutes than you will watching/listening to our local media till the end of time. Paradoxically, the best programme on an Ulster-Scots theme was produced by R.T.E. in the 1990s, subsequently released as a video : it followed the life of two brothers in Glenarm Glen and required sub-titles, as any proper treatment of the dialect should.
    And for anyone who thinks that Ulster-Scots was invented in the early 1990s, get copies of the Ordnance Survey memoirs, written in the 1830s, which frequently mention, usually in disapproving terms, the prevalence of the dialect (and Irish) in Antrim and neighbouring counties.
    I hope that FUSE pruoduces something more authentic than hitherto, it’s certainly in the right location.

  • Ciarán Dunbar
  • Am Ghobsmacht


    “The English sneered at the Irish language – as all colonists do – and this attitude was passed on via the local running dogs. And as we all know, who better to ape their masters than the Irish. So Irish is tainted as bogtrotting peasant language and falls into disuse. But no answer yet as to the difference between Adams using Irish and McGlone. How does one raise the hackles of the ex-pats more than the other?”


    Interestingly enough, numbers of English planters learnt Gaelic so as to fit in better with the Gaelic speaking Scots and Irish.
    They were the minority but food for thought anyhow…

    As for aping their masters, well, it’s a bit of a myth that the plantation was about placing loyalists in Ireland, it was more about placing them in a place where their damage would be limited (Argyll Gaels, Galloway Gaels and border reavers were hardly known for their loyalty to either Crown).

    Anyway, where were we, ah yes, the question about Adams and McGlone.

    Well, I didn’t even know that Patsy McGlone spoke Irish, to be honest, I don’t really know of any politicians that do other than those of SF (apart from yer man Higgins).

    I’m very aware that SF do.
    It’s on the SF election literature, it’s mentioned by their members when possible and not necessarily relevant, it’s mentioned by the media (beyond their control, fair enough) and it’s mentioned on their profiles online (sometimes).

    “Nothing wrong with Irish people speaking Irish” I hear you cry.

    Well, that may well be true, but it really depends on do we wish to make it acceptable to every one?

    If yes, then the question must be asked is there anything (real or perceived) that blocks this goal?”

    I would say ‘yes’; SF’s use of it.

    For an example of how professional marketeers deal with similar problems look no further than the Old Firm.

    (The?) Rangers were for years sponsored by McEwan’s lager, it was years before some one worked out that this had a stronger negative association than it did positive (aside from the fact that McEwan’s tastes horrid).

    Hence ntl and Carling sponsored both teams to neutralize the negative element.

    So, in this instance SF are Rangers (oh, the irony) and the Irish language is McEwan’s Lager (no disrespect intended to the Irish language).

    So, to finally answer your question, yes, it does matter when Adams et al use it rather than McGlone because in a certain sizable quarter an unfair association is drawn between the two.

    If you don’t believe me then just ask any Protestant “Do SF help to make Irish unattractive to Protestants?”

    If SF want everyone to enjoy the language then they should leave it alone, by a similar token the Ulster-Scots should make their culture more welcoming to the original Ulster Scots, the North Antrim Catholics who have descended from the Gallowglass, by not putting ‘flegs’ up at every cultural event.

    A bodhran and a fiddle do not need to be accompanied by a Union flag or an Ulster fleg.

    I understand that SF or indeed Irish language enthusiasts who happen to be SF members may have helped kick start a revival, but now they’ve made it almost exclusive.

    I applaud the efforts of Linda Ervine and indeed the Ultach for trying to smash up the perception but they could really use some help.

    I only got over the Gaelic hump because I used to live with a Free P Gael from the Hebrides and I used to drink in the Hebridean bars in Glasgow.

    Before that I had no idea Protestant gaelic speakers existed.

    BTW, there’s one key player in the decline of the Irish language that I notice you’ve not mentioned, is there any reason why?

  • Am Ghobsmacht


    “And for anyone who thinks that Ulster-Scots was invented in the early 1990s, get copies of the Ordnance Survey memoirs, written in the 1830s, which frequently mention, usually in disapproving terms, the prevalence of the dialect (and Irish) in Antrim and neighbouring counties.”

    I find those books strangely fascinating.

    Probably a symptom of my lack of a life, but so be it.

    Funnily enough, my brother pointed out to me an excerpt from one of them about a village near me (Curran, Sth Derry, 100% Protestant).

    There was something about how the local Irish lessons were cancelled due to “meddling’ from local priests”.

    Could have been written by the 19th century equivalent of a Belfast Newsletter editor, but interesting that it was proposed at all.

  • Ginger

    Anyone who visits, or has any knowledge of North Antrim, would know that, what is now called Ulster Scots, is particulaly strong in areas like Carnlough and Loughgiel, both overwhelmingly Catholic and presumably Nationalist. The idea that Ulster -Scots is the preserve of Prods and Unionists is as absurd as the idea that Irish is the preserve of the other lot. Great damage has been done by the politicisation and subsequent sectarianisation of both.
    I foresee a surreal situation in which all native speakers of both Irish and Ulster -Scots have gone and all that remains are rival quangos, supporting artificial versions of both and with a vested interest in keeping the drip feed of funding firmly attached to their arms. Politicians have a talent for delivering the kiss of death to real culture, for most of them it is a useful tool, nothing more.
    Incidentally, apropos of nothing in particular, the largest Rangers supporters club in the world is in Stornoway, on the Isle of Lewis, one of the last strongholds of Scottish Gaelic culture. One of my favourite C.D.s is a School of Scottish Studies production, “Gaelic Psalms from Lewis” : I don’t understand the words, but the emotions expressed in the unaccompanied singing are very moving, powerful and elemental.

  • socaire

    Am Ghobsmacht. Interesting post, covering a lot of stuff. I would hazard a guess that there are as many – if not more – Irish speakers in the SDLP than in SF. (Teachers etc) and the SDLP do use Irish on their election literature. The odd thing is that I have mixed and mingled with all political creeds in the pursuance of Gaelic and was treated with respect by all. I am never going to vote for a unionist party but that was irrelevant as was religion. Rural people, farmers etc refer to their farms usually by the townland name but never show any inclination to understand the meaning. Say that I wanted to protest outside my local council offices about some issue and I was parading up and down with a placard ‘ poor lighting at my house’, you would categorise me as slightly eccentric because ‘normal’ people don’t usually do that here. But say my placard was in Irish, what would your opinion be? Would it change from harmless nutter to fascist provo b*****d? No matter about planters etc the Irish language – even before 1969 – smelled of taig. When this assumption started is arguable but it goes back to the colonial mentality native bad, planter good which the colonising power will always push. You can’t be too careful because if the tongue is Irish then the heart is Irish and we all know what the Irish do to babies. Before the troubles, it was really only eccentrics/academics who dabbled in Irish but after ’69 classes could not cope with the numbers and Irish medium education really took off. Sorry if I ramble a bit.

  • There are a lot of languages on their death beds, more’s the pity, but does anyone believe that is true of Irish? It seems that there are a lot more speakers now than there have been for decades. Unfortunately there are people like me who have lost the ability to converse through lack of opportunities.

  • socaire

    People are pragmatic,Joe. Give them reason or advantage to learn it and they will. How about 50% tax rebate for Irish speakers? You would be killed in the rush.

  • Am Ghobsmacht


    Wonderful post.

    I agree with it all and I hear ye loud and clear with regards to the Lewis psalms, haunting and beautiful.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Thanks, unfortunately it’s info that I’ve picked up along the way from having ‘debates’ about why learning Irish is something that “Protestants shouldn’t be doin’ “.

    I recommend a book by Dr Ian Malcom (Eoin Mac Choilm)
    called ‘Towards Inclusion: Protestants and the Irish language, it’s a right old myth-buster, but the second part is a tad too academic for the likes of me.

    With regards to judging you as a provo for protesting with a sign written in Irish, alas, damn my judgemental eyes but yes I probably would, you highlight a good point.
    Although, I think that in itself serves as another reason as to why SF need to step away from it.

    I would hope that perhaps the ulster Scots movement could be some sort of back door to Protestant involvement in Gaelic (or Irish, whatever, pardon my interchanging the terms), I mean, they’ve already embraced some parts of Scottish highland culture, why not also the part that is associated particularly with Hebridean Free P’s?

    Naively, I would say that should I have a small lottery win I’d pay for Free P fundamentalists from Harris and Lewis to perform Gaelic pslams at a rural Orange parade, maybe even accompanied by a Protestant Gaelic fiddler from Donegal (if I can find one) to try and break the perception of Gaelic and Republicanism.

    Having said that, LOL 1113 (? open to correction) dabbled with a Lodge Banner that was written in Irish, but, Kincora House scandal soon laid that notion to rest…

    I think you’re right about Irish being for academics and general tweed-wearers before ’69, though, again an isolated example, apparently the 1911 census showed that a 5th of the Shankill Protestants spoke Gaelic.

    The fact attack never ends…

    Anyhow, I’ll be one of the few chipping away for greater Protestant involvement, but, like I say, people like me could use a hand and SF could provide a massive one.