Sinn Féin to the fore for the photo, to the rear of the movement

Sinn Féin, with the shamelessness we’ve become accustomed to from Establishment politicians, were to the fore in today’s ‘LáDearg’ parade in Belfast with several aspiring candidates behind a banner proclaiming the party’s support for an Irish Language Act in the north.

Shameless because the several thousand protesters who paraded in colourful good form from the Cultúrlann on the Falls Road to the Custom House Square were expressing their anger at decisions in which Sinn Féin members had participated and, indeed, hailed as positive earlier this year.

Among the marchers, for instance, were the soon to be unemployed workers of Iontaobhas ULTACH, Altram and POBAL, who were campaigning for an end to the axing of their funding. When this decision was announced in January by Foras na Gaeilge, a body whose board boasts four Sinn Féin members, it was hailed by no less than Rosie McCorley MLA, the party’s Irish language spokesperson in the Northern Ireland Assembly.

Apparently this new ‘All Ireland’ arrangement would herald a new era for the Irish language. Well, it’s certainly done so in the north as the Irish language community’s mainstays for the past number of years, since well before the Good Friday Agreement, are shortly, as of 30 June, to be no more.

It’s almost three years since Coláiste Feirste took the Department of Education to the High Court demanding the right to free travel from County Down and north Belfast to the high performing Irish medium secondary school. There the lawyers for the then Minister, Caitríona Ruane, argued that the Good Friday Agreement was an aspirational document and therefore the Department or the Minister were not liable to implement the free travel rule for Irish speakers. In many cases half empty buses go to some fee paying Belfast schools leaving the Coláiste Feirste students with a bad case of Rosa Parkes syndrome. At least she got on the bus.

Despite a favourable ruling by Justice Treacy, the children from Ardoyne are being told they will not get free travel. They are being advised instead to walk to school, down the Shankill Road, wearing their green school uniform. It’s easy to see that no Sinn Féin politician would enforce their own child to run this gauntlet. This case was made by a courageous Coláiste Feirste student from the podium at the parade. It’s hard to know such was the crowd whether the Sinn Féin banner bearers stuck around for that speech.

Earlier today the editors of two Belfast based Irish language magazines destined for the axe, thanks to the Foras, spoke at a public meeting in the Cultúrlann voicing their disappointment at the decision to withdraw meagre funding – £16k annually in the case of An tUltach. The Sinn Féin members of the board of Foras na Gaeilge have been conspicuous by their silence in the defence of these magazines. In the case of An tUltach, this year celebrating its 90 anniversary, it was a particularly cruel blow as the committee had made great strides in addressing a number of issues, including distribution and web presence in the past year. Yet the Foras pulled the plug without ceremony and the funding runs out at the end of June. Nós mag has recently won a significant design award – it too has been told it’s to go to be replaced by a yet to be specified ‘lifestyle’ magazine.

No doubt Sinn Féin members of Foras na Gaeilge are too busy running for election to be immersed in the detail of the effect of their actions/inactions – but it won’t escape the attentions of Irish language speakers voting this May, north and south. It’s not likely to have any substantial effect though as the party will likely increase its share of the vote and seats in council and Euro elections as, down south at least, it is making the most noise.

Back to that banner.  It’s by no means clear that Sinn Féin has any notion it will ever see the enactment of an Irish Language Act in Northern Ireland in the short or long term.  There appears to be no coherent strategy to bring it about – except to occasionally wave it in front of Unionist politicians in order to cause the red mist to drift down over their field of vision as they, inevitably, say never, never, never.  The fact that they were pictured behind the banner in today’s parade on the front page of the BBC NI website won’t hasten the day that the legislation, promised in the St Andrew’s Agreement, will be enacted by Stormont.

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  • Pete Baker


    I’ll see your “several aspiring candidates”, and raise you a Northern Ireland Culture Minister.

    Yes, Sinn Fein MLA Carál Ní Chuilín was there, front and centre, protesting the policies and decisions made by… the NI Culture Minister, Carál Ní Chuilín…

    As Róise Ní Bhaoill, from Ultach, said in this previous BBC report

    “It’ll have an absolutely detrimental effect on service for the Irish language community. We’re talking about dismantling the whole of the infrastructure for the Irish language community, we’re talking about support for early years, we’re talking about cross-community activity, we’re talking about economic development.”

    Asked whether Sinn Féin had misjudged this issue, Ms Ní Bhaoill said: “It seems to me, that yes, they have. Whether they set out to do that or not, I’m not sure, but these are the consequences of the decisions made at the North-South Ministerial Council”.

    Indeed, in that same BBC report [13 Feb 2014], Sinn Féin MLA Rosie McCorley was defending the cuts her party, along with the Culture Minister responsible, are now protesting,

    Sinn Féin MLA Rosie McCorley believes the changes mark a more efficient use of resources.

    “I think it is more important to focus on spending the money wisely on the future,” she said.

    Was Rosie on the march today, too?

    She, and her party, could always call for the Minister responsible to resign…

  • Pete Baker
  • Charles_Gould

    Is this to treat people as stupid?

  • JR

    Was very annoyed and frustrated when I took a look at the bbc news this evening on returning from the parade. There were at least 50 separate organizations taking part in the protest today from voluntary community language groups to parents of children attending Gaelscoilleana, to groups about to have funding cut by Foras na Gaeilge That one photo of a line of SF politicians behind a banner on the BBC website shows how low standards have sunk in that news organization. an estimated 10,000 people made the effort to be in Belfast today. My camera is full of photos showing people dresses in red stretching along the street as far as the eye can see. Old and young, making noise creating a spectacle, singing songs. Whoever thought that that one image could sum up today was either an Idiot or has an agenda.

  • “No doubt Sinn Féin members of Foras na Gaeilge are too busy running for election”

    Concubhar, just a small point. I think you’ll find that, with elections in the offing, candidates from all parties will be rushing from photo-opportunity to photo-opportunity as well as organising canvassing and the associated leaflet drops.

  • son of sam

    The headline seems entirely apposite.Not content with merely being among the crowd at the protest,the S F politicians always seem to have the knack of positioning themselves at the forefront of any grouping. No doubt this is purely accidental and has nothing to do with any potential photo opportunities!!Of course it really illustrates the contempt that the party has for the electorate knowing that it can ride several horses at once and not suffer any lessening of support.

  • Dixie Elliott

    Worth the read to see how Shinner Gaelgeoirí went from two rooms in the Bogside’s Dove House to a £4m building in the City Center….

  • stewart1

    Just watched youtube video of today’s protest and Sinn fein people nowhere near the front? Confused?

  • Pete Baker

    Well, stewart, that would be an indictment of a compliant NI media.

    Ever-ready to run with the convenient story – as supplied by one of the protagonists – and never mind the facts.

    In this case that would be Sinn Féin – complete with press releases and, I’d suggest, an embedded photographer.

    It’s intended to be a distraction from the actual intent of the march and the majority of the protesters.

    Note, for example, one of the “significant advances” claimed by the Sinn Féin president, Gerry Adams

    DCAL to produce an Irish language strategy for the north

    [That’ll be why the Northern Ireland Culture Minister was pictured protesting! – Ed]

    Didn”t see her actually marching though…

    And don’t mention the cuts.

  • Niall Noigiallach

    Dixie sweeping in with a game changer! Go Dixie!

  • Am Ghobsmacht


    Interesting piece, please keep them coming as I am otherwise ignorant of such goings on.

    Forgive the broken record but this part stuck out for me

    “There appears to be no coherent strategy to bring it about – except to occasionally wave it in front of Unionist politicians in order to cause the red mist to drift down over their field of vision as they, inevitably, say never, never, never”

  • fordprefect

    @Pete Baker, I think for once, I agree with you! Apart from this parade, have people forgotten about Blair and Bush’s visit to Hillsborough in 2003 (just days before they invaded Iraq) and told us that violence gets you nowhere!? Obviously those two war criminals were out of the class when the teacher explained what irony meant. On that occasion we had the bizarre spectacle of Adams and McGuinness meeting with aforementioned war criminals, while a mile down the road (they wouldn’t let people go any further) people were protesting to try to stop the invasion of Iraq and lo and behold, there were Sinn Fein members in the crowd of protesters as well. I remember a guy telling me that when Mitchel McGlaughlin started speaking from the platform he was repeatedly booed until he finished his bit of spin-doctoring. You see, I’m an ordinary person and I like straight answers to straight questions, so why didn’t Adams and McGuinness tell Blair and Bush to f**k off and join with the protesters?

  • fordprefect


    A good article. The duplicitousness of SF has been known for many years. I remember a while back reading an interview given by a SF spokesperson saying: that they’d be whatever they have to be. That just about sums them up, all things to everyone and f**k all to anybody!

  • fordprefect

    @Son of Sam

    You are right about the contempt SF hold for their electorate. But I predict that their vote will be down at the next elections. Oh yes, Martina will be voted in as an MEP, I’ve no doubt about that, but apart from people registering (especially the young) since the last elections, and people in general becoming apathetic about voting in general, many, many people I’ve spoken to in the area where I live and in other N/R/C areas cannot stomach the sight of MMcG raising a loyal toast to Mrs. Windsor.

  • fordprefect


    I also meant to say that if there were any SF members (especially MLA’s and councillors) left in the crowd when it got to Custom House Square, then the speakers shouldn’t have held back! They should have exposed them for the two faced bastards that they are! Remember, SF aren’t a bit behind the door when castigating other people or organisations. A few years ago, Bobby Storey lumped Eirigi in with the so-called Real IRA, Continuity IRA and uncle Tom Cobley and All, when he knew rightly that Eirigi were just a political party with no ties to any of the armed groups out there, they are just a political party that he was afraid would take votes away from SF.

  • cynic2

    “MMcG raising a loyal toast to Mrs. Windsor”

    …..ah ……be fair ………….she is his Queen too after all

  • Charles_Gould

    This business of protesting against the government you are in highlights the drawback of having “everyone is in government” model for government.

  • “I’ll see your “several aspiring candidates”, and raise you a Northern Ireland Culture Minister.”

    I’ve got the Ace aka The Joker – in a red genser 🙂

  • tacapall

    I couldn’t help but notice as I walked past the Culturlann yesterday what passes for art or sculpture, whatever it is its a waste of money, three piles of pebbles and a chunk of old rusty piping that came from some factory, is that Irish art ? Is someone getting paid for that, is that where the money thats supposed to go to the Irish language ends up ? I dont see the difference between that and giving grants to pay for wood to be burned on a loyalist bonfire. I seen a few Shinners hanging around getting themselves seen, Tory types, the money people, those who feathered their own nests and those who were financially rewarded from the northern bank pay off. Hypocrites with agendas who can speak out of both sides of their mouths.

  • “Yet the Foras pulled the plug without ceremony and the funding runs out at the end of June.”

    The DCAL minister IMO showed a measure of heartlessness, even contempt, in the Assembly for local efforts:

    I want to make sure that groups that currently receive funding through Foras na Gaeilge have opportunities to become one of those lead groups. There is absolutely nothing to say that that cannot happen, but what will not happen on my watch is the continued funding of salaries and very little money going into the development of the language on the ground. Language officers are being well developed and well looked after, but language recipients need to have a bit more support, and the core funding arrangements provide just that. We need to build on that and look at the work of other Departments to ensure the long-term development of the language, not the long-term development and security of some language development officers.

    There are some similarities with the fate of the Causeway School Museum – used by primary schools up to 70 miles away and formerly open to tourists out of school hours – last year when NEELB board officers took a hatchet to that worthy asset and board members simply ticked the box – behind closed doors. When I raised the topic here on Slugger, bloggers and commenters were ‘conspicuous by their silence’; when I raised it with an Irish civil servant in the BIIGC secretariat – some schools in Donegal used the resource – he was too busy dealing with folks who were ‘throwing things’. There was cross-party support from local MLAs and councillors for the retention of the project; the local MP reportedly was in touch with a private interest group that would take over the lease but didn’t reply to the trustees when they sought clarification. The local council took up a suggestion that three government departments be invited to look at how they could jointly develop a proposal for the future of this valuable resource and here, in summary, are the replies signed off by the Ministers:

    DETI [tourism]: Excellent project – we don’t fund that sort of thing.

    DE [education]: Nothing to do with us – talk to the NEELB

    DCAL [culture]:

    Last I heard, there had been no DCAL reply. The DCAL minister had also refused to meet one of the local MLAs but one of her party councillors was lobbying hard for shared action.

    Isn’t our governance wonderful? 🙂

  • “whatever it is its a waste of money”

    tacapal, if you’ve got the time, the money and/or the inclination, take a tour of the north coast from, say, Portstewart to Ballycastle and talk to local people about the funds, taxpayers, ratepayers and lottery, that are being spent on ‘appearance’ rather than substance.

    I fell in with Sammy on Portstewart promenade a couple of weeks ago; the properties all along the front are being ‘reimaged’. He pointed up to his nephew’s flat. They were taking out a set of relatively new plastic windows and replacing them with others as they ‘co-ordinated the streetscape’. His nephew told me a few days later that the work on his facade cost us £3000.

    The sea has twice made short work of a Portrush project – approach the round stone tables in Ballycastle at your own risk!

  • mac tire

    “…that Eirigi were just a political party with no ties to any of the armed groups out there…”

    Well, some of its members appear to have had links with armed groups, though I take your point that, on the whole, the organisation does not have any official link to any of these groupings.

    Éirigí are a nonsense political party – merely a protest group – and that is all they will ever be.

    Even if you are correct in your prediction that many won’t vote because of Mc Guinness raising a toast, you can be sure that few, if any, of those votes will go to Éirigí.

    I can assure you that where I live most C/R/N view Éirigí with more contempt than SF.

    Wearing a Che Guevara t shirt does not make one a revolutionary.

  • Reader

    fordprefect: many, many people I’ve spoken to in the area where I live and in other N/R/C areas cannot stomach the sight of MMcG raising a loyal toast to Mrs. Windsor.
    “A loyal toast is a salute given to the head of state of the country in which a formal gathering is being given, or by expatriates of that country, whether or not the particular head of state is present.”
    Unless the people you spoke to think that Ireland claims sovereignty over London, there really shouldn’t have been a problem with this.
    (Goodness! WTF am I doing? Defending Sinn Fein?) OK fordprefect. I’m with you on this one, tell everyone you know that if they vote for SF they’re nothing but Lundys.

  • cynic2

    Éirigí who?

  • cynic2


    I understand your anger at the School project but the bottom line is that the money bucket is fast running low. Something has to give. As with Irish Medium education your big mistake is to assume that in Politics Education Matters or that the Government and MLAs ‘does what it says on the tin’

    Now we have all these extra expenses for Councillors to pay. Its the political spring and all those hungry mouths need fed or they will get restless and chirp too loud in the nest. Some might even rub their two brain cells together and get ideas beyond their station or push their siblings out of the nest to make more room.

    Still they will soon be busy (with extra expenses) on the 11 new Education and Library Boards which will be packed with elected representatives earning more fees and buggering up the local schools as they have always done

  • Granni Trixie

    I’m not really into Irish (years and years of “doing” it at school to no effect, it’s a hard language to pick up and then it got politicised) …however have to say that I am very impressed by the artistic endeavours,cafe,theatre,bookshop and theatre in
    Culterlann (sorry if the spelling is off). I think it got me interested in Irish culture despite the negative attitudes I refer to. It’s such a friendly environment …everybody should give it a go!

  • Tacapall, it’s art in the Cultúrlann, even if it isn’t to your taste. It tells a story and it’s an interesting story. Next time you’re passing – call in and find out more.

    I know well that there are many Irish speakers within Sinn Féin who have devoted many years of their lives to the development of Gaelscoileanna etc and I would count them among people I would like to call friends. However, my criticism is directed at Sinn Féin the party whose leadership I feel has led the party down a parth which sees the Irish language as something to be used in order to achieve power. Personally I have no time for any party in Irish polilical life any more – they’re all as bad as one another in way or another. If politics could change anything, it would have been abolished long ago. Violence is, as well as being morally wrong, counterproductive.

  • cara


    I agree with the majority of what you have written. I fundamentally disagree with the headline and reference to the BBC’s article. You have been just as bad as them.

    Sinn Féin were not at the front of the parade, their hypocritical delegation were pulled out for a photo and I barely seen them along the march. Don’t drag party-politics into the language issue with a disproportionate headline such as that. Sinn Féin have let us down, and so have all of the parties.

    Maybe someday you will write a less petty article on the BBC’s coverage of this event.

    There were a couple of thousand in that square, most of us young and fluent who are not corrupted by party politics. There were wee children from Donegal, Belfast, Derry who spoke of what they want, fluently in Gaelic.

    What depresses me most Concubhar is that you refuse to see the positivity that was witnessed on that day. As a Gaelic speaker, you refuse to praise and grind your own axe again and again against a party you don’t support and a funding body you disagree with, after they removed funding from the newspaper you worked for a few years ago. I’m furious with both on their current stances, but your paper, just like An tUltach, were unimaginative and hostile to outsiders craving to contribute to their output.

    What a poster boy we have on this blog and your own, cuireann sé gruaim orm. This wasn’t about party politics, but you have joined the BBC in making it just about that. No one but the journalists and photographers noticed Sinn Féin there, we just wanted to stick to our issue.

    I was there with a Filipino friend, whose right to speak Bisaya is fully recognized by the courts, but Irish isn’t.

    Concubhar, maybe it is you who needs to be on the right side of this campaign, self-promotion never suited you.

  • I respect your point of view Cara. But I don’t agree with you. I didn’t politicise the issue. Sinn Féin did. They were to the fore in getting their photo taken for the parade and they were giving out leaflets proclaiming their great gaiscí for Irish at the Cultúrlann.
    One of the issues I raised, Cara, regarding the travel situation, was raised by a speaker from the platform. The other issues were raised during other events that day and on other days. I have highlighted them.

    Regarding your rather personalised attack on myself, well fair enough. I have made my own mistakes in the past. None of these however was to be ‘unimaginative and hostile to outsiders’ as you allege. I reject entirely that untrue and baseless allegation you make against Lá/Lá Nua I am sure that An tUltach would similarly reject it. It seems that you think it’s ok for these papers/magazines to be closed down. I thought it was a poor day’s work myself.

    I voiced my opinion on a blog. It seems that this is to leave oneself open to personal attack. Well, that only tells me one thing. Those making the attacks are losing the argument.

  • cynic2, anger isn’t the right word – as you can see from the smiley. In some instances, we have money being squandered by folks who are not capable of assessing the viability of a project and in others, the detail of decisions being taken by some civil servants, quangoists and politicians is being withheld until such obfuscation is exposed. Sadly, our public watchdogs are far too passive.

  • Lauren

    Sinn Fein faces may have been to the fore in the media but they were made to march behind Eirigi and People Before Profit in the parade, much to their consternation. They even sent the bold Bobby Storey over to do his usual bully boy act on the young parade marshalls and were still told in no uncertain terms to get to the back or get the hell out. They were as welcome as snakes in that parade and indeed were the cause of the need for it, so why the media chose them as the poster boys is beyond anyones ken.

  • Am Ghobsmacht


    Interesting points.

    To an ignorant outsider (well, me) it appears that they were knee deep in it but you highlight that they weren’t welcome.

    Is there a general opinion about SF’s involvement in the Irish language?

    (Please explain as you would to a golden retriever or such like)

  • cynic2

    “Don’t drag party-politics into the language issue with a disproportionate headline such as that. ”

    Yes ….how dare you do that

  • cynic2

    “Please explain as you would to a golden retriever ”

    Dog food packet say “GOOD” and look shiny and nice

    Inside is entrails and guts and a bad smell