Linda Ervine: “respect the Irish language”

Linda Ervine was at Stormont today to hand in a letter calling for “fair treatment and respect for the Irish language.”

Linda Ervine

Writing on her Facebook page Linda said:

This Tuesday 2nd December at 11 am on the steps of Parliament Buildings I will be presenting a letter to representatives of the main parties. The letter calls for fair treatment and respect for the Irish language. It outlines the disappointment and anger caused by divisive and insulting comments about the language and calls for the introduction of an Irish Language Act.

Our current political system lacks integrity and many display a moral cowardice. That is why I have taken this step. I pray that my message will not be distorted and will be received gracefully – Linda Ervine

Accompanying Linda was Alasdair Morrison, who was a member of the Scottish Assembly from 1999-2007 and has been nominated to stand for the Western Isles on behalf of the Labour Party in the coming elections. Mr. Morrison is a Presbyterian and a native Gaelic speaker who believes that the Gaelic Language Act in Scotland has brought many benefits and he strongly supports the work of  both POBAL and Turas.

Clearly we live and work in a different context, but speaking Gaelic in Scotland betrays nothing of your religion, politics or class. The positive work being carried out by Linda Ervine in East Belfast is already bearing fruit and deserves our support. Because in Scotland we have the Gaelic Language Act and in Wales there’s the Welsh Language Act, we’re no less British. A compelling case is being made by Pobal, the advocacy group, for an Irish Language Act in Northern Ireland and this was endorsed in the St Andrew’s Agreement back in 2006. When the legislation is eventually enacted, you will find that the British identity in Northern Ireland will not suffer one iota – in fact it will be enhanced as then Northern Ireland will be on the same level as the other British nations of Scotland and Wales – Alasdair Morrison

You can see and hear more about Linda’s work here:

Glasgow Rangers pennant

Glasgow Rangers pennant

Amongst the many statistics and anecdotes included in Linda’s presentations regarding the Irish language in her native east Belfast and beyond, one of the most striking images is this pennant in support of Glasgow Rangers:

Gregory Campbell will not be amused.








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  • Barneyt

    I suspect many with entrenched anti-Irish views on this island will feel that an Irish language act is not possible here simply by the fact that largely it does denote your religious background. They will most likely suggest that it is a non-starter as a result of the politicisation of the language by Sinn Fein.

    It is going to be hard to break down these taboos, and I know many moderate unionists have historically looked at Irish as something weaponised against them and served up to exclude.

    But, change needs to happen. It would be a shame if the language and specific dialect up here was lost. The prejudices need to be undermined, not by attack, but by encouragement and by breaking down the fear, through education and continued use of the language. Linda can provide such a path, as clearly the typical denomination extracted from such an Irish language bent does not apply in her case.

    We need to look at Scotland and how the very close cousin of Irish is used and looked upon. If you slate Gaelic and its use, you slate Gallic by implication. Linda is taking steps to grab a hold of her own heritage and is pushing Irish as something areligious.

    I believe SF has simply exercised a right to speak Irish in the northern part of Ireland as they see it. That is legitimate. Mr Campbell (despite his disrespect) has helped the Irish case in some ways, as each time SF utter “go riabh maith agat” we will all know exactly what they mean. Perhaps SF should serve up more Irish in the assembly that lends itself to mimicry, and perhaps direct translation and learning.

    It is right that Linda raises this complaint, as it is less likely to be so easily dismissed. The Irish language provides a great cross community opportunity in my view if…we embrace it and…if we can get past the political ownership of the language in the north.

  • Ernekid

    If Linda Ervine ever decided to run for office she’d get my vote. It’s so refreshing to hear mature dialogue and discussion regarding languages and identity. I think she’s brilliant.

  • Morpheus
  • Bryan Magee

    It was the Presbyterians who saved the Irish language! We have them to thank.

    Very refreshing analysis from Linda, who deserves a lot of respect for her stimulating approach.

  • Dan

    Is Ervine in receipt of a wage for her advocacy of the Irish language, or is it a labour of love?

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Wee bit of a simplification Bryan! The most significant person in the language revival was an Anglican, Douglas Hyde. The most significant person in the north at that time was the indefatigable Francis Joseph Bigger, who was an Anglo-Catholic! And I’m having trouble remembering just how many Presbyterians were to be found among the great south Ulster Irish language poets of the eighteenth century, who ensured that the language survived a living experience through their song. Although there have been fine scholars and committed language activists who just happened to be Presbyterians, to say that the saving of the language was simply them acting single handed is something quite new to me!

    Try Roger Blaney’s excellent book “Presbyterians and the Irish Language” for a more balanced version of their laudable, but far from unique, services to Irish, but please do not leave out the real central role of Conradh na Gaeilge, which was a body in which all faiths (and sometimes none!) were active.

    This in no way diminishes Linda’s excellent work, I have nothing but admiration for her, and I think she would be the first to admit that the continuity of the language is something we must all share in!

  • SeaanUiNeill

    And a brilliant communicator when you meet her, Ernekid, but I’d not wish her up on the hill, she’s too valuable for that.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Dan, try and meet her and you’ll have your answer. No one could be more committed.

  • Morpheus

    Said it before and I’ll say it again – I feckin love it when people know their shizzle 🙂

  • Barneyt

    I may be wrong, but didn’t Irish get pushed in favour of Latin, during the reformation and perhaps before? I read somewhere years back, that the first King James bible was written in Irish. Of course you cant believe all you read. It can also be argued that the Catholic church did Irish a disservice in favouring Latin as their de facto broadcasting standard. Either way, there are plenty of examples to demonstrate that the CatholicIrish Language alignment is perhaps a recent and regrettable development.

  • Turgon

    Such eulogies make Dan’s no less valid a question

  • eileen

    I’ve been to her lecture. A qualified teacher, who has thoroughly researched her subject. I’m a Catholic gaelgeoir and Linda stands high among people like 147 trust, an Droichead, etc. She’s worth as much as the best of teachers. But her success is as a result of the labour she lovingly puts into her work. Only word for her is Iontach…wonderful. oh for 10 more like her in any culture. She’ll dispel the myths and speak the truth

  • eileen

    The first king james was indeed written in irish for those who had settled here and adopted our native tongue. It would be many years before an irish written bible would be produced for the native speakers. You see there were a few wee laws preventing Catholics from using Irish even if they knew no other.

  • eileen

    Irish startled to dwindle due to the decimation in population from the mid to the end of the 20th century. It was further ravaged by its enforced use in school and then by gaeltacht children being taught in english. The political charges are made facetiously. If it was an other minority language the insults would not be tolerates. Critics with no language mock and deride sf speakers, many of whom are fluent but dont insult sdlp who also have fluent speakers. You’ll have more to moan about if you learn a bit

  • SeaanUiNeill

    I do not know for certain, but I would imagine that she gets something. But it does not look likely from where I’m standing that she will be buying condos in Florida (even our first minister does not seem to be able to keep one up) or even a split level thingee up the Castlereagh hills.

    And, Turgon, I dare say both you and Dan have the sheckels coming in from somewhere! Do you really think Linda should be passing round the wee blue bag with wooden handles every time she speaks? Try meeting her and then judge the value of what shes doing. Her love for the language and its complex cross-community culture is infectious.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Thanks Morph, modesty forbids me from telling people know just how brilliant I am myself. A wee postscript. A friend with whom I was “doing” the sites for the Creggan poets wanted to know just why Art McCooey, the author of the song “Úrchill an Chreagáin”, the unofficial “national anthem” of South Armagh, had been married in the Church of Ireland. During penal times any marraige not performed by a Church of Ireland minister was not legally recognised, so he was going legit!

    Accordingly any marriage by a Catholic priest or by the boy up in the Manse would mean that the offspring were illegitimate, although at least Catholics knew that they pretty much had the rest of Europe seeing their marriages as completely valid.

  • Matt Beeching

    Paid or not it’s still a labour of love, that I am certain.
    Don’t many people get for what they love doing?
    Don’t see what difference it should make to honest.
    Linda a true Lady, polite, helpful, generous and almost always smiling when she meets people. I think she has a passion for the Irish language and a passion for people of all walks of life.
    To me all that is priceless.

  • Turgon

    You are being disingenuous to the point of dishonesty. However, your point regarding me is indicative of Dan’s position. I am a huge fan of slugger and defend, promote it etc. I am paid for a completely different job. As such slugger costs me time, effort and even to an extent money.

    Dan’s point is simply asking whether Ms. Ervine’s advocacy for the Irish language is due to her committment to it in spite of it not paying her or whether in addition to her committment she is also paid for her time, committment etc. and if so by whom. It is a perfectly reasonable question.

  • Am Ghobsmacht


    Which laws do you mean?

    I’ve spent that long looking for Irish speaking Presbyterians that I’ve over looked some of the ‘discouragement’ ushered out regarding the use the language.
    All pointers appreciated.

  • Tochais Siorai

    I don’t know if LE is paid or not but if she is maybe the analogy of a professional sportsperson is apt. They get paid for what they do as a job but if they didn’t they’d probably play the sport anyway as an amateur.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    “Dan’s point is simply asking whether Ms. Ervine’s advocacy for the Irish language is due to her committment to it in spite of it not paying her or whether in addition to her committment she is also paid for her time, committment etc. and if so by whom

    Seaan seems convinced (as am I) that her commitment to the language is a genuine one born of passion, not financial opportunities.

    Seaan stated clearly that he believes that she gets something, surely that answers the question?

    It is a legitimate question in its own right if shorn of the typical Norn Irish baggage, alas such baggage is currently rotating on the carousel since George Chittick’s infamous “…anything fer till get money…” remark regarding the language.
    In either regard Seaan was very clear.

  • Am Ghobsmacht
  • Am Ghobsmacht

    In my head I think the Ulster Scots movement is accidentally opening an alley way to Gaelic.

    It’s a culture that shuns aspects of Scottish culture (the Gaelicky bits). Once the Gaelicky bits are allowed breathing space someone might realise that Antrim Gaelic is(well, was) identicalto some Scottish dialects.

    The ‘it’s different from themuns Gaelic so it is!’ factor might be angled on.
    Just a thought, one can only be so proud of their Scottish past before they pry into the Gaelic world.

    I sometimes wish I had a Gaelic surname like….hmmmm….Campbell, McCausland, McCrea, Shannon, Craig, McConnell, Allistair, Nesbitt….

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Thanks AG I’d not clocked it yet! And we should not leave out Padraig Ó Snódaigh’s excellent book also:

  • SeaanUiNeill

    To which I do not know the answer, but you yourself are being somewhat disingenuous I feel. What are you actually saying in asking this? Does the fact that she may receive funds negate her passionate advocacy of the Irish language. That after all is the implication. Teaching is occasionally, but not generally, something people do for nothing. It does not negate the important work of teachers to pay them. And I suspect that much of her advocacy of Irish is not done pro-rata.

    Comparing her work to our self-appointed roles as moral arbiters on Slugger is also both misleading and disingenuous. If someone was mad enough to pay me for commenting on Slugger I’d take it in a flash! I know I’m well worth it, and as someone self employed I can fit it in with my work seamlessly. Organising Irish classes and personally teaching Irish in East Belfast just could not be done in such a manner. And if you cannot see the really great value of her work, I just do not know where to begin…….

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Thanks AG. But I suspect that the sub-agenda for Dan and “the excellent” (did I really say that somewhere?) Turgon is, as usual, the “Final Solution to the Irish Language Problem”….

    I will be listening for the knock on the door at 4.00am.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    “We were gonna do it anyway
    Even if it didn’t pay….”

  • eileen

    Many. The kilkenny statutes. Penal laws. National Schools of Ireland laws. Can’t think of any language that was forbidden by law to speak or read.

  • ted hagan

    The Catholic Church certainly shoved aside Protestants at the start of the 20th century in its hijacking of the Irish language

  • eileen

    I’d be happy to see the evidence for that assertion. If you read up on education in ireland from app 1831 on there is little to support that argument. As Ireland was united under British rule in the early part of the 20th century all legislation was British. As the majority of its citizens were Catholic and as the majority of the Irish speakers were Catholic it may be reasonable to assume that Protestants were shoved aside in the revival of the language. But the Gaelic League, non denominational, was the main driver in reviving the
    Language, literature etc. Whereas many of the Catholic clergy were opposed to Catholics speaking their languag . I’m not familiar with evidence that they opposed or sidelined Protestants for using Irish. Including my CHURCH of IRELAND ggrandmother.

  • carl marks

    it’s a common tactic among unionists to make innuendos about someone you disapprove off, and “taking the punt” is a favourite,
    imagine the upset if someone implied that somehow the fact that they received payment negated either the dedication or commitment of those involved in various Ulster Scots groups!

  • Old Mortality

    Does she have a passion for any other language? Maybe she takes her holidays in the Gaeltacht every year, or is happy to get by speaking to foreigners loudly and slowly in English without the slightest embarrassment..

  • ted hagan

    Excerpt from paper by Prof Rosalind Pritchard of the University of Ulster
    ‘The proponents of the Irish language and the Catholic religion did not always reinforce each other. Indeed at first, the Catholic Church was suspicious of Protestant pre-eminence in the Gaelic revival, and feared the prospect of an Irish Ireland separate from a Catholic state. Later, however, ‘Catholic leaders exploited the Gaelic revival’s anglophobia and diverted its hope for a culturally monolithic, religiously pluralistic Irish Ireland into an essentially Catholic Irish Ireland’ (McCaffrey, 1989:15). The Catholic Church’s eventual endorsement of the Gaelic League (by about 1900) contributed enormously to making the language accepted as an essential element in the national identity (Comerford, 1989:37).’

  • SeaanUiNeill

    They seem, AG, to like the pipes and Highland Dancing, as I remember. It’s just that they do not seem to want to dance in Gàidhlig!!!!

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Ted, that’s just what you are reading in other people’s research! Always a danger as unless you research something yourself carefully (primary source work) you tend to parrot something you have not really looked into. Here in the “nine” counties pretty much right up to partition Irish Ireland was quite a different animal from D.P.Moran’s “science fiction” version favouring a Catholic Ireland. Frank Bigger’s local version, Irish Ireland “lite” was intensely pluralistic, and my grandfather (a committed Gaelic League Protestant) told me that from his personal experience not a platoon of the Ulster Division was without a few Gaelic League Irish speakers who taught their comrades the language in the trenches. Other days, other ways…

    I think your source Prof Prichard is using Vince Comerford’s co-authored book “Irishness in a Changing Society”. As I remember it Vince is referring particularly to the situation in the south, and even then it was only at a quite late date (19915) that you could talk of any sidelining of the non-political, non-denominational nature of the League.

    I suspect from what she is saying that Eileen has some direct experience of the real Gaelic League passed down to her by family. Your comment, in that context, reminds me of the highly political Irish American I met who insisted that she was driven over the border into County Antrim on a bus tour of Ireland. When I told her that I lived in Antrim, the one county that does not touch the border, she answered “But that’s what the guide told me and he was qualified….”

    Keep reading, perhaps a little more critically……

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Carl, the perfect hit! I wish I could vote you up about ten times for it.

  • eileen

    Seaan has answered for me. Suspicious not the same as being “shoved aside”

  • Turgon

    It is maybe worth pointing out that yesterday on Facebook Linda Ervine quoted Pastor Martin Niemoller’s famous They came for… speech in the context of lack of support for the Irish language.

    Equating lack of support for Irish with fascist mass murders is both insulting to those who disagree with her position and hyperbole to the point of delusion (as well as falling foul of Godwin’s Law in most spectacular fashion).

  • Practically_Family

    Of course it’s hyperbolic. But what in NI isn’t?
    how long as the “human rights” camp at Twadell been in existence?

    It’s ridiculous, the people involved are ridiculous.

    But really, what happens here that isn’t?

    I always wanted to be able to retire to West Cork, Galloway or North Wales, but I’ve just reached the stage where I’m going to go to France, where nobody knows or cares about the NI cuntishness,

    You can all come over and stay in my shed/park your vans/pitch your tents… Really.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    The fact that you cannot see the relevance speaks for itself, Turgon.

    Even some little knowledge of Irish history, some awareness of real past genocides and the supression of the “other” culture by the colonists, would perhaps alert you to how seriously worrying the overt loathing of the Irish language shown by its opponents can be to anyone who thinks differently to them.

    And it’s really not simply “lack of support”, is it? A possitive loathing of Irish underlies the innuendos. As Carl marks says below:

    “it’s a common tactic among unionists to make innuendos about someone you disapprove off”

    I really cannot see why you should fervently wish to stop others doing something that in no imaginable way harms you! You obviously do not seem to have the imagination to empathise with any case you do not fervently support, or you would be unable to speak of “insult” in a context where the disagreement you speak of appears to want an entire cultural inheritance to end because it in some unimaginable way offends you.

    As I said below with rather more levity:

    ” I suspect that the sub-agenda for Dan and “the excellent” (did I really say that somewhere?) Turgon is, as usual, the “Final Solution to the Irish Language Problem”….

    I will be listening for the knock on the door at 4.00am.”

    Interesting that Linda should have noticed it too.

  • Turgon

    Ah yes Gregory Campbell’s “Curry my yogurt” comments are equivalent to Nazism. That is actually pretty insulting not only to Mr. Campbell but also to the real victims of Nazism and indeed the victims of totalitarianism since.

    It is though a pretty impressive piece of MOPEry.

    Interesting that you approve of my writing until I oppose one of your sacred cows.

  • Bryan Magee

    Great to see Protestants on board with Irish. Why ever not? I’d be on for a bit more of it in the schools.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Sorry, Turgon, to upstage you on this one, but as someone with not a little Jewish blood myself (a US marriage during the war), I think I have some little stake in the holochaust and even some family experience of genocide! This has given me some insight into those parts of Irish history that most of those from my confession (Anglican) and background choose to ignore, and these things were seminal in bringing me into NICRA in the late 1960s. So, predictably, I do not feel that I’m insulting my own roots, as you, someone with probably no experience of the NAZIs outside the covers of books, have suggested. Rather I’ve become somewhat sensitive to the outcome of what may seem mild, almost “conventional” hatreds. Even these may, dressed in a venier of acceptability, florish into full blown murderiousness as we have all experienced since 1968, and those “civilised” people who have first given them form to vent their own polite rage begin to distance themselves. Accordingly Campbell’s crude levity would find many echos in the Weimar years. So Linda and Pastor Niemoller are perfectly right, and as with the “acceptable” anti-semitism of the inter-war years, so with the loathing of all things Irish that lies just behind your innuendos. The Pastor’s actual point is that these things begin with something we think is acceptable because it is happening to those whom we may hate, or seems to be unimportant or that is not directly affecting us. Anyone not mired in a profound distaste for all things Irish would readily see these catagories in the support of otherwise “decent people” for Mr Campbell’s rough mockery.

    And of course I will approve your (sometimes excellent ) writing again on those issues where your opinions are not driven by an underlying hatred. All our futures in the wee six depend upon meetings and understandings, on the building of affections, something which Linda’s work furthers, and in which this irrational hatred of our mutual cultural inheritance you appear to commend can play no honest part.

  • carl marks

    Might take you up on that, any mountains near were your planing to settle?

  • carl marks

    Agreed, Gregory’s Curry isn’t equivalent to a death camp, it is merely a nasty little insult towards a different culture, but tell me at what level is the bar set for nasty little insults, Burning statues,Flags,insulting the language,the famine song, you argued a while ago that that making derisory comments about the OO was demonising the OO and would encourage attacks on the OO does that not work both ways?

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Turgon, as I’ve been driving about today, I’ve been thinking about my posting this morning replying to the “Ah yes Gregory…” posting above. As you are simply sniping at Linda’s work I’m having to fill in the gaps as to your motivation myself and I find that I would be reluctant to blame you for anything you do not actually feel or think. To avoid the possibility that I am attributing anything as base as abstract political hatred (to use Yeats’ term) to someone with perfectly decent, honourable, carefully thought out reasons for requiring that the Irish language should disappear from the popular consciousness, I’d ask that you should clearly set out your true reasons for why you are so vehemently attacking Linda’s serious attempt to separate the Irish language from vulgar politics by restoring it to its place as a common property of both traditions.

    You might require a “leader posting” to do this. I for one would value a well thought out argument against Irish, should such a thing be possible, as it might remove the need for aggressive sniping such as Dan’s or Gregory’s by showing us all just how utterly unreasonable we are being in offering the entire community the opportunity to share in the experience of one of the great cultures of Europe, something that has been created in the very landscape we all live in.