The DUP have a point about an Irish Language Act but it’s smaller than they think – and small minded too

The journal.ie have done a useful bit of fact checking over contradictory claims that the St Andrew’s Agreement committed the DUP to “ an Irish Language Act.”  Their verdict:

VERDICT

The DUP’s claim that they never agreed to establish an Irish Language Act as part of St Andrews Agreement is true, as the legislation refers to the British government’s commitment to an Irish Language Act, not the DUP’s.

Although they signed up to the St Andrews Agreement, this includes a commitment by the UK government, and not the DUP. After devolution, responsibility for a language policy was transferred to the Northern Ireland Executive, but this did not include a commitment to establish an Irish Language Act.

What was legislated for was a language strategy, which could include, but is not the same as, an Irish Language Act.

Apart from the St Andrews Agreement, there’s no evidence that they’ve ever agreed to establish an Irish Language Act.

Claim: “The DUP at no point has ever agreed to establish an Irish Language Act with the UK government, with the Irish government, with Sinn Féin or anybody else.”

Verdict: TRUE

Although this verdict  will be disputed,  I suspect it accords with most people’s private assessment of the political position. I seem to remember that St Andrews was followed up by demands for Westminster to legislate , which rather gave the game away.  Just now and in the perhaps vain hope of avoiding  zero sum  comment , I’d like to stress that this does not mean I’m in favour of the DUP position which is philistine and as unhelpfully politicised as Sinn Fein’s.

I support dual language signage and the option of Irish in rites of passage documents. But as for Irish in courts or the public sphere generally, I have severe doubts . People have enough difficulty with the small print in English, never mind Irish.

The limitations of the Victorian idea of a using an indigenous language for nation-building have been shown in the Republic and more recently in Wales. Yet there is a great civilising idea in there somewhere which requires fresh and open debate leading to wider Irish cultural provision including the language. We should build on the  rudiments of what we have already. I’m strongly in favour of learning, beginning with far more about Irish music, stories ancient and modern, the meaning of names for people and places and not least, the spelling  ( though could  that be simplified?). The Protestant  tradition in the language movement  began to atrophy as it became more politicised ( and  dear old Douglas Hyde  and Ernest Blythe whom I once interviewed at length elsewhere didn’t help). It’s not quite dead and shows new signs of life. But it’s an uphill struggle against politicisation.

Arguing for the existing statist model rigidly on the basis of European minority language rights will get us precisely nowhere except staying in deadlock.

An honest analysis of experience in the Republic  and Wales would greatly assist objective debate.

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  • Concubhar O Liathain

    Well I would prefer that more of my tax money was spent on the Irish language not for my own sake but for the benefit of society in general. I think diversity in society is a good and healthy thing for society and while you may describe the Irish language as a ‘minority interest’, it’s a native language of Ireland and for all sorts of reasons deserves state support, not least of these being the commitments made and voted upon across Ireland in the GFA. Now what shape this support takes has yet to be agreed – but it’s becoming increasingly clear there will be an Irish Language Act and I would like that to be as beneficial as possible to as many as possible in society. In bringing about a better society, the promotion of the Irish language will actually benefit all.

  • Concubhar O Liathain

    That’s misrepresentation of the worst type, File. Check the census figures – they’re the only real basis you can base any claims on and your claims don’t stack up.

  • file

    My Da and Ma both ticked the boxes indicating Irish language proficiency on the census form and their ability extended no further that ‘Druid an doras’ and ‘Oscail an fhuinneog’ type phrases. Multiply those two by x, subtract the total from your census figure for Irish speakers, line the rest of them up and exclude those who cannot sustain a conversation on socio-economic problems in third world countries, subtract also those who can only talk about promoting the Irish language and are incapable of any other type of conversation, subtract also anyone using the language as a cause, a weapon or as a substitute for identity – and then the five of youse can sit down and have a pint.

  • Concubhar O Liathain

    Some people tick boxes for the wrong reasons – but it doesn’t get away from the fact that your comparisons re Scots Gaidhlig and Welsh are way off the mark. If you’re not prepared to debate honestly, don’t waste your or my time.

  • Skibo

    The one problem I would have with that is a lack of politics normally is a fruitful ground for violence. Any return to violence will nave a negative effect in the reunification plan.

  • file

    I am not debating – i am rattling your cage.

  • Skibo

    Mick, I think the problem here is any time a SF Minister is in control, they try to introduce Irish along side English and give it something of equal status. When DUP take over the ministry, they do what they can to remove the Irish introduced by SF.
    DUP use the argument that it costs money to introduce Irish but if it is already introduced, is it not a waste of resources then to remove it? That is unless the use of Irish and not the cost is the problem!

  • Skibo

    And such was the anglicising of Ireland.
    I believe the Conservative party did stand for at least one election on their own and for another election as a joint party with the UUP. I don’t think the results would bear out your conclusion.

  • Skibo

    Are you trying to relate underachievement with the teaching of the Irish Language? If so, why are Catholic schools who teach Irish so high in the tables?

  • Skibo

    I remember that also. We took two languages to 3rd year and then chose for fourth. i too took Irish along with half the class. Got a B also. Problem after that was there was nowhere to continue using it without taking it to A’level.

  • Skibo

    Newton, is the problem not the fact that SF put their faith in the British Government and it was they who failed?

  • Skibo

    Is the issue of the financial costs not a question for debate? I believe the strategy used by the DUP to come up with their extortionate costs questionable.

  • Concubhar O Liathain

    Whatever. Stop misrepresenting the facts.

  • Granni Trixie

    Well the DUP would do wouldn’t they? But I think it will occur to the public and parties who are not the DUP that costings come into the equation of viability.

  • file

    Sure you can prove anything with facts …

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    “Problem after that was there was nowhere to continue using it without taking it to A’level”

    Isn’t that the thing. That’s why I favour of a legion of enthusiastic amateurs pumping out subtitles for every show aired in NI.

    (Though the DUP and flegger hysteria would be bordering on apocalyptic…)

  • file

    Skibo, you just weren’t going to the right pubs when you were 16. Cumann Chluan Ard being the most obvious one, but there were others.

  • file

    I know you are joking (I just don’t get the joke).

    But how about this for something laughable. DENI gives budgets to schools. From part of that budget, schools pay for students to take CCEA exams. The money CCEA ‘earns’ from that is sent back to DENI (in that it forms part of CCEA’s overall budget,which comes from DENI; ie if the ‘income’ from schools were not included in CCEA’s figures, DENI would have to give CCEA more to cover its expenditure). This is just the same money going around in a circle, with added costs at each transaction. Why not just make it free for Ni schools to take CCEA exams and cut out the two middle men?

  • Newton Emerson

    Apparently not. The NIO had four versions of a bill out to consultation within a month of St Andrews – they seemed keen to get on with it. But then the remit was devolved, the DUP took culture and that was that.

  • Skibo

    Perhaps this time round they will get more time to resolve the issue along with equal marriage. The Tories could wipe out all the welfare measures and increase the level of cuts put in place and lower the bill of NI again.
    I could see the level of the civil service being reduced again.
    We have much to fear from Direct Rule on all sides.
    Personally I believe Westminster will have to use the threat of joint authority to force Unionism to the equality table.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Not joking, just wildly ignorant.

    And yes, you have a point.

  • Gopher

    Its not, its a disgrace pick two schools in your area, one state and one Grammar and go to the government site on rates and look for yourself.

  • Gopher

    Im relating underachievement with budget, surely even SF can see if that is spread thinner in state schools the problem will increase not diminish.

  • Gopher

    1/2 million a year rates relief is a huge bonus do Grammar or Catholic schools fund themselves to that tune?

  • Gopher

    Out of how many in your year?

  • file

    Gopher, I do not know anything about the rates relief mentioned above.

  • Skibo

    I do not understand that comment? Why do you think state schools receive less funding that other schools? If the Catholic Church provide a premises for a school, is that not a saving to the department? The state schools are fully funded. Catholic schools are 90% funded. Where is your argument going?

  • Gopher

    Rates relief is from a bygone age it is obsolete and unfair in the age of sprawling campus’s

  • Gopher

    Well would it be fair to expect a state school to build an Irish language facility and then pay increased rates while Catholic and Grammar schools would not? Rates relief is a huge subsidy and is the principle reason why we don’t have integrated education.

  • Skibo

    Is it comparable to 10% of the overall budget of the school? Have you any figures to back up your claim? If rates relief is from a bygone age, why was it extended to Orange halls a few years ago?

  • Gopher

    Rate relief for churches, schools, Orange Hallls etc is obsolete and should end.

  • Skibo

    Gopher rates relief has only been introduced relatively recently. I believe the 100% rebate has now been extended to sports halls also.
    That does not affect my question to you, how does the fact of paying rates relate to the loss of 10% of the overall budget of the school.
    Either state schools are being penalised or they are not.

  • The Irishman

    I honestly don’t remember how many other GCSE Irish classes there were, think it was 3 classes in total each with around 15. There were around 200 pupils in that year group.