Unionists need to remember the Irish Language is cultural, not political…

In light of recent political events, it’s good every once in a while, to pause and take stock, assess where we are; where we’ve come from and the future direction, if any.

This can be said of both Unionism and Nationalism, both sides of the Brexit argument and even those who spend their political lives perennially sitting on the fence.

Colum Eastwood’s ‘cross-community anti-Brexit axis’ was a novel and clever attempt to forge new ground. In doing so, it left Sinn Fein exposed, flat on its feet and scrambling to respond.

Michelle O’Neill continued her anti-Unionist, anti-Brexit crusade over the past few weeks by taking every possible opportunity to go out of her way to find ways to offend the Unionist people across Northern Ireland.

The section of John Finucane in North Belfast is just the latest cynical and desperate ploy on Sinn Fein’s part to find some traction in this General Election campaign and appeal to the hearts of nationalists, rather than their minds.

There are no new policy ideas, there are no policy discussions at all. Sinn Fein is rhetoric heavy, overladen with soundbites yet very policy light at present.

As for Unionism, having split over Brexit, it needs to come together, reinvigorated with a renewed sense of common purpose – Brexit could be that galvanising issue.

We need a new and more urbane strategy, one which appeals to all shades and brands of unionism: that is to some hearts, to some minds, but spoken in a voice that’s capable of being heard by all.

Such an inclusive approach would undoubtedly enhance the footprint of Unionism across Northern Ireland by beginning to entice some shades of Unionism away from the traditional staunch flag waving not an inch approach to a more consociational and confident Unionism at ease with itself.

That requires reaching out, listening, engaging, understanding in order to lead a society begging to become at ease with itself.

Unionism needs to stop thinking that all they are doing is staving off the inevitable. In doing so all they do is give favour to their opponents. To quote from ‘A Long Peace’:

“Today, a reverse dilemma applies to unionists. They suspect they have not lost. But they are not sure what it means to win.”

Unionism needs to rediscover what its ‘endgame’ is. What is the modus operandi? The status quo, the maintenance of the Union? What we have we hold? Is that all? What thought is given to how the Union will look in 2020?

Will we see a more federal-type United Kingdom post-Brexit in order to keep Scotland within the Union? Do we need to create a United Unionist Council in Northern Ireland to bring all shades of Unionism together united in common cause and purpose?

Would that remit include working to ensure that Unionist seats in Councils, Stormont and Westminster and protected if not maximised.

Would there be a Constitutional Convention composed of all those across the UK, in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland with Unionist aspirations and identity to help promote the benefits of a united Kingdom?

Unionism has begun to consult widely, to broaden its base, to engage with those whom it wouldn’t naturally engage with. For example, Arlene Foster met with Irish Language speakers in Newry last week.

Unionists don’t have a pathological dislike or hatred of the Irish Language itself – we are repelled by the weaponisation of the language by those who don’t have its best interests at heart but only seek to use and abuse it for party political purposes.

In this context, Unionists need to remember the Irish Language is cultural, not political.

No matter who chooses to speak it.

  • Tochais Siorai

    Thank you for the correction. Hate to misquote Gregory’s pearls of wisdom.

    Re Chuckies, yes of course it comes from Provo sloganeering and you can plausibly argue that they have used token Irish for that purpose but hey, they and the Loyalists used English, Isis use Arabic and whatever. So? Languages are used and abused. One of points that I attempted to make was that Unionism has had a long standing antipathy towards Irish long before the recent wave of violence. Maybe some unionists have a deep down collective guilt about how the language was wiped out or a primeval fear that the dispossessed Irish speaking natives may come screaming out of the bogs and woods to reclaim their land. Who knows? Whatever it is, it’s got bugger all to to do with the Provos.

  • Alan N/Ards


    I have no idea who Stephen is but I’m pretty sure that he wasn’t around in 1914, so he can’t be blamed for the Larne gun running incident. The same goes for the 1916 rising. There is also no one alive who was involved in partitioning this island, in 1921/22.

    The same can be said of the republican civil war in the Free State, yet we never hear the children ,grand children/great grandchildren of the civil war participants being blamed for what their forefathers did.

  • Trasna

    ‘The dead language of a dead people’. I cannot believe Shannon said that. What did he mean by dead people?

  • Tochais Siorai

    To be fair to him, he seems to have come round a fair bit since then though the Newsletter claims that he’s an Irish speaker might be a bit far fetched.

  • NotNowJohnny

    So you came here calling for a “new urbane strategy …. that entices some shades of Unionism away from the traditional staunch flag waving not an inch approach” and then almost immediately you start taking about armalites? Do you realise that the conflict finished over twenty years ago? Do you realise that the DUP went into government with SinnFein in the basis that the armalite was a thing of the past? I met a prominent DUP supporter recently who asked whether I thought SF Ministers brought an armalite to work with them. I kid you not.

    If unionism is serious about a new urbane strategy it has to rid itself of the backwoodsmen who can’t move beyond the language of the past and who struggle to define their political position beyond one of anti-Sinn Fein. I struggle to have a conversation with a DUP supporter these days that doesn’t involve them mentioning Sinn Fein (you mentioned SF 3 times in your first 6 sentences) or using words such as armalite, terrorist or murderer. You need to realise that the DUPs “Smash Sinn Fein” campaign was hopelessly fought and lost a generation ago. Unionism needs to move on and get beyond talking about armalites and singing German bomber songs.

  • Brendan Heading

    as it fits well into the same bigoted narrative on Sluggerotoole.com that only Unionists are against the Irish language

    But nobody’s saying that only unionists are against the Irish language.

    They’re saying that unionists (unionist politicians, specifically) are only against the Irish language.

    The fact he only chose Unionists is telling, you people then wonder why the Irish language is considered political when it is used here as a tool soley to attack Unionists with

    But Irish is not used “here” as a “tool solely to attack Unionists with”. Slugger has had many articles in Irish and about Irish, quite a few of them written by the site’s editor.

  • Brendan Heading

    Would you say that Slugger has failed in its objective as it looks to me that Unionism has fallen more fearful and further back into its trenches ?

    I’m struggling to think of a time when Unionism was ever not in the trenches.

  • Angry Mob

    I was mainly referring to the post made by Tochais in which he used a “cross section of the Unionist family” to discredit the point made by Stephen that ” Unionists don’t have a pathological dislike or hatred of the Irish Language itself”.

    That is when the Irish language was used here as a tool to attack the Unionist community.

  • Angry Mob

    Did they tell you straight up that they disputed that he was a Catholic or did you infer it from what they said?

  • Angry Mob

    My post isn’t a straw man in that I’m not contending your subject matter of “Unionism and the language” but rather the actual point the author was making was ” the Irish Language is cultural, not political”, which you instantly went out of your way to disprove by finding a list of general arguments against Irish, editing it, not crediting or posting a source, to then present it as “cross section of the Unionist family” to then attack the wider Unionist community. Thus politicising the Irish language, do you see the irony in this?

  • John Collins

    Well the first three or four you quoted were dyed in the wool Unionists who were from the same school as those referred to by Tochais and they all came the age of the Punch Magazine depiction of everything Irish. It is hard to take anything O’Connell ever said seriously after all he slandered that really fine Irishman, the Duke of Wellington and propounded the idea that the freedom of any country was not a ‘drop of blood’. (If he was around a hundred years later, Hitler would have loved him)
    As regards the latter day correspondents they seem to ignore the fact that thousands of primary students throughout the land attend Gael Scoileanna and seem to have no major problems.
    Finally several of us, who use and love the language, have no time for SF, either for their so called military campaign or their economic policies.

  • John Collins

    Stephen is right in the quote you refer to above. Many of those who helped preserve the language in Ireland, even before the Gaelic League, were Protestants, especially Ministers of Religion. They did far more for the language that Catholic priests ever did.

  • John Collins

    I come from the ‘opposite’ tradition but that is a very erudite post. More on the same lines, from all sides, would not go astray.

  • John Collins

    I must research this further, but I am sure the use of Irish was banned in the National Schools, when first founded, in the eighteen thirties. And as I pointed to you before an accused man was convicted and sentenced to death in a courtroom where he did not understand a word of the proceedings.

  • Madra Uisce

    Perhaps he was around when his party’s military wing Ulster Resistance smuggled in guns which were used to murder over 200 people

  • Shinner O’Toole

    Excellent Post Stephen and thanks for going to the trouble. The central message essentially is that the DUP need to find a more socially acceptable way to keep the Fenians out. Good luck with that.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    John, surely there’s a difference between not being utilised in schools and being banned?

    My school did not do rugby but did not mean rugby was ‘banned’.

    And I remember you pointed out this case, again, that does not constitute a ‘ban’, rather it was a tragic episode.

    I feel like Irish nationalists WANT to say it was banned so they can add it to the long list of gripes.

    My own thinking is that if the list of gripes is so long (and indeed warranted) then why dilute it with exaggerations and fabrications.

    Show me the law that BANNED Irish in Ireland wholesale and I will show you a banned language but show me things like ‘not the language of the courts’ and I will show you straw clutching.

    Also, for anyone who believes Irish was banned does this mean that the Belfast mayoral chain (and the Irish motto of Irish regiments) were illegal acts?
    Everyone has shied away from this point so far, I’d like to hear someone address it.

  • T.E.Lawrence

    Nature of the beast Brendan although sometimes we are known to make a few sallies like chasing that clobber Conrad de Rosen back to Dublin !

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    “In this context, Unionists need to remember the Irish Language is cultural, not political.

    No matter who chooses to speak it.”

    During Campell-Curry-gate we’d have sacrificed an unknown number of fluffy little kittens to hear a unionist politician say such a thing.

    Now we have a unionist politician saying such a thing and still people are outraged.

    Calling Mr Barabbas, thy parole is unexpectedly granted…

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    I’d love to know how true that newsletter claim is; I wonder if it’s just OTT exaggeration so that the DUP can wheel out ‘another’ Irish speaker who opposes the act?

  • SeaanUiNeill

    TE, I don’t remember that ill disciplined mob blockaded in Derry chasing anyone anywhere. Are you not perhaps thinking of those resourceful Enniskilleners who so “worried” the long supply lines between Derry and Dublin, that withdrawal was inevitable even though the Derry men were negotiating surrender over July while Kirk was playing soldiers pent up on on Inch Island?

    But from everything I’ve read myself the “barbarous Muscovite” took his own good time either way to Derry or back………

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Alan, while no-one is alive who participated in these things, the decisions made at those times have encoded patterns of thought and action which have become default positions in the minds of everyone living today.

    In the 1960s I encountered people across our whole community referring back directly to the inceptive moment of NI between 1920/22, which was still strong in living memory then for many older people. For Catholics, the failure of Unionism to in any way address the atrocities committed in Belfast by both grass roots Unionist mobs and by Special Constables, atrocities committed on the Catholic (and usually at that time supporting the Constitutionalist IPP) third of the community, such as the violent work expulsions, the burnings out and the sectarian murders. For many Protestants, such as Ronnie Bunting Senior, but also many other more “moderate” middle class Unionists, the “severity” of response was an example in how the Civil Rights movement needed to be treated to stop nationalism in its tracks. We are now living with the political habits encoded at this time, clearly influenced in their evolution by these earlier events. The creation of the UVF and its arming by the Larne Gun Running were not stand alone neutral events, but created precedents against proper constitutionalist practice which were developed first at Easter 1916, and encoded deeply in the violent birth of both the Free State and of northern Unionist “Home Rule” in the creation of NI.

    We each of us depend on a lifetime’s memory to negotiate our identities on a day to day basis, and communities and polities simply do this through that collective memory we call “history.” It is this unfolding pattern of decisions which defines us culturally and encodes our personal habits of thought and behaviour. Simply because someone was not alive when an event took place, this does not in some way permit them to avoid the implications of that event as a living reality in their daily lives. If that were the case, such a beneficent Tabula Rasa would have ensured that our present political concerns would never have developed.

  • T.E.Lawrence

    I knew that wee comment at the end would bring a young jacobite like your goodself Seaan to the party ! Our leader is Colonel Murray and we wear his famous white armbands ! Never forget Windymills or Pennyburn ! OK Conrad de Rosen had to have a rethink when he gathered up them poor protestants and put them at our gates to die once we rolled out the gallows on top of the walls and called for his priests to give the last rites to his soldiers that we had taken prisoner ?

  • SeaanUiNeill

    In terms of seventeenth century warfare, Rosen was well within his rights in what he did, although a more fastidious soldier such as King James himself would have seen this as unacceptable conduct (as of course he did!) Hanging regular soldiers taken prisoner, especially officers, was certainly not an acceptable practice, and with far more members of the extended families of some of the local boys in the walled city fully available for Rosen’s vengeance, it is not a tactic I’d have recommended. Of course James himself felt that even for those in revolt against him, he remained their king with pastoral responsibilities for these lost sheep, as shown in his emotive resistance to the Dublin Parliament’s plans to confiscate the northern Rebels property. It was James who stopped Rosen’s attempts to bring the scorched earth policies of Europe to the King’s own subjects. Just for the record, I can highly recommend Rosen’s letters, untranslated alas, but in a delightfully terse and idiomatic seventeenth century French.

    Oh, and while the contemporary writers make much of Pennyburn, it was effectively a “ride out and back” which entirely failed in its actual intention, to relieve Culmore Fort, and retain control of the river. A tiny body of Jacobite cavalry saw off the raiders very easily. Windmill Hill is another thing, the second battle saw the towns defenders flee in terror their outworks and the triumphant Irish Foot Guards were only driven off by stones the women of the town heaved down on their colonel, Will Dorrington, as he was organising the dismantling of the palisade nearest the town walls. The Windmill itself, the pivot point of the outworks beyond the Bishop’s gate, is still very much there by the way.

  • T.E.Lawrence

    The Loyalists today sing a song about King James and all his rebel bands coming up to Bishop’s gate ? They sing with our hearts and hands and our swords and shields we will guard old derry’s walls ! Now I know where them pesky Unionists get that attitude from ? Come on Seaan ! “Rosen was well within his rights in what he did ? ” Now that is not this so called progressive political talk and inclusion that we espouse to ?

  • John Collins

    The descendants of this apparently wrongly executed man are currently asking the GB Government to get this case looked into and are getting no cooperation, as usual. I am sure they would be amused to here the whole episode described as ‘a tragic case. The GB Judicicial system prided itself as being the finest and fairest in the World at the time, so this quite simply should not have happened and if they have even a scintilla of either honour or decency they should reopen this case.
    Now lets address the more substantive issue as shown here
    the teaching of the Irish Language in the newly founded National Schools was forbidden from 1830 to 1870.
    In the case of Neil McBride
    the above named was fined in 1911 for having his name inscribed in Irish on his ‘business cart’ in Irish. He appealed the case to a higher court and lost and was then fined even more. Now this was 1911 and the HR issue was front and center of every debate in Ireland, your Irish inscription on that Mayoral Chain was obviously long since in situ and of course the Gaelic League and their cultural revival was in full swing. (Incidentally William of Orange is depicted on the Mayoral Chain of Dublin, but all Dubs are hardly Loyalists).Well overall you can hardly say at this late stage that the authorities were not at some level banning the use of Irish.

  • John Collins

    Well the comments made by Unionist politicians, even before the Provos ever existed, certainly politicised the Irish Language, apart from the fact that most of them stemmed from downright paranoia and prejudice.
    There are thousands of people who speak Irish and also enjoy using the English language and to brand all Irish speakers as enemies of the state is, and always was, a load of horse crap. It is just another example of ignorant white supremacist thinking

  • John Collins

    Well that decent man Cromwell had two soldiers hanged for stealing a few hens.

  • Angry Mob

    The initial criticism is not politicising an issue; that comes when that criticism invokes a response; the issue itself then becomes politically charged and thus politicised.

    Not sure what it has to do with white supremacy either when I’d hazard a guess that 99%+ of Irish speakers are white.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Oh, I know the song well, TE, my first memory being of sitting on a tartan blanket at an Orange “Field” in the very early 1950s, taken there by my rabidly Orange mother while presumably the sane Jacobite members of my family were in Baveria discussing the much to be desired return of King Rupert. “Rebel band” has always been to my thinking a very odd way to characterise an entirely professional army under the command of their legitimate king. I frequently worry that the obsession with the term “loyalty” in a sizeable part of our community is an encoded bad conscience about turfing out their legitimate King for no worse “crime” than attempting to bring about religious tolerance for all his subjects:


    Of course there are Rebels and rebels:

    “Treason never prospers, what’s the reason?
    For should it prosper it’s no longer treason…”

    Rosen was, of course, not actually “physically harming” the people he was demanding the town should receive. It was a well established practice for a town under blockade to negotiate the exit of citizens, or to compel “useless mouths” to leave the town trusting in the opposing force to permit them passage through their lines. Rosen was simply doing something similar, but in reverse, to exacerbate the hunger in the town, certainly, but in doing so to compel capitulation, but in this case a capitulation seasoned by honest terms that offered serious benefits to those within the town. Whereas, hanging prisoners who had surrendered under terms during military action was regarded as a criminal action throughout Europe at that time, the protection of prisoners taken in battle being an important agreement clawed back from the barbarism accompanying the erosion of humanist values during the Thirty Years War. So, in terms of seventeenth century practice, Rosen was doing nothing irregular, but the Derry garrison were contemplating a universally accepted war crime.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    John, in a very lawless age enforcing military discipline required the looting of civilian property to be dealt with by exceptionally harsh measures. You’ll certainly know that I’m no fan of Cromwell, if you’ve read my other postings, but this was simply common practice in that age. The Jacobite commander Richard Hamilton, after the Break of Dromore had two of his soldiers hanged for stealing silver spoons from a local woman when the army passed through Belfast. The discipline of the Jacobite army in the north during 1689 was so strict that the Whig propagandist Oldmixon struggled to find anything approaching an atrocity, although Galmoy give him two stories to use. But it was Hamilton’s strict discipline and unquestioned fairness which ensured a rapid pacification of the north other than Derry and Enniskillen.

    Now despite what has been claimed in certain quarters, Cromwell’s actions at Drogheda were seen as extreme and unacceptable morally even at the time, when the similarly unrestrained sack of Magdeburg was universally considered to be the very worst massacre of the Thirty Years’ War.

  • John Collins

    Well I suppose I should was WASP supremacy, where every thing of the Anglo Protestant tradition is utterly commendable and everyone elses’ tradition rubbish. In mainland GB this attitude as long been abandoned and the use of Scots Gallic, lowland Scots, Welsh and to a lesser extent Cornish and Manx are now encouraged and certainly not referred to in ‘Crockadilean’ terms as they are in NI.
    In fact I would say that in mainland GB these other languages are considered a part of a GB family of languages.
    As regards your criticism observation, do you seriously believe,that one group can consistently mock and deride other peoples traditions and not expect a robust response, or are you suggestion, as you appear to be, that only certain people are entitled to express an opinion.

  • John Collins

    Anglicans also claim to be Catholic.

  • T.E.Lawrence

    Did you ever hear of this Orange Toast Seaan ?

    To the Glorious, Pious ad Immortal Memory of the Great and Good King William III who served us from Rogues and Roguery, Slaves and Slavery, Knaves and Knavery,
    Popes and Popery, from Brass Money and Wooden Shoes,
    And whoever Denies this Toast may he be Slammed,
    Crammed and Jammed into the Muzzle of the Great Gun of Athlone,
    And the gun fired into the Pope’s Belly and the Pope into The Devil’s Belly and the Devil into Hell,
    And the door locked and the key in an Orangeman’s Pocket :
    And may we never lack a brisk Protestant Boy to Kick the Arse of a Papist and here’s a Fart for the Bishop of Cork !

    1. The reference to Brass Money refers to the money made by James using Brass Cannon.

    2. The reference to Wooden Shoes refers to the French who persecuted the Huguenots.

    3. The Protestant Bishop of Cork was preaching against the practice of toasting the dead saying it was like the Popish one of saying mass for the dead.

  • T.E.Lawrence

    I would disagree that it was Cromwell’s actions more so the Ulster Protestants fighting alongside him avenging the 1641 massacres ??? They had Long Memories !

  • SeaanUiNeill

    TE, the “Ulster Protestants” did not fight alongside Cromwell. Like the Covenanters in Scotland, the northern armies choose to support Charles II, as did the Drogheda garrison which contained a great number of Royalists from England and Scotland (an ancestor of mine amongst them). With the entire northern armies of the planters ranged against Old Noll, Cromwell’s man sent north, Venables intercepted the Stewart Brother’s Laggan Army en route to Carrickfergus at the Battle of Lisnagarvy on the 6th Dec 1649 and massacred them. Dramatically more of our ancestors were killed at Lisnagarvy in a few short hours than had been lost in fighting the Confederacy of Kilkenny during the previous eight years! The Lisnagarvy massacre offered a salutary reminder that Old Noll’s genocidal intent was for all Irish, Gael, Sean-Ghall and recent planter alike, perhaps the sole thing on which he showed no discrimination!!! While he contemplated Hell or Connaught for the Gael, he was also contemplating Hell or Munster for those northern planters who survived Venables’ northern campaign.


    Every time I see Cromwell on a gable end or hear “Oliver’s advice” I wish my fellow citizens from a dissenter background really did have long (rather than selective) memories.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    TE, what William saved our dissenters from was religious tolerance:


    “Based on a rich array of newly discovered archival sources, Scott Sowerby’s groundbreaking history rescues the repealers from undeserved obscurity, telling the forgotten story of men and women who stood up for their beliefs at a formative moment in British history. By restoring the repealer movement to its rightful prominence, Making Toleration also overturns traditional interpretations of King James II’s reign and the origins of the Glorious Revolution. Though often depicted as a despot who sought to impose his own Catholic faith on a Protestant people, James is revealed as a man ahead of his time, a king who pressed for religious toleration at the expense of his throne. The Glorious Revolution, Sowerby finds, was not primarily a crisis provoked by political repression. It was, in fact, a conservative counter-revolution against the movement for enlightened reform that James himself encouraged and sustained.”

    It would be over a century before Presbyterians in Ireland and England again enjoyed that liberty of conscience and those civil liberties they experienced for a few months before their Anglican “friends” duped them into siding against the King who was offering all his citizens equality under the law.

    It is instructive to read the response of sane Presbyterians to the Kings “Declaration of Indulgence”:


    But I must remember that the LOI is “cultural, not political” (or in any sense historical)…..

  • Katyusha

    My school did not do rugby but did not mean rugby was ‘banned’.

    They probably didn’t have a system of corporal punishment for kids who dared to play rugby in the playground, though. Irish wasn’t just not “utilised” in schools, it’s usage was forbidden.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    First and foremost my original objection is to the lazy, simplified, MOPE-ridden ‘it’s the Prods what done it’ one size fits all argument, just so that we don’t end up in a completely different avenue of conversation.

    Regarding the descendants of the unfortunate who was clearly wronged by failings in the legal system (or rather its poor implementation) I would suggest that rather than taking amusement from my appraisal they should instead team up with the many thousands or tens of thousands of similarly indignant descendants of other victims of these circumstances as logically speaking if such a thing was common place then there would have been many, many instances of this.

    After that they could campaign against the wikipedia article that you referenced as it stated;

    ” Irish speakers insisted on using the language in the law courts (even when they knew English), and it was common to employ interpreters. It was not unusual for magistrates, lawyers and jurors to employ their own knowledge of Irish.”

    Whilst he may not have had the means to employ an interpreter this nonetheless shows that Irish was not ‘banned’ in the courts.

    Furthermore, the very same site flags up the following tit-bit (and it’s important to remember the ‘Prod’ aspect of the original assertion to which I objected);
    “The National Schools run by the Roman Catholic Church discouraged its use until about 1890. This was because most economic opportunity for most Irish people arose at that time within the United States of America and the British Empire, which both used English. Contemporary reports spoke of Irish-speaking parents actively discouraging their children from speaking the language, and encouraging the use of English instead. This practice continued long after independence, as the stigma of speaking Irish remained very strong.”

    Yes, the British caused this economic mire, but, it was not a BAN.

    As for Neil McBride, as much as I sympathise with him it’s simply ludicrous to suggest that this was a ‘ban’ on Irish. He could have had a sign that accommodated this anal law and conducted all of his affairs in Irish.

    Again, NOT a ban on Irish.

    Yes, it was restricted and had its wings clipped.

    Yes, it would have done better without British rule.

    But it was NOT banned wholesale which is exactly what the MOPErs would have us believe.
    Anyone who believes in objective study and is opposed to the hijacking of history for political means should be able to agree to this conclusion without batting an eyelid.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Indeed it was forbidden and given the corporal practices of the era I’d be surprised if the penalty for disobedience involved anything less than a belt.

    “The National Schools run by the Roman Catholic Church discouraged its use until about 1890. This was because most economic opportunity for most Irish people arose at that time within the United States of America and the British Empire, which both used English. Contemporary reports spoke of Irish-speaking parents actively discouraging their children from speaking the language, and encouraging the use of English instead. This practice continued long after independence, as the stigma of speaking Irish remained very strong.”

    Catholic schools aren’t exactly renowned for being light on corporal punishment.

    Anyhoo, my original point was regarding Transa’s MOPEry that asserted that the Prods ‘banned’ the language.

    They did not.

    The schools episode is another shameful one but it does not constitute a nationwide ban (such is the assertion) of the language.

    I am not unsympathetic to how the language suffered under British rule but similarly I can not allow objective history to suffer a similar fate in our era due to nationalistic axe-grinding.

  • T.E.Lawrence

    Cromwell was able to muster up 10,000 Irishmen to join his army in Ireland ! Where did they come from ?

  • Neonlights

    That’s certainly a question, and it is one that in times of crisis the economic leaders constantly ask of the politicians, they are busy talking about flags, culture, and what time the canteen is open

  • Nevin

    [Professor O Coigligh] ruled out the introduction of the Irish Language Act in Northern Ireland, which he said would be a “waste of money”.

    “I can’t understand why people are calling for a Language Act when they haven’t in the first instance looked at the absolute waste of money and effort of the Official Languages Act which we have in the Republic of Ireland. It serves no purpose,” said the professor.

    “The only effect of introducing a Language Act in Northern Ireland is to further alienate loyalist and unionist people.” .. Belfast Telegraph, 24 February 2017

  • Alan N/Ards

    Hi Seaan

    I don’t doubt that the events (on this island) which happened in the early part of the 20th century have played a major part in how we see things on this island. My own thoughts on this era have changed as I’ve got older. I now believe that unionism should have accepted home rule for Ireland ( at least for a 5/10 year trial period) to see if it could have worked. They had nothing to lose from this. If things didn’t work out ( and none of us know how it would have panned out) then they should’ve been allowed to secede and form NI. But, of course they didn’t and we are where are.

    The past cannot be changed and we can only be held accountable for how we live our own lives.

    If Oriel had berated present day unionism for the Ulster Workers strike in 74 then it would have been a fair point. Many of the instigators of it are still alive and are fair game. But not all unionists supported it.

    Yes, I accept that political unionism has fallen short in working for the good of this island over the last century, and it seems that they have not learned anything from the mistakes of the past.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Not from the northern planters anyway!!! The bitter opposition of the new Scots planters in the north the English parliament was enduring enough for Cromwell to consider planting them in Munster, as far from the possibility of any political collusion with their fellow scots over the water as could be managed. Next to his loading of Catholicism, Cromwell put the Presbyterians.

    There were a number of “Nua-Ghall” supporters of Cromwell in the south who had fluffed about under the odious Inchiquin (“Murchadh na dTóiteán”) with his defection to Parliament, but who deserted him when he supported Charles II following his fathers judicial murder. They would have provided a few thousand in Munster. Sir Charles Coote commanded another army comprised of Connaught planters and some forces from England, who held Derry at this time. The last significant Parliamentary force in arms in Ireland in before Cromwell’s descent was comprised of about 5000 English men who had accompanied Michael Jones to Dublin, and had been joined by 3000 of Jones’s old Royalist force who had been persuaded to desert their king by the rattle of gold. Are you thinking of this Dublin force, of which a bit under half were “local”? The one certainty remains that none of the Scots planters in the north supported Cromwell either at this time or during the interregnum.

  • T.E.Lawrence

    Yes I knew about Derry siding with Cromwells Parliamentary Forces but I also believe that a substantial element of the English Settlers in Co Armagh who took the brunt of 1641 pogoms sided and joined up with Cromwell’s Army which is not very much or well documented by historians ? The reason why I claim this as I have heard all the old stories past down from generation to generation regarding the subject from these people ! That could make up the 2K figure short in your figures above Seaan ?

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Hi Alan, we have considerable agreement then. You’ve described what is pretty much my own feelings on these matters on some things, but we’ll have t disagree about the responsibilities inherent in those who sustain political traditions. In any situation where the patterns of a history are woven into an ongoing debate, such things are encoded as unconscious habits of thought and effect actions. The habit of a recourse to violence which has been encoded in our political DNA is one such instance. The knee jerk habit of violent opposition which colours every aspect of DUP politics is one such baleful inheritance, the recognition that Westminster listens to violence, a perception which has coloured the entire IRA campaign, was an inheritance from Unionism’s success (through an underlying threat of violence) at almost every point between 1912 and 1926. As William Faulkner put it “The past is not dead, it’s not even past.” We are still living in a continuum of events the trajectory of which began before we were born, and those who are still reiterating these patterns of thought and action begun a century ago are as responsible for the problems of its continued influence as those others who first instigated the initial pattern. It is only with those who are honestly critiquing these encoded patterns that any change can begin to come.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    TE, you must not mistake Coote’s occupation of Derry at this time for Derry “siding with” anyone. Drogheda was occupied by Parliamentary forces under Monck only a short while before it was restored to the king and then besieged as a Royalist Town by Cromwell. The garrisoning of at won says nothing about allegiance at this time.

    On the stories, I have family between Creggan and Crossmaglen myself, whose presence dates from the Restoration period. Yes, I’ve heard these tales myself, but this may reflect the later pattern of land holding by Cromwellian soldiers who were offered land in lieu of pay in this area, rather than suggest that earlier planters somehow survived the unrest after 1641 in the area long enough to be about to join Cromwell. This was debatable land during the troubles of 1641-51, and many of the families planted there earlier either decamped in 1641, or joined the armies which supported Ormonde and the King.

    The Sligo Association of 1688 was almost entirely comprised of Cromwellian Planters dating from the interregnum period led by, amongst others, Coote’s son Chidley Coote. There was a similar Association in north Armagh, but even in the Restoration period South Armagh remained mostly difficult wooded high ground left to the “Mountany men”, Gaels who provided raparee bands in these years, retaining a very sparse planter settlement pattern which only really developed more extensively in the early eighteenth century. Other than the armies I’ve mentioned formed in Ireland by existing supporters for parliament, I do not believe that Cromwell gathered serious support from anyone in Ireland. Certainly not from the Scots and English Covenanter/Royalists in the north.

    Just an aside, Sandy Row was very much a “colony” of south Armagh during the nineteenth century, and as against the Shankill, (an Antrim colony), tended to be a very Church of Ireland community. My own people ended up living in Durham Street and attending Christ Church where the redoubtable Robert Routledge Kane was their Minister. Kane was a fluent Irish speaker, a chaplain to LOI Grand Lodge who was profoundly anti-Romanist, but something of an economic “Irish Ireland” Home Ruler. Nothing, I repeat, nothing is ever straightforward in this place!

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Aye, but does that include Shannon?

  • Nevin

    I’ve seen no mention of Jim Shannon as an Irish speaker other than the one reference, AG.

  • Angry Mob

    I’m saying that in regards to politicisation of an issue it takes two to tango, not as The Living End and yourself suggest where you both lay the blame solely on Unionists but of course that’s the done thing around here.

  • T.E.Lawrence

    Yes I have also known about Sandy Row having the Armagh connections. These people not only brought their COI community to this part of Belfast but their Orangeism as well Its also interesting that you mention the Rev Kane as there is an orange lodge from Sandy Row named after him called Kane Memorial LOL 890 which I have had the pleasure of walking with a few times as a matter of fact I have had a few lunches on the 12th of July up at Distillery Football Club Grounds in Ballyskeagh – Lambeg with them.This lodge has old football connections with Distillery way back when Distillery played at the bottom of Roden Street in the heart of West Belfast. There was also a few Distillery Football Supporters Clubs from the Sandy Row area. I believe there is one such supporters club left who meet in the Belfast Social Club at Shaftesbury Square Belfast. Finally on a football social/lodge front the late Tommy Dickson (The Duke of Windsor) who played and captained the famous Linfield 7 trophy winning team of the 60s was a great member of Kane Memorial LOL 890 – Sandy Row Number 5 Belfast District !

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Thank you T.E. for the information. I’ve, of course, only sketched a little here about Dr. R.R. Kane, so as not to try Micks patience with entirely side-lining a thread. I heard quite a few family stories about Kane, who even supported Home Rule for a while, referencing the original entirely negative Orange line on the Act of Union. To try and pull us back into the Irish language theme, he was of course a deeply committed patron of the Gaelic League in the years leading up to his death and ceaselessly tried to encourage both his parishioners and every Orange Lodge he visited to take up Irish and “claim their cultural birthright” (his words, referencing his own strong identification with his Ó Catháin roots). He was certainly successful with my own family, as even the most committed of Unionists in the extended family were Irish speakers in my grandfather’s generation. I’ve often thought of attempting to reconstruct his career in the LOI and discover the truth of the old story that, as secretary of his Lodge, he wrote the minutes up in Irish.

    Kane was of course the man who first coined the term “Rome Rule” and his attitude to all dissenters across the globe was equally scathing. I have some dry stories about his problems with the enormous floods of Presbyterians and others who “invaded ” the LOI in the wake of the 1859 religious revival, and his intense personal rivalry with Roaring Hugh Hanna.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    I’d not put too much faith in seventeenth century figures T.E. The 2K could itself disappear in that gap between the numbers claimed on paper, and the numbers who could actually be mustered in practice. Even the “New Model Army” was a business where Colonels were paid money, paid then to sub contractors who provided foot companies of troops of horse, and pocketed the difference between the numbers they claimed on paper and actual numbers. If called upon to parade numbers “passe-volants” would be collected to give the appearance of full numbers. It would be left to the next generation and the work of Louvois and Lt-col Jean Martinet to create a military culture where such abuses were finally weeded out. We’d also find that the garrisons of all the ports around Ireland who were targeted with heavy bribes would fill in another significant number of men for the muster roles, both flesh and blood and imaginary.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Loyalists also named a band and erected a statue of Governor Walker, seemingly forgeting (or never knowing) that he

    a/ also wanted to surrender and
    b/ pretty much wrote the Presbyterian efforts during the siege out of existence

    Also, Lundy was absolved of treason and sent to fight for the crown, if I understand correctly he was swapped for a dozen or so prisoners after he was captured at the battle of Al Manza

    The point is T.E. modern loyalist folk memory leaves an awful lot to be desired, it is the very essence of myth-making.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Another good example T.E.; the battle of the Boyne et al had very little to do with popery (you recall that the Pope was on William’s side), the only religion that benefited from that period was the church of money; it was all part of a grand plan by London merchants to get their hands on the Dutch Stock Exchange model which until then had given the little Dutch Republic an unfair advantage in naval matters and imperial expansion.

    Sure enough William implemented such changes very quickly, hence you say ‘Glorious Revolution’ and others say ‘financial revolution’; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Financial_Revolution

    For further reading of a more academically solid nature you could peruse through ‘Empire’ by Prof Niall Ferguson (very much an establishment man too),

    Anyone who was brought up on Orange ‘history’ (like me) was sold short on the truth stakes.

  • John Collins

    Funny enough most, if not all, of the Sindo correspondents quoted, and of course Kevin Myers, are utterly anti Irish customs, the RC, the GAA, the language and almost anything else which might be considered Irish. They despise the men of 1916 with a passion and almost to a man they persecuted, harassed and ridiculed John Hume, while he tried to bring peace to NI. So in many ways they are more than sympathetic to the Unionist cause, if not downright Unionists.

  • John Collins

    Well I suppose you have a point, but do not be amazed by the attitude of the RCC, because after they took their thirty pieces of silver in 1795 they opposed every thing with a nationalist tinge right up to 1916. Some Protestants, to give them their proper title, and especially their clergymen, did far more to preserve the Irish Language than Catholic Clergy ever did.However, I certainly feel it is very difficult to justify some of the more recent remarks made by DUP and TUV politicians on these matters, as in the last ten or fifteen years. Time has moved on.

  • T.E.Lawrence

    Thanks for that bit of information AG about Walker ! I am glad now I never joined any of them treacherous Walker ABOD clubs and just stuck with my local No Surrender Club !

  • Angry Mob

    … if not downright Unionists.

    Wouldn’t that be a deplorable thing, it might even make their opinions invalid?

  • Robert ian Wiliams

    Not our experience in Wales…..jobs for the boys..millions wasted and Welsh still declining.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Well, this is the point T.E., who were really the traitors to the crown?

  • John Collins

    All I am saying that they come from the same stable as the others and true to form they are anti every thing Irish. That is their right but we do have to take a whole lot of notice of them. They are no danger to man or beast in this republic.

  • John Collins

    Funny you say that because some of the most forthright contributors from the P/U/L community, like Jollyray and the delightfully named Barnshee (which could mean The Head Fairy), among others, seem to have marked themselves absent.
    Long ago when Charlie Haughey was told that his arch enemy Connor Cruise O’Brien was in hospital he wryly commented ‘nothing trivial I hope’. Let me hasten I do not wish those people, mentioned above, any ill will, CH in relation to the Cruiser

  • John Collins

    What struck me was OCs sheer hypocrisy. When his troops cut loose in Wexford he said that they ran a muck and he could not control them. As shown in the hen episode he could have controlled them fine if he wanted to.

  • Angry Mob

    They are Irish though and of course being Irish in not a prerequisite for speaking it, not being in favour of the Irish doesn’t forgo their Irish identity or citizenship.

  • John Collins

    Cromwell claimed he wanted to avenge 1641. Why did he not go to Ulster where most of the 1641 atrocites were committed, or did he get cold feet, as he did after Owen Roe handed him his arse on a plate in Clonmel and he then ran back back to England, rather than face the even warmer reception we had in store for him in Limerick.
    Forty years later William also declined the opportunity to be ‘received’ by us, after the siege train was blown up at Ballyneety.

  • T.E.Lawrence

    Great to hear from another young Jacobite however I would not go publishing too much about Limerick ! Wasn’t it there that 1000 Jacobites joined the Williamite army rather that set sail for France from Cork with their comrades ?

  • John Collins

    I have heard this before and I can understand why they might have joined William. They may have been under the impression that they, and their people, were getting a fair deal based on the articles of the Treaty of Limerick. However when it emerged later that the treaty was shamefully broken, I wonder how many of them remained committed to William. Hence the term ‘Remember Limerick and Saxon Treachery’.

  • John Collins

    What bugs me is not opposing the language, but some of them assume that any Irish speaker is automatically an IRA supporter and one Southern Journalist surpassed this view in sheer nonsense by associating the Irish Language with pedophilia.

  • T.E.Lawrence

    If you are ever up in Belfast John you and Seaan should take the historical tour up at the House of Orange HQ on the upper creggagh road east Belfast. It is a very good tour and exhibition and you will be surprised that it is not a Williamite propaganda tour but a very balance view of history in Ireland at that time.

  • John Collins

    Well I will take up that offer and it is refreshing to hear the news that it seems to give a balanced view of that era.
    There is a commentator in Limerick who reckons that as the French Kings of that were such dictators and of course absolute rulers, as the Stuarts, and their nephew, were up to 1690, that no Irish soldiers at all should have joined the French. However only 1,000 joined William after the the TOL and 16,000 went to a foreign land with a different culture, and thus probably disavailed themselves of ever returning to their native home, despite what would then have appeared to have been a reasonable settlement. Thousands more left for France afterwards with the the Flight of the Wild Geese.