The authority to speak, linquistic intolerance, anonymity and monolingual regimes

There’s a line in a poem by Seán Ó Riordáin poem called Daoirse/Captivity or Unfreedom which talks about a woman and the way she might talk to you and the impact that would have on you. Dá labhródh bean leat íseal nach ísleofá do ghuth, dá mbeadh an bean réasúnta, nach réasúnófaí thú. If a woman spoke to you quietly, wouldn’t you lower your voice, if the woman was reasonable, wouldn’t that make you reasonable too. Bernadette O’Rourke, who gave … Read more

A way forward – let’s legislate for the European Charter for Regional and Minority Languages

As I watched the Nolan show last night, my heart went out to Linda Ervine – a courageous woman pitted against an all male panel and an audience full, it seemed, of antagonistic loyalists who appeared fearful of an Irish language act and what they thought it might do to their identity. It reminded me of the famous Seán Ó Riordáin poem which contained the lines: Dá labhródh bean leat íseal, nach n-ísleofá do ghuth, dá mbeadh an bean réasúnta … Read more

How language and culture become ‘sectarianised’

The day when we got three words of Irish from Nelson McCausland should be a red letter day for us Irish speakers but the use by Nelson of ‘An Béal Bocht’, the title the classic comic novel by Strabane’s Brian Ó Nualláín, (aka Myles na Gopaleen/Flann O’Brien), marks yet another low point in the discourse on language issues by yet another unionist politician. He was never known as Brian O’Nolan as Nelson writes, effecting to reduce this giant of Irish … Read more

Now we see who’s ‘red (white and blue) lines’ are holding up the show!

It’s becoming increasingly clear that unionist political parties and politicians have set their opposition to an Irish Language Act and, by extension, any form of an Irish identity within ‘British’ NI as a priority ‘red line’ ahead of returning to powersharing or, even, at the most fundamental level aspiring to an equal Union between NI and the rest of the UK. The rhetoric today from Arlene Foster in which she set out what she would not countenance in response to … Read more

Sins of omission

More than a year since the collapse of the Assembly over, among other things, the refusal of the DUP to respect previous agreements which promised an Irish Language Act,  we’re no further on this issue and, it could be argued, any of the other outstanding issues. One thing I don’t understand is why the British Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, neither this one or the previous incumbent, have met the Irish language groups campaigning for the legislation or, rather, … Read more

Hysterical Unionist reaction to Irish Language Act proposals damage the ‘Union’

Irish speakers are entertained mightily at present by a series of memes poking fund at the Newsletter’s hysterical obsession with scare stories about what an Irish Language Act might do to Northern Ireland – the funniest features a front page story trumpeting a proposal to replace Edward Carson’s statue at Stormont with one of Peig Sayers. It would be funny except it were so serious, unionist politicians and opinion leaders have got it all wrong. At a time when increasing … Read more

Unionists should welcome Irish Language Act with open arms

As I read the latest contributions regarding the Irish language from UUP leader Robin Swann and its echo in the Newsletter’s Morning View, it seems to me that they have tied themselves in a knot about Acht na Gaeilge.   A Gordian knot is a phrase that occurs to me.  It seems impossible to loosen but is easily unravelled with the judicious use of logic and good sense. Unionists like Robin Swann, Jim Allister and the writer of the Belfast … Read more

Less heat, more light needed on Acht na Gaeilge coverage

It never fails to amuse me, when a news report highlights what a political leader WILL say later that day or night.   What someone WILL say in a speech, to my mind, has no place in a news report.   Most speeches released early to newsdesks  carry a warning in bold print:  Check Against Delivery.   So much can be conveyed by tone and eye contact and other physical tells, reporting in advance what a political leader WILL say … Read more

Ulster Scots now being ‘weaponised’

I’ve been following with interest the coverage of the Ulster Scots Agency’s funding plan since the story was first brought to light earlier this week in the Belfast Newsletter – and subsequently refried by other outlets. It was clear from the outset where the story was going as the Ulster Scots Agency CEO used a duplicitious figure ascribed to funding the Irish language, which had been used in a DUP press release – as the basis for the funding he … Read more

Ulster Scots, Ulster Irish, Irish Scots, Ulster Gaelic, Gaeilge Uladh

As Summer rolls on and disputes rumble regarding the possibility (or not) of the enactment of an Irish Language Act – or a Languages Act – or a Culture(s) Act,  we seem to be stuck in a labyrinth of ever decreasing circles or some Byzantine entrapment from which there is no escape. As Christy Moore once sang:  For all of our languages we can’t communicate. As an Irish speaker I’m conflicted about Ulster Scots.  It’s clearly a dialect of English … Read more

The Irish Language Act: Real costs revealed by Conradh na Gaeilge

It’s finally here, the bill for the proposed Irish Language Act.  This is the estimated cost from Conradh na Gaeilge, the umbrella group for Irish language speakers and organisations advocating for legislation to protect the Irish language from capricious political attacks and to promote it resolutely as per the Good Friday Agreement and The St Andrews accord. The good news is that this estimate, put together by the organisation advocating for the legislation is a fraction of the price tags … Read more

Who’s afraid of an Irish Language Act?

The publication of a report by a committee of Council of Europe experts into the failure by the Stormont Executive is the main story on the BBC NI News bulletins and website this morning.   Coming on the heels of a ‘brutal’ election campaign during which the Irish language was propelled into the centre of the political debate by the DUP leader Arlene Foster with her infamous ‘crocodile’ gaffe, perhaps it’s no surprise. The ‘crocodile’ remarks, coming on the heels … Read more

What the DUP have done….

I attended a meeting in Belfast on Monday night, no ordinary gathering either.  It was a meeting called by Finance Minister and Sinn Féin candidate Mairtín Ó Muilleoir to facilitate a conversation between the Irish language community about the current political situation and the threat it poses and/or the opportunity it presents. Irish language activists from throughout the six counties showed up at the Cultúrlann on the Falls Road for the event.   It had been a long time since … Read more

The Irish Language Act can better NI society, cynicism will destroy it

Two years ago the Cultúrlann hosted a group of Gaidhlig psalm singers from Lewis.  The renditions by the singers from the Bach Presbyterian Church of age old hymns in Gaidhlig was a reminder of our common Gaelic culture, a shared heritage which could not be sundered by petty religious spite. Spite seems to be order of the day here, however, as we are held hostage once again to the whims of a backward looking DUP in an electoral process in which … Read more

Fake News and the Assembly Elections

How does the saying go – fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice shame on me!    If one positive thing emerged from the 2016 US Presidential Election, it’s the focus on the phenomenon of the influence of Fake News on the electoral process.  It’s difficult to assess the level of impact but we’ve heard that #fakenews is already out scoring real news in terms of attracting clicks and the UK MPs believe that democracy itself is under threat. … Read more

Have [or how] the DUP made a United Ireland more likely?

Fintan O’Toole seems to think so. He argues in his column in the Irish Times that the party’s shady dealings – the Iris Robinson affair, the NAMA scandal and the Cash for Ash debacle – make the DUP look like Fianna Fáíl’s northern branch. While the ‘Brexit spree’ gambled the future of NI within the ‘UK’. As O’Toole puts it: “Before it embarked on its Brexit spree, Northern Ireland was becoming a surprisingly stable political entity. For the first time … Read more

The DUP and the ‘cost’ of the Irish Language Act: Fake News and alternative facts

A headline atop the latest column from former cultural minister and DUP figure Nelson McCausland made his point clear: £2 billion over 20 years – the real cost of the Irish Language Act Gerry Adams doesn’t want to talk about Nelson McCausland doesn’t want an Irish Language Act because, he claims, the cost could end up dwarfing the RHI debacle. Frankly, I have a suspicion that the DUP are seeking anything which might dwarf the RHI debacle! In his article … Read more

It’s time for the DUP to change its tune on Gaeilge

I was listening to Evening Extra  after a day which began with Paul Givan finding £50,000 to restore to the Líofa bursaries in his ministerial sofa and which featured a marvellous and energetic protest outside his department imploring him to continue his search to see whether he might find the missing Irish Language Act. It was discouraging, I suppose, to listen to Mairtín Ó Muilleoir, an old friend, refusing to say whether or not his party would regard the introduction of … Read more

The Irish language hasn’t gone away you know

I’m back at work though suffering with a cold, flu or ‘man-flu’.   I don’t like feeling congested at the best of times.  Being back at work at the start of a cold and wet January doesn’t brighten my mood. This is all put in perspective by Martin McGuinness who has serious health issues, it seems.   I wish him a speedy recovery.   Nara fada go raibh tú ar do shean léim!     In the light of his … Read more

Light not heat should come as a result of RHI scandal

As the clamour increases for the rolling of heads, even from those who find themselves within the proverbial glasshouse, it’s important to see what can be salvaged from the mess which is rapidly escalating on the Hill of Stormont.    The disintegration is underlined by the bellicose line from Arlene Foster who is trying to distract attention from her own mishandling of the RHI scheme and, in particular, the latest fall out, with bogus claims of ‘misogyny’ and a rather … Read more