The Digital Border and the Euros

As we approach the vote on 23 June to decide whether or not the UK remains in the European Union, an increasing amount of the discussion has focused on the possibility of the erection of border posts along the boundary between Northern Ireland and the 26 counties should Brexit become a reality. However there’s a very real border on this island already and it’s not been voted on at all. It’s what I call the digital border and as another … Read more

Acht na Gaeilge: Ciall cheannaigh….bought sense better than taught sense

In welcoming the publication of proposals for an Irish Language Act for Northern Ireland, it’s important to remember the old Irish sean-fhocal, Ciall cheannaigh níos fearr ná an dá chiall a mhúintear.  Roughly translated, sense paid for (by bitter experience) is better than two attempts to teach sense. A pre-publication of the proposals – inspired leaking – in the Irish News this morning gives us a heads up on the main proposals – and these are likely to fuel the fevered … Read more

Hoist on his own petard……

Curious, wasn’t it? Nelson McCausland’s choice of language to highlight his ‘concern’ over a letter sent to primary school principals throughout Northern Ireland, inviting them to consider including an Irish language study programme in the school curriculum. According to Nelson, this was another effort by Sinn Féin to “weaponise” the Irish language and to use it as a tool, it seems, to entice unionists to be assimilated within an Irish identity. Apart from the fact that the letter was sent … Read more

Acht na Gaeilge: Time for a mature discussion

The Stormont House Agreement arrived at as Christmas dawned was supposed to have heralded a new dispensation for Northern Ireland and yet here we are in early January with the same old theatrics. A Sinn Féin Minister proposes a consultation process on the long promised Irish Language Act (2006, St Andrews) and up pops that stalwart defender of minority language (Ulster Scots) and culture (Loyal orders etc), Nelson McCausland. He doesn’t even know what’s in the proposed bill and yet … Read more

Cold and stormy at ‘Cnoc an Anfa’

I was up in Stormont yesterday – Cnoc an Anfa is the Irish for Stormont – and it certainly lived up to its name.  It was bitterly cold, so cold I could feel my fingers begin to detach themselves from my body as I clutched my ‘Acht Gaeilge’ placard at the bottom of the steps of that grandiose building. There were around a hundred of us, participating in an anti-racism pro diversity demonstration, called to demand an Irish Language Act … Read more

Gregory Campbell and the law of unintended consequences

Not that he cares but Gregory Campbell MP’s recent remarks about the Irish language and his contemptuous dismissal of the campaign for an Irish Language Act has had some unintended consequences from those he may have imagined. It’s very easy to see why Gregory Campbell, drifting as he was to the margins of his party having been left out of the Executive by his leader in successive reshuffles, would want to make some grand effort to get back in the … Read more

The Irish language belongs to us all, not just to Sinn Féin

It must be very tempting in this current highly charged atmosphere to convert any turn of events into an attack on Sinn Féin and Gerry Adams.   And God knows the party does provide the material for onslaughts.    However the recent ill-informed and ignorant ‘Curry My Yoghurt’ remarks of Gregory Campbell, and the subsequent farce of barring him from speaking in the Assembly for a day he was due to be in Westminster, doesn’t seem to me to be a … Read more

Tuairisc is almost all about .ie

Around tea time on Thursday, before a multitude of Irish language grandees, the new all Ireland funded Irish language web service, Tuairisc.ie (report), was launched. This follows a public competition earlier this year – a competition in which an application I was involved in was shortlisted but ultimately unsuccessful. Fair warning, then, this could be all down to sour grapes. The public competition was established by Foras na Gaeilge to seek a replacement for Gaelscéal, whose funding had been withdrawn for poor … Read more

NI21’s ‘tús maith’ !

One swallow doesn’t make a Summer and one bilingual billboard can’t erase the generations of anti Irish language unionist politics – but the bold initiative by NI21 to include the Irish language in its election campaign has to be hailed as a breakthrough of sorts. Look at any of the unionist party websites and you will note the absence of any Irish language content and, on top of that, any reference to the Irish language is invariably hostile.   The … Read more

‘Silver Liberties’, Sinn Féin and the Ciste

One of the artistic injustices of the Troubles has been righted this week with very little fanfare indeed.   Down at the Ulster Museum, an artwork, entitled ‘Silver Liberties’, by Lancashire born artist, Conrad Atkinson, has been hung this week.  Back in 1978, it was the piece, created to mark the Queen’s Silver Jubilee, which the porters refused to hang because it featured four panels, three of which were in the colours of the Tricolour.    There’s been no great … Read more

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

Sinn Féin, with the shamelessness we’ve become accustomed to from Establishment politicians, were to the fore in today’s ‘LáDearg’ parade in Belfast with several aspiring candidates behind a banner proclaiming the party’s support for an Irish Language Act in the north. Shameless because the several thousand protesters who paraded in colourful good form from the Cultúrlann on the Falls Road to the Custom House Square were expressing their anger at decisions in which Sinn Féin members had participated and, indeed, … Read more

Showdown at the Cultúrlann

More heat than light was produced at a special broadcast of the leading Irish language current affairs radio programme, RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta’s Cormac ag a Cúig, at the Cultúrlann on Tuesday evening when Foras na Gaeilge deputy chief executive, Seán Ó Coinn, faced an audience embittered by the recent decision by the cross border body to award the contracts for promoting Irish on an all island basis to six bodies with their head quarters in the south. The contracts … Read more

An Irish speaker’s reaction to Orangeman’s outburst

Belfast’s County Orange Order Grandmaster George Chitick may protest that he never intended to offend Irish speakers with his exhortation to Protestants not to learn the language he termed part of the ‘republican’ agenda. But Irish speakers in Belfast and throughout the north are well used to such insults, going back to the time of Sammy Wilson’s infamous ‘leprechaun language’ jibe and beyond. While it’s disappointing, it’s not surprising and life will go on. Grand Master Chitick may be surprised … Read more

The North short-changed in Irish language shake up

So yesterday (Thursday) Pobal, the Irish language advocacy group for Northern Ireland, had its critique of the failures of the Stormont Assembly and Executives regarding the Irish language strategy endorsed by no less an organisation than the Council of Europe. But today the cross border body, Foras na Gaeilge, announces the new ‘lead organisations/ceann eagraiochtai’ for the promotion of Irish on an all Ireland basis and none of the NI based organisations, including POBAL, Iontaobhas ULTACH, Forbairt Feirste or Altram … Read more

Cuts and splits: How the Irish language community’s most effective advocates are being silenced

At an event on the Newtownards Road on Thursday to open Belfast’s newest Irish language centre, Linda Ervine, sister in law of the late David Ervine, spoke of ‘An Ghaeilge’ as her language. It was nothing to hide or be afraid of speaking, an attitude which might come as news to some unionist politicians. While there was a celebratory mood in Skainos, the good humour belied the darker clouds gathering for Belfast based organisations which have contributed in various ways … Read more

Shock horror! Independent publishes its own Irish language news supplement

If you told me ten or five years ago that the only Irish language newspaper of any description would be provided by the Irish Independent, I would have ended up spending the rest of the day in intensive care.   Independent News and Media have long been regarded as one of the arch enemies of the Irish language, and not without cause.  Derision of the Irish language has been a default position, it seems, of nearly all the columnists – … Read more

Partitionism is alive and well in All Ireland

Irony is lost on some people. Like the person I spoke with in India representing a well known mobile phone company, which is available on both sides of the border, as I tried to finalise a mobile phone contract in Northern Ireland/the North of Ireland. I explained to her that I had moved back to Belfast in the past month to take up a new job. Where had I been previously? Cork, I responded. What’s your post code there? There … Read more

Farewell to Gaelscéal

I am writing this article in English (though I will probably write something similar in Irish for Gaelscéal) because I want slugger fans, the majority of whom are English readers, to read it and engage with the issue, rather than get bogged down in whether or not it should be in Irish or English. As poet Michael Hartnett wrote in his poem, Farewell to English: But I will not see
great men go down who walked in rags
from town to town … Read more