Arlene’s Valentines Day Massacre

Today could not have turned out any bigger a mess for the incumbent DUP Leader and would-be First Minister. If sources are to be believed the Fermanagh MLA was ready to sign off on a deal which would have seen 3 Bills introduced : An Irish Language Bill An Ulster Scots Bill A Joint Respect Bill What has happened since the weekend to put the Stormont train off the rails? A DUP Group meeting on Monday morning, 3 days of … 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

Take Back Control – of our Ulster-Scots histories

A friend of mine was sacked from the civil service for saying that Ulster-Scots was a made up language. Unfortunately he said it in the newspaper. But lots of us have said it in private, right? LOLed at the dafties whilst railing against the DUP. Or for unionists, awkwardly pushed it forward as a political issue. I’ve been thinking recently about how radical the Scottish legacy in Northern Ireland is. And how uncomfortably this sits beside our understandings of Ulster-Scots … 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 drive for independence suspected in new boost for Scots language. Sounds familiar?

The Financial Times (£ paywall) which is so good at making its limited space for non-financial themes count, reports a new boost for the Scots language which the writer Mure Dickie suspects is part of the longer term drive for independence.  In language policy, the parallels as well as contrasts  with both Irish and Ulster Scots hardly need much spelling out. But I hope you will – enjoy, is that the word? – the distortions  of  what we think of as … Read more

Blue Plaque unveiled in Aghadowey

Yesterday the Ulster History Circle unveiled a Blue Plaque at Aghadowey Presbyterian Church in honour of Rev. James McGregor. Aghadowey Presbyterian Church was founded in 1655 making it one of the oldest congregations west of the Bann. It also has amongst the largest Presbyterian church buildings in County Londonderry. Rev. James McGregor was a veteran of the siege of Derry where he is purported by some to have been the first to see the relieving ships. He became minister of … Read more

Time for Lord Laird to retire

Discretion and tact have never been John Laird’s close friends. Good judgment has been a positive stranger.  Some of his causes like Ulster Scots were accompanied by a fair amount of indulgence, as all the world knew.  John was not part of the temperance wing of Unionism. Reviewing his artlessly revealing autobiography I described him as Ulster Unionism’s jester, a word  less open to misunderstanding than clown or  fool.  I stand by that.  Jesters or clowns are exaggerated performers who … Read more

Two new minority language community radio stations on either side of the Bann

OFCOM has announced five new community radio licenses today, of which one will be going Irish Gaelic and the other Ullans… In its application, fUSe FM said it will “reflect the traditions, language and culture of Ulster Scots in Ballymoney and surrounding areas”. Raidió G said in its application that it “will serve the Irish language community, and those with an interest in Irish language and culture within the broader English-speaking community, in the Greater Maghera Area in south County … Read more

Snap, Craickle and Pop: The Controversy of Popular Gaelicisation

Ever since Ireland was told that the black stuff might not be Irish, but rather a porter stout from Covent Garden, the country has descended into a frantic state of uncertain soul-searching and impassioned reflection to clarify once and for all what is actually ‘Irish’ (potatoes, Gaelic Storm, and Saint Patrick aside).   But now the most quintessentially ‘Irish’ institution of them all is under intense academic scrutiny, the much celebrated notion of ‘the craic’ (and that’s before considering the … Read more

A poem for (yester) day – Affshore

In the early 90s I was living in Portmuck, Co Antrim, with a small child who thought the beach was where you lived, rain or shine, day or night. A gas pipeline was being laid between the Ayrshire and Antrim coasts, and the ‘supergun‘ scandal was in the news. Then the same news told us that all up the coast old phosporous bombs were washing ashore, and igniting in contact with the air. It turned out they were the refuse … Read more

The feast of Columbanus accompanied by speeches from Lord Bannside & the Irish President

Irish President Mary McAleese with artist Ian Fleming

If you listened to Thought for the Day on Radio Ulster yesterday, you’d have been aware that Tuesday was the Feast of Saint Columbanus. The speaker described him as “a bit of a stirrer”. Which set the tone for the lunchtime celebration of Columbanus organised by the Ullans Academy in an East Belfast hotel and featuring speeches from academy president Dr Ian Adamson, Lord Bannside and the Irish President. As far as I can tell, the Ullans Academy is very … Read more