Caitriona takes a kicking

Caitriona Ruane is taking a pummelling, this time from the SDLP and the unionist representatives on the Assembly Commission. It seems Ms Ruane wanted to provide answers to MLAs’ questions in both Irish and English. The Assembly Commission voted her down, the SDLP representative voting with the unionists on the Commission and only the Alliance member siding with Ms Ruane.
I find myself mildly conflicted by this. On the one hand, Caitriona Ruane will have to accept that the ruling has been made by a democratic vote – just like the flags issue in Belfast City Council. On the other hand, the Assembly Commission is wrong.
If you check the St Andrew’s Agreement  of 2006 you’ll find that it committed the British government to work with the incoming Executive to protect and enhance the development of the Irish and Ulster-Scots languages.
If you check the Good Friday Agreement, you’ll find that amendments to it commit  all hands to ‘recognise the importance, respect, understanding and tolerance in relation to linguistic diversity, including in Northern Ireland the Irish language, Ulster Scots and the languages of the various ethnic minority communities, all of which are part of the cultural wealth of the island of Ireland’.
I wonder how those in the Assembly Commission who voted down Caitriona Ruane’s wish to speak in Irish as well as English square that with their commitment to the Good Friday Agreement?  I suspect they can’t. When Caitriona Ruane wanted to get her complaint included in the Assembly Commission’s annual report to the Equality Commission, she got another thumb’s-down. 
Maybe the Assembly Committee, as well as re-reading the Good Friday Agreement, might want to check out the system in a place like Canada. There, the English-speaking majority make a genuine effort, in terms of public documents, speeches and the like to support the minority French language.  They might also want to remember the late Monsignor Denis Faul’s contention: ‘There’s nothing like a touch persecution to energize the faithful’.

17 Responses to Caitriona takes a kicking

  1. Cuchulainn Ghobsmacht October 16, 2013 at 10:28 am #

    Surely a great way to encourage the respect, tolerance and indeed learning of Irish and Ulster-Scots is for asking people who are viewed to be Partisan by a section of the community (such as Sinn Fein and various Ulster-Scots groups) to leave the languages/dialects alone?

    The animosity many Protestants have towards Irish or Gaelic in general is pretty much thanks to Republicans.

    Likewise, if Ulster-Scots advocates are so evangelical about their Scottish heritage then why is the culture which they espouse seemingly surgically altered to remove the Gaelic elements? (apart from Highland dancing, kilts (sort of) and bagpipes (sort of) but don’t tell them that or they’ll end up on the bonfire too…)

    If the Ulster-Scots groups in Antrim would broaden their horizons a little bit they’d see how alike Antrim Irish and Islay Gaelic are, thanks in part to the ‘earlier’ waves of Scots to Ireland.
    But then again they’d be too much like the ‘f*nians’ and therein lies the problem…

  2. Anonymous October 16, 2013 at 11:32 am #

    Catriona Ruane speaking in one language is too much for most people. It certainly was the case for Sinn Fein when they removed the education post from her. It would seem from what you are saying that she still has the ability to unite the political parties at Stormont. Hooray for Catriona. And she does speak Irish in the Assembly and a genuine effort is made to support the Irish language. So stop slinging brickbats and being misleading. Go back to Peter bashing, that’s what your good at and not Gerrymandering every other day.

    • Jude Collins October 16, 2013 at 2:40 pm #

      ‘It would seem from what you are saying that she still has the ability to unite the political parties at Stormont’ – you really have an over-heated imaginatioin, Anon. Maybe you should read what I wrote again.

    • Anonymous October 16, 2013 at 7:27 pm #

      You stated that Unionists and nationalists were united in their opposition. Well coming from someone who last week had me in E Africa knee deep in asbestos dust and water searching for files, I’ll take the over-heated imagination part in good humour.

  3. Jude Collins October 16, 2013 at 11:34 am #

    Thanks for thoughts, CG. Re Ulster-Scots: it is of course a rather beautiful dialect, not a language. How it’s promoted I’ll leave to those involved in it. Re Irish, I wouldn’t agree republicans should detach themselves because unionists see them as somehow contaminating the language. The fault lies with those who would (absurdly, in my opinion) shy away from a language because they see it in this narrow way rather than with republicans for rejoicing in the language. There’s loads of room for everyone – check out the East Belfast Mission, which has over a hundred unionist people learning Irish. Or even check tomorrow on the Nolan Show, when I may be exchanging words/ideas with David Vance.

    • Cuchulainn Ghobsmacht October 17, 2013 at 12:08 am #

      I take it you’re referring to Linda Ervine’s wonderful efforts?

      Hats off to her, I was delighted when I heard this. Truly.
      I wish the project every success

      I’m afraid the number one gripe for Protestants and the Irish language is its endorsement by Republicans.
      I wish someone would do a survey on this.

      Of course, the perceived history of the Protestant relationship with the language differs a great deal from the reality, there’s a book called ‘Towards Inclusion: Protestants and the Irish Language’.
      A belter of a read.

      I’m having a stab at Scottish-Gaelic myself.
      Like I say, the Ulster-Scots groups should be more amenable to this yet somehow…

      Good post Mr Collins

  4. Anonymous October 16, 2013 at 1:59 pm #

    The Gaelic language is in terminal decline . Discuss .
    In 1851 there were more Gaelic speakers than Finnish speakers . Go to Helsinki today and Finnish is spoken everywhere. Go to Dublin(or Galway or any town in Ireland) today and you will hear, apart from the occasional conversation in Polish or Lithuanian , nothing but English . In 1851 , Finland was ruled by the Russians and the landowning class and wealthier urban dwellers were Swedish . In 1851 Ireland was ruled by the English and the landowning class and wealthier urban dwellers were English in speech and origin . Why did Finnish prosper and Gaelic wither ? Starting in the prosperous farming districts in the last quarter of the eighteenth century, The Catholic Irish people chose , quite deliberately, to abandon the Gaelic language and adopt English . The Irish colonial experience is not unique in Europe ; the histories of Latvia, Finland, Estonia, Croatia, Slovakia …. are not so different from the history of ireland since 1200 A.D. But the abandonment of their ancient language by the Irish , that is a singular event amongst contemporary European states . We need to face up to our own culpability and move on . There is no going back — alas .

    • Jude Collins October 16, 2013 at 2:38 pm #

      Thanks for detailed commentary, Anon. I think if you push back into history a bit you’ll find that the ‘quite deliberate’ choice was motivated by the English overlords who set out, as do all imperialists, to destroy the native culture and language, and failing that to convince the people that it was second-rate and not worth bothering about, that of the imperialist was the real thing so have some for your own sake.

    • Anonymous October 16, 2013 at 6:14 pm #

      You’re right of course (1972, 10 children taught through the medium of Irish in one clapped out mobile classroom on Shaws Rd – 2013 4000+ children taught through the medium of Irish throughtout the 6 counties in top of the range facilities) there is definitly no going back!

    • Mal Kearney October 16, 2013 at 9:24 pm #

      Look at the number of views this song has: The Irish language is actually on a large upward curve, helped on the way by using music as a medium to promote it.
      In most countries in Europe, many of it’s residents speak second (sometimes third and forth) languages. They also embrace these languages, but with the sad and stupid mindsets in this Island, we unfortunately lag behind others.
      Regarding Anon comment on Galway – I would disagree with that. Have you ever been to Connemara or the Gaeltacht? I have, and English is rarely spoken, although the locals will accomodate those not fluent in the language. The west of Ireland and areas around Galway is actually where Irish language is most commonly used.
      Ireland, now, more than at any other point in its history is a multi-cultural society. We have many nationalities living amongst us, so the more languages we embrace as a nation, the better, as far as I’m concerned. Is that such a bad thing?

    • Anonymous October 17, 2013 at 10:59 pm #

      Many peoples in Europe have been the subjects of imperialist , cultural pressure – Russification , Germanization, Turkification etc . But uniquely amongst the independent states of modern Europe, the Irish are the only ones to have succumbed and abandoned their indigenous language as a living , vigorous vernacular. I know this is a very sensitive issue for some people but as a Northern Catholic (and Gaeilgeoir) who has worked in the education system in the Republic for over thirty years, I can confirm that , apart from some of the population aged over fifty years of age in small areas of West Galway and West Donegal, the Gaelic language as vernacular speech is as dead as Sanskrit . And in those small areas of West Galway and Donegal, the language of the playground is English . Even in areas with a living tradition of Gaelic speech, Irish language schools do not produce vernacular speakers as the experience in the republic since 1922 will prove . In my experience the Gaelic language is treated like an elderly relative — spoken of kindly but usually ignored

  5. Anonymous October 16, 2013 at 3:43 pm #

    Presumably M/s Ruane fully represents the views of Sinn Fein.It would be interesting to know how many of the S F M L A s are fluent or even semi-fluent in Irish.Its quite easy to parrot the phrase “Go raibh Maith agat,a Leas Ceann Comhairle”.The real test would be for them to actually debate in Irish.Interesting to see a favourable mention for Monsignor Faul in your blog.I seem to remember a time when he was not so well regarded by elements in Sinn Fein!

    • Jude Collins October 16, 2013 at 5:53 pm #

      Thanks for thoughts, Anon. However, I would vigorously disagree with the notion that except you are fluent/semi-fluent in Irish, you are not entitled to promote or encourage Irish. I think Irish dancing is a beautiful aspect of our culture but I wouldn’t want to be put on alongside Michael Flatley – or even his 99-year-old granny.

    • Jude Collins October 16, 2013 at 5:58 pm #

      PS I don’t think it needs too much exercise of the grey matter to realise that you might disagree with people on Issue A but agree with them on Issue B. Don’t you think?

  6. giordanobruno October 16, 2013 at 5:08 pm #

    I don’t see this as helping promote the language.
    It would be like a hellfire preacher using the opportunity of a funeral to preach a sermon. Half the audience are converted already and the other half just resent being subjected to it against their will.
    The East Belfast initiative is more positive.
    The suspicion must be that this is just the children at Stormont finding ways to poke each other in the ribs.
    (Two ‘l’s in pummelling by the way.We are not Americans thank god.)

    • Jude Collins October 16, 2013 at 5:56 pm #

      Well, that’s one way of looking at it. Another is to say that we’ve had the period in Irish history when people weren’t allowed to speak Irish without being penalised, and that it’s quite reasonable to give your answer in a language that all understand PLUS a language that only some understand but which you know and love. I’d be totally against stick-poking but I’d be totally for one’s right to use one’s native language.

    • Jude Collins October 16, 2013 at 6:58 pm #

      Gio – you are quite right re ‘pummelling’. Believe it or not I had two ‘l’s and y damned spellchecker thing did its red squiggly line and I surrendered to it. I shall amend. We learn something every day – go raibh maith agat.