‘Irish language crusade is leaving unionist minority uncomfortable”
That was the quote I read that made me feel uncomfortable , myself. I could barely understand why the person who uttered such a line did not realise the absurdity of what he had said.The context of this was that there were concerns about the potential impact of an Irish Language Act around Newry , Mourne and Down.
The implementation of such an act is a key demand of Sinn Fein, the largest nationalist party in Ireland,in the current Stormont talks. It has been on the agenda since the St Andrews Agreement and the talks will crash unless such an already promised act is delivered very soon .Time and patience have run out on this. It is something that has been fudged for some twenty years and nationalists, as represented by Sinn Fein have long since expected its delivery.Unionists, for their own reasons have decided to hold back on the implementation of such an act. The person uttering these supposed “fears” is an Ulster Unionist Party(UUP) councillor called David Taylor. He claimed that the unionist minority in his council is already suffering under “a clear political and ideological crusade” by nationalist representatives over the Irish language.
He sees this act as being somehow divisive and would incur significant costs and was especially concerned that Irish road signs were being imposed on “unionist areas”.
I suppose there is something irrational in all of this. In Norneverland we have somehow grown to accept that instead of one community of people being served by one government , many readily accept that all of us are actually divided into two separate modular “communities” from birth and are expected to continue to act that way forever, even to the point of voting for familiar political parties ,especially designed for our individual families. It has to be said that it seems to be more a unionist perception than a nationalist ideal…and is essentially the real problem we have been dealing with .If they really wanted to promote unionism as inclusive to all and as a genuine political ideal, they would also want to embrace those whose cultural touchstones could be shared across the board.The only way that unionism can grow is by convincing their nationalist neighbours that their desires will be better advanced by voting unionist. They are obviously not doing this. The whole ethos of that mindset is bound to be divisive and it is a mindset that that has divided instead of uniting the very people whom they are elected to serve as an entire whole. Both Scotland and Wales have no problem with the idea of diverse language even though they are currently part of a UK union.It is only Irish unionists who have a problem with language.
I had to ask myself why any community would get fired up about an ancient local language when they didn’t feel uncomfortable about using English or possibly even French or German.It is a fact of life that we live in Ireland and the Gaelic tongue is something many of us have also shared with Scotland for long centuries.Many of us have in the past been taught a smidgen of Latin , Irish, French and English Language in our schooling ,without too much damage being done to our psyche, ethics , world-view, or our political leanings and indeed some of us even remember some rudimentary pieces of that same education in later life.Indeed, some even know how to speak and write a little English after their schooling finishes, while many struggle to express themselves adequately in any language at all until their dying day.
All of that diverse learning can prove useful in everyday life and I imagine it has not actually done any of us too much harm.From my perspective , I would say that as far as learning something new ,” the more the merrier” should be the mantra.I fail to see how learning something new can be detrimental.It’s not as though anyone is attempting to ban the use of the English language. if they were attempting to do that I would be up at arms myself. English is a language I have learned to speak , read and write from birth and I suppose virtually all of the books in my library of books is written in English. That said, I see no problem in promoting Irish , given that it is native to our island and all of its place-names come from it.
If that makes it one of the major stumbling blocks for unionism getting back into government , they’d need to take a long , hard look at themselves.


  1. Cal April 11, 2017 at 11:24 am #

    I don’t mind Asians, I just feel uncomfortable around them. If a politician said this they’d be toast, and rightly labelled a racist.

    However in our society there’s an acceptance of constant casual bigotry and ethnic intolerance exemplified now by Mr Taylor.

    SF are called an extreme party by our media commentators because that party want minority language rights on the same basis as those enjoyed in Wales and Scotland. Our mainstream media are letting progressive society down in their refusal to call out the bigots that refuse to give people basic legal rights enjoyed throughout the rest of Ireland and Britain.

    People like, Mr Taylor are the reason why Irish speakers need legal protection.

    No language act, no stormont.

    • paddykool April 11, 2017 at 12:08 pm #

      I have to agree, Cal.The media , both print audio and television have been witless in this. You’d began to suspect that commentators are afraid to be opinionated anymore. Surely , even on a superficial level it makes sense that the unionist stance on this amounts to at the very least simple-mindedness or at worst a fearful bigotry. There is much to be mined between those two extremes and yet somehow it is all Sinn Fein’s fault for pointing out that the emperor has no clothes to cover his nakedness.
      The media think that this is unimportant to other monetary concerns when it is afundamental building block to a sense of integrity.If they also think that the mess of the past ten years is worth re-instating unchanged and unchallenged , they are also very wrong.We have all struggled with it and it was found wanting .To reinstate it it needs much change and much change of attitude.
      It is fundamental that in all of this, nothing is being taken away but it is the opposite in fact ….that something extra is being given. Like i say, I would be up at arms if English was being banned or taken away from signage or whatever . It is not .it is simply recognising our mixed heritage as people. As for the cost.? That is an irrelevance.That’s it. When a government cares to waste money or even decides to go to war, there is always money in the war -chest.Money will be found and I don’t imagine the cost will be insurmountable for this specific project either, because these things can be phased- in gradually in stage -payments as long as the will is there .At bottom, of course, it is not about the money as is expressed by this specific politician .It is the desire to be entirely separate from another section of the population under the guise of some “discomfort” or “fear” which is in his and their minds ,alone. I dare say that the spray-painterswill still appear to erase signs in specific areas , but these graffitti artists need no excuses to vandalise and paint our kerbstones with tacky primary colours anyway. These are probably the same ones who can’t read , write or reason in any language .

  2. fiosrach April 11, 2017 at 11:59 am #

    Harry, I feel that I should point out a few ‘non facts’ in your epistle. All the place names in the six counties are Irish. Brookeboro and Belfast are not Irish. More people speak Polish than Irish. Most right thinking and decent people in the province care more about the Health and Education of our people than narrow partisan party issues. We are standing legs akimbo waiting to form a government to serve all the people. We have no red lines. Sinn Féin are introducing new issues to the table every day. We did not sign up to an ILA. It was a side deal between SF/IRA and Tony Blair. Everybody understands English. Why do we need another language especially a Taigy language. Scotland and Wales need a language act because their society is not stable and progressive like what ours is and people might not respect their languages. If tourists came here and saw Erse on the road signs, what would they think? Erse in Finchley! Sacre bleu! Go back into government and discuss these issues like mature politicians. You won’t get anywhere but at least the Arts Council will be funded. Have I missed anything?

    • paddykool April 11, 2017 at 12:10 pm #

      Very droll, fiosrach…..

    • Sherdy April 11, 2017 at 2:21 pm #

      They would get kicked out on their Erse in Finchley!

  3. Colmán April 11, 2017 at 11:54 pm #

    The Irish Language Act is essentially about the next generation. Young Irish speakers in primary and secondary schools are treated differently because of the language they use.