Bi-lingualism and signs – by Gabriel McCaffrey

Gabriel McCaffrey is an Irish community activist in Canada
I keep seeing bigotry and stupidity from back home over bilingual signs on street names etc.
I’ve lived in Ottawa, across the river from Gatineau, Quebec, for 35 years. All our street signs and road traffic signs are in both English and French. It’s normal.  In some parts of the city, eg Little Italy and Chinatown, street names are also in Italian and Chinese.
In 1900, the largest ethnic group in the city was Irish immigrants. We have a few monuments to their contributions and sacrifices, eg The Rideau Canal was built mainly by Irish labourers, and many died from accidents or malaria. A Celtic cross commemorates their history and the plaque thereon is in English and French.
There are, to be honest, a VERY small minority of anti French bigots who dislike seeing French on signage but they are minuscule and considered to be the ignorant trash that exist in any large city, by most of our population.
So, I see recently that the DUP still get worked up when people in Belfast, or other parts of Ulstershire, decide democratically to include the Indigenous Irish language on street signage, and without removal of the English version. 
This is an appalling example of the obsolescent colonial project, to deny the presence and reality of Irishness in the Northern part of our small island.  It’s a failed project, of course, and is truly pathetic. But what can you do with such dinosauric minds? 
I guess we wait for the asteroid called demographics, and the democratic changes it is bringing. The Cretaceous era of Unionism is truly over.
To learn more about the Rideau Canal and 1000 deaths of Irish builders, 1826-1832 see

2 Responses to Bi-lingualism and signs – by Gabriel McCaffrey

  1. James Doyle October 31, 2023 at 6:35 pm #

    I am Canadian/ Irish and love my adopted country of Canada and the fact it is bilingual, both my boys are fluent in French. Unionist planters are sadly still not happy in stealing the land from Irish owners in that they today stick their heads in the sand when they see a few Irish/ English language road signs! I say to them : bleeping well smarten up, Irish is the official language of the Island of Ireland!

  2. Pól ÓD November 1, 2023 at 2:27 pm #

    Great Article, it reminds me of a small and largely un-noticed aspect of our local cultural imperialism assault which I have been watching for years. It’s the use of English language based placenames on BBC NI’s weather maps, their NEI maps usually have 7 or 8 placenames which they change on a daily basis, you can be absolutely sure that at least one of the names will be English and as often as not 2 ,3 or 4 of them will be English. The distribution of townland and town names in Ireland is approximately 95% Irish(Gaelic) and 5% English (or other; Norse etc.), There is a clear anomaly here with an implication of sublimiminal messaging, the message being: ‘English is spoken here and don’t forget it’. This is in complete contrast to the weather maps used by UTV live which very rarely show English placenames and when they do (Newcastle etc.) it’s in proportion to the distribution I just mentioned, about 5%. The readers can easily check this by watching both weather forecasts for a few nights and taking note of the placenames used by both channels, it will be in keeping with what I have just described. Hasn’t anyone else noticed this?