Corto Maltese, an tEachtránaí Eiseamláireach

Arna chéadfhoilsiú ar An Tuairisceoir:

Fuair mé amach de thaisme gur tháinig leagan Gaeilge den úrscéal ghrafach úd  Una ballata del mar salato leis an ealaíontóir Iodálach Hugo Pratt i gcló ó Leabhar Breac  le déanaí. Ní fhaca mé an foilseachán féin go fóill, ach is dócha nach miste dom, mar sin féin, cúpla focal a bhreacadh síos faoi Pratt, a laoch Corto Maltese agus an ghreannánaíocht, nó na coimicí, mar ealaín ar leith. An téarma úd  coimicí , nó  greannán  mar a deir lucht an ghlanteangachais, tugann sé le fios nach féidir ach scéalta grinn a insint ar an dóigh seo. Is iad eachtraí Corto Maltese is fearr a léiríos nach mar sin atá. Korpela Maltese Sa bhliain 2011 léirigh an compántas amharclannaíochta úd Q-Teatteri san Fhionlainn an dráma Corto Maltesen seikkailut  (“Eachtraí Corto Maltese”) agus é bunaithe ar na coimicí faoi Corto. Ba é Tommi Korpela a rinne páirt an laoich, aisteoir a bhí ina…

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Ireland’s English State

The nation-state of Oirland, sure an' begorrah, 'tis the Queen's Ainglish that we spake!

The nation-state of Oirland, sure an’ begorrah, ’tis the Queen’s Ainglish that we spake!

Another year, another name-and-shame report from Ireland’s Language Commissioner, the independent ombudsman tasked with overseeing the implementation of the country’s Official Languages Act of 2003. This legislation guarantees limited rights for Irish-speaking citizens alongside their English-speaking peers (emphasis on the “limited”). However since its inception the profound levels of institutionalised discrimination in Ireland’s Anglophone public services has ensured that the act is more often breached than implemented, with hundreds of complaints being lodged every year against the Irish state by its own citizens (that’s several thousand over the last decade). Unsurprisingly 2013 has turned out to be another poor period for pluralism in Ireland. While 24% of complaints came from within the Gaeltachtaí or recognised Irish-speaking communities overall some 76% of complaints were made outside of those regions. Dublin had the greatest percentage of recorded issues (38%), which at least indicates that Ireland’s indigenous language has become a national one once again.

Reading the report in detail the extraordinary lengths various government bodies go to in order to deny Irish-speakers equality of service with English-speakers is nothing short of astonishing (and remember the use of the Irish language is deliberately restricted under the legislation through the use of so-called “schemes” and “exclusions”). Civil servants up and down the country will engage in hundreds of hours of work, and at considerable public expense, defending decisions and policies that are blatantly discriminatory in form and function. What’s more they will often do so with the backing of locally elected representatives. We are left with a culture of law-breaking by the very people tasked with upholding the law because they disagree with it. And what happens when officials are found guilty of failing their legal duties under the regulations. Why, they simply remove the offending regulations of course. What else? Is it any wonder that Seán Ó Cuirreáin, the previous Language Commissioner, resigned in despair when faced with these Kafkaesque-levels of bureaucratic chauvinism? One stand-out controversy features a decision by the Department of Education to try and impose an English-speaking teacher with no native fluency in Irish on an Irish-speaking community to teach, through Irish, Irish-speaking schoolchildren. To call it an extraordinary decision is to be generous. A more honest appraisal would be that sections of the Irish government clearly regard Irish-speakers as lesser citizens simply because of the language they speak. Lesser citizens deserving of lesser treatment. And that includes their children.

I strongly recommend that you read the report for yourself. It is certainly an eye-opening insight into the culture of linguistic apartheid that continues to pervade the apparatus of the modern “Irish” state.

‘Still Fighting Fire With Fire’ – Joseph Connolly of the Irish Citizen Army.

Séamas Ó Sionnaigh (An Sionnach Fionn):

Another fascinating aspect of Dublin’s revolutionary history is highlighted by the lads at the wonderful Come Here To Me blog…

Arna chéadfhoilsiú ar Come here to me!:

Every year, we try and mark Easter Week in some way on the site. This year we’re looking at an interesting set of artifacts in honour of one often overlooked participant in the 1916 Rising that have only recently come to light. This post wouldn’t have been possible without the help of Las Fallon, whose book ‘Dublin Fire Brigade and the Irish Revolution is available here.
Members of the Irish Citizen Army, an armed trade union force, on the roof of Liberty Hall.

Members of the Irish Citizen Army, an armed trade union force, on the roof of Liberty Hall.

What became of people after the revolutionary period in Ireland? For many veterans of conflict in Ireland, a life in politics followed, with some becoming Ministers and voices inside the Dáil and the establishment, while others remained very much in opposition to the state that was born in 1922 and remained politically active. Many others went on to live a wide range of lives – actors…

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Big Boost In Funding For Scottish Language Broadcasting

BBC Alba

BBC Alba, the Scottish language public service broadcaster jointly funded by the Scottish and British governments

Some more good news for the Scottish language (Scottish Gaelic) with the announcement by Alex Salmond, Scotland’s First Minister, that a further £2.1 million pounds (2.5 million euros) will be made available to MG Alba, the state-funded media organisation. The group funds Scottish language television and radio programmes in cooperation with the BBC and various independent production companies and the news came at the opening ceremony of MG Alba’s new headquarters in Stornoway on the western Isle of Lewis. The building will serve as a Gaelic media hub housing studios for BBC Alba and BBC Radio nan Gàidheal. There is more on the Stornoway Gazette and in an article carried by the Scotsman newspaper (where you get the fun of reading the puerile Comments by the usual crowd of Anglophone supremacists and bigots).

Yahoo News And The Murder Advocates

Can someone explain to me how Yahoo News can permit comments by its readers advocating the murder of a well-known political figure in Ireland? The target of the online trolls is the civil rights activist Bernadette Devlin McAliskey, the former elected representative for the constituency of Mid-Ulster and a life-long socialist republican. In 1981 Bernadette and her husband Michael narrowly escaped death when British terrorists smashed their way into their home and shot both several times, the attack watched by a nearby foot patrol of soldiers from Britain’s infamous Parachute Regiment. The gunmen were members of the UDA, a Unionist terror faction that the British government refused to ban until 1992 as part of the secret negotiations during the Irish-British peace process of the 1990s. One of those involved in the assassination, Ray Smallwoods, was himself later assassinated by the (Provisional) Irish Republican Army, his coffin carried by a number of prominent Unionist politicians including the DUP’s Peter Robinson MP, the present Joint First Minister of the regional administration in the north-east of Ireland.

This is what Yahoo has on its website as of 07.00 this morning:

Proud Scotsman  •  11 hours ago

Is that #$%$ still living ? she should have been killed years ago for prolonging the troubles and I am saying this as I know she was behind a lot of the troubles caused, even the IRA wanted her gone.

Daniel  •  11 hours ago

sloppy work on the UDA`s part, they really should have tapped one in her head, Republican Jezebel, she has the face of purest evil, lets hope she dies very soon somehow from complications of her old wounds.”

While the news media in Britain focuses on reports detailing the alleged threat from the dissemination of militant Islam on the internet it is indeed ironic that the most poisonous forms of British nationalism are given free rein across a host of international websites. Up to and including the most respected of United States’ news organisations.

Atmo-Craft, Colin Wilson

An Atmo-craft from the Rogue Trooper story Marauders drawn by Colin Wilson

An Atmo-craft from the Rogue Trooper story Marauders drawn by Colin Wilson (Íomhá: © 2002 Rebellion A/S)

During a quick discussion over on CLR in relation to Joss Whedon’s short-lived Sci-Fi series “Firefly” I was reminded of the New Zealand comics’ artist Colin Wilson and the incredibly realistic hardware illustrations he produced in the early 1980s for “Rogue Trooper”, 2000AD’s future war series. Some of the best – and most convincing – designs in futuristic weapons and machines I’ve ever seen came from Wilson’s accomplished hands, hardly surprising given that many were clearly based on contemporary military products. From the Mil Mi-24 Hind, the famous Soviet-era attack helicopter, to the lesser-known Centurion main battle tank Wilson took real world inspirations and extrapolated their future equivalents in technically exquisite detail. One was left thinking that if such machines did not exist in the present they most certainly would do so at some stage in the future. After my first exposure to Wilson’s carefully engineered designs I spent much of my teenage years copying his style and still do so whenever I turn to Science-Fiction themed art. In a long and extremely varied career the New Zealander went on to contribute to the Star Wars franchise beginning in 2007 with artwork for the comic book series “Star Wars: Legacy”. However his influence is in evidence well before that through the likes of the “Low Altitude Assault Transport/infantry (LAAT/i)”, a CGI military aircraft that features in the 2002 movie “Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones” and which bears an uncanny resemblance to the hardware designs produced by Wilson for the Rogue Trooper story “Marauders” way back in 1982.

A Low Altitude Assault Transport or Republic Gunship from the Star Wars movie franchise

A Low Altitude Assault Transport or Republic Gunship from the Star Wars movie franchise (Íomhá: © 2002 Lucasfilm Ltd)

A Low Altitude Assault Transport or Republic Gunship from the Star Wars universe

A Low Altitude Assault Transport or Republic Gunship from the Star Wars universe (Íomhá: © 2002 Lucasfilm Ltd)

 

Hysterical history

Séamas Ó Sionnaigh (An Sionnach Fionn):

A scathing review by Wee Ginger Dug of the latest damp squid from the anti-independence campaign by British Unionists in Scotland. Ouch!

Arna chéadfhoilsiú ar Wee Ginger Dug:

Rory Stewart’s unionist propaganda thinly disguised as a BBC history documentary has provoked the ire of SNP MSP Stewart Maxwell , who has attacked the BBC for yet another of its exercises in compulsory Britishness. But we all know that’s the BBC’s bread and Scottish butter. He ought to have attacked the programme for being risible history, a melange of cherry picked factoids whipped up into the wrong conclusion by a Tory MP who kept reminding us that he is Scottish. He didn’t actually say he was a Proud Scot. But you know he wanted to.

Being interested in ancient history, I watched the first episode, expecting it to be propaganda seeing as how it was made by a Tory MP, but even propaganda can be done with art and a sense of style. Instead we got Rory, who wanted us to know he was Scottish, mugging his way through a series…

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A Tale Of Two Languages

A mass Basque nationalist demonstration in Bilbao, 2012

A mass Basque nationalist demonstration in Bilbao, 2012

Kate Fennell in the Irish Times examining the Basque Country and the successful struggle for language rights in that Iberian nation after decades of persecution.

“Basque culture and language suffered repression under Franco’s regime; the region experienced huge emigration in the 19th century, losing at least three-quarters of its population to America; the language came to be regarded as only fit for peasants; Spanish became the language of sophistication and commerce; the cause became political and violent and the language a symbol of identity and freedom. The sentiment behind the phrase tiocfaidh ár lá is still cherished by many who want full independence from Spain.

In contrast to the Gaeltachts, however, the Basque Country is a wealthy, industrialised region; it already had a wealthy merchant class in the 1500s. Its language has been supported constitutionally by the autonomous Basque government since 1978 and is required for a job in the civil service. The exams are not a pushover. Most spend months and years preparing for them.

One other very big difference is that the equivalent of our gaelscoileanna – ikastolas – have been in existence since the 1980s and have proven such a success that in a private university in San Sebastian half the degree courses are offered through Basque.

A strong government policy and a pride in culture and language have obviously helped. Even the word to describe a Basque person – Euskaldun – actually means “Basque-speaker”, so identity is intrinsically linked with their language. Indeed, the Basque language is visible and audible on a daily basis in all walks of life. The conundrum, however, is that while the percentage of people who know Basque has increased the percentage who use it with other Basque speakers in everyday life has decreased.

Tír gan teanga, tír gan anam. If this is true, and I feel it may be, then there is still much work to be done to solve the riddle of how to strengthen any minority language effectively. The Basques have some of the answers, but not all of them.

We Irish, on the other hand, are in the Basque people’s bad books. The official word on the street is that “the Irish gained their territory and lost their language”, that “the Irish have no pride”. (This from the diehards of the language who have not yet done their research in Ireland as I did there.) The only way I found to counter that was to give them a good blast of the boggiest Connemara Irish I know, throw in a few almighty mallachts and send them on their way. It’s at least one way of keeping the sound of Irish alive.”

Yes but that response doesn’t answer the central accusation made by the Basques and many others: Ireland may have gained its independence but the Irish lost theirs. That is the reason why those interested in language rights view this nation as the template for what one shouldn’t do – not what one should do. And why we must seek a new Irish revolution, a cultural struggle not an armed one, for the hearts and minds of the Irish people. To reuse the well-worn cliché: not merely free but Gaelic…

Ireland’s British Rebels

Members of the Ulster Volunteer Force, an early 20th century British terrorist organisation in Ireland, jointly parade with soldiers of the British Army in Omagh, Ireland, c.1914

Members of the Ulster Volunteer Force, an early 20th century British terrorist organisation in Ireland, jointly parade with soldiers of the British Army in Omagh, Ireland, c.1914

Once again it takes an Irish journalist working in a foreign newspaper to write what the Irish press would never dare write (because they don’t want their readers to stray outside their strict ideological view of history, falsifications and half-truths to the fore). Melanie McDonagh in the London Independent with a rare, rare glimmer of historical accuracy when it comes to Ireland’s troubled British history while discussing Martin McGuinness, the Sinn Féin Joint First Minister in the north of Ireland. She asks in the article:

“…why the militant republicanism he represents was necessary; why the constitutional options for dealing with the Irish problem took so long; why Sinn Fein trumped the Irish parliamentary party in the first place; why – in short – we got where we are now.

For the answer to that, we need to go back exactly 100 years. Well, a bit more possibly, but a century would do nicely. Because that’s when the last chance for resolving the Irish question peaceably and in a unitary fashion was stymied. It’s when the Third Home Rule bill granting self-government, excluding defence, to Ireland was passed, but leaving out Ulster, first temporarily and then permanently.

It was the last time for resolving the Irish Question by peaceful means and it was vitiated by a terrifying combination of violence and the threat of violence, not from Republicans, but from Ulster Unionists bent on ensuring that Home Rule would not apply to Ulster, or at least to the “plantation counties” – what turned into the six counties of Northern Ireland. Two previous Home Rule bills from Gladstone had already been seen off, the second by being blocked by the House of Lords.

And just when it seemed that Home Rule might finally happen, after the House of Lords lost its power of veto, British politicians gave way to the revolutionary methods adopted by Ulster Unionists – chief of which was the formation of a paramilitary army intended to resist the writ of parliament, equipped with guns and ammunitions run from Germany. In their resistance they were backed to the hilt by the British Tory party as represented by Bonar Law, a Presbyterian minister’s son. It must be said, though, that most of the British players in these events, including Churchill and Lloyd George, were influenced, like him, by an instinctive antipathy to Roman Catholicism. And without that recourse to physical force; to violence (which Britons invariably associate with Irish republicanism), the state of Northern Ireland would never have come into being. At least not the way it was constituted.

In response to the formation of the Ulster Volunteers and their successful shipments of guns and ammunition from Germany, the government decided to undertake a show of military force. But it ran into the flat refusal of British Army officers based in the Curragh to move against the Unionists, with whom they very much identified. The response of ministers was to capitulate. (The Army’s reaction was very different when Irish nationalists began their own gunrunning in response, on a much smaller scale: soldiers sent to deal with it fired on a crowed of Dublin civilians, killing four people.)

The lessons of all this were not lost on Irish nationalists. The inevitable result of the success of Ulster Unionist tactics, and the capitulation of British ministers to the threat of force, was that the position of the constitutional nationalist leader, John Redmond, was terminally undermined. His Irish Parliamentary Party, which had held the balance of power in Westminster, was discredited even before the 1916 Easter Rising.”

Nominally British troops of the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) move into Dublin to support the British Occupation Forces during the latter stages of the Easter Rising of 1916. The presence of the despised UVF added to anger in the capital following the actions of the British forces during the week of fighting

Nominally British troops of the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) move into Dublin to support the British Occupation Forces during the latter stages of the Easter Rising of 1916. The presence of the despised UVF added to anger in the capital following the actions of the British forces during the week of fighting

Existential Angst From John Waters

John Waters explaining something to a bemused-looking woman which apparently requires his hands to be spaced apart as if indicating a measure of distance. Er, there's no lawyers reading this is there?

John Waters explaining something to a bemused-looking woman which apparently requires his hands to be spaced apart as if indicating a measure of distance. Er, there’s no lawyers reading this is there?

John Waters, journalist, newspaper columnist, philosopher-at-large and general man-about-town, has given an angry interview to the Irish Independent complaining about his treatment at the hands of the Irish media and general public in the aftermath of several recent controversies involving himself and others. Waters claims that when the issues first came to prominence he lost “almost” a stone in weight over the course of a few weeks (yes, very nearly a whole stone). Shockingly he says that he was afraid to go into Dublin city centre at night (though aren’t we all?) and seemingly feared for his well being, albeit in an “existential way”, which I’m sure you’ll agree is the worst fear of all. He describes one of the dreadful encounters he was forced to endure:

“I was in a coffee shop on another occasion and a woman waddled over to me with a pram and told me I should be ashamed of myself before walking off.”

A pram? An actual pram? And a waddle? No doubt indicating some girth? Terrible. And what could possibly have elicited such reprehensible behaviour from Seán and Síle Citizen?

“Questioning gay adoption, he drew parallels with two brothers taking paternal responsibility of a child.

“If two brothers who love each other in a particular way decide ‘we would like to adopt a child’ this society would regard that as an absurdity, they would laugh them out of court.

“Yet if two men who are involved in a sexual relationship go forward to adopt a child we are told now, that should be okay? I find that really hard to understand, intellectually. Why is it that it is okay but it is not okay for two brothers or two straight men? I think that’s a legitimate point.””

Errr… quite.

John Waters was speaking in an interview given in Sligo town. Not far from his, um, rural holiday home…

Five Thousand March For Irish Rights In Belfast

Dearg Le Fearg

Dearg Le Fearg

Last Saturday up to five thousand people took part in An Lá Dearg i mBéal Feirste, a march through the city of Belfast in support of Irish language rights in the north-east of Ireland. Despite the disruptive presence of a small crowd of protesters from the British Unionist community (who waved British flags while making Nazi salutes, oblivious to the history of the nation they were supposedly expressing loyalty to) the demonstrators generally received a warm welcome. Following on from the ten thousand who attended a similar rally in Dublin, and with numbers again far exceeding the organisers expectations, it shows the level of demand for full equality between Irish-speaking and English-speaking citizens in Ireland, north and south. All political parties on this island nation need to acknowledge the failures of the past in relation to their language policies, policies that have fostered a system of institutionalised discrimination within the public services and government as a whole. Following on from nine centuries of violent ethnocide the nine decades of mealy-mouthed hypocrisy have simply added more damage to the cultural and social standing of Hibernophones in Ireland and encouraged a virulent form of Anglophone supremacism. As more than one observer has pointed out this expression of hatred towards all things indigenous in Ireland is simply a continuation of the anti-Irish racism that existed during the era of British colonial rule, a poisonous legacy of that disastrous period in our nation’s history that all right-minded people should oppose.

New times require new thinking. None of the political parties in Ireland have any substantive policies in relation to Irish language rights or the restoration of the Irish language as the spoken vernacular of our island nation. Even Sinn Féin, the most progressive organisation in this area, is still a long way behind international contemporaries like Plaid Cymru in Wales or the Parti Québecois in Québec. Indeed it is countries like Québec, Catalonia, the Flemish and Walloon regions of Belgium, and many others that provide the templates that Ireland needs to follow. We could start with the Constitution of Ireland and the anomaly of Article 8.3 which permits the government to effectively dodge the constitutional primacy of the Irish language as the national and first official language of the state in favour of the English language. Article 8 presently reads as follows:

“8.1 The Irish language as the national language is the first official language.

8.2 The English language is recognised as a second official language.

8.3 Provision may, however, be made by law for the exclusive use of either of the said languages for any one or more official purposes, either throughout the State or in any part thereof.”

Clause 8.3 above is the reason we have the Official Languages Act of 2003 (a legal mechanism to curtail the primacy of Irish language rights) and why the Supreme Court could rule that Irish-speaking citizens are not entitled to a trial entirely through the medium of the Irish language (in contrast to English-speaking citizens who do have such a right). We need a constitutional amendment along the following lines:

“8.1 The Irish language as the national language is the first official language.

8.2 The English language is recognised as a second official language.

8.3 Exclusive use shall be made of the national language for all official purposes throughout the State. However, where necessary and excluding recognised Irish-speaking communities, simultaneous use may be made of both official languages for any official purposes by the State though the primacy of the national language and the State’s requirement to facilitate its exclusive use must be demonstrated at all times.”

I’m sure others could arrive at better formulae than the above but it gives one an idea of what is needed if the first steps are to be taken in building true equality, equality that no government can ignore or downplay.

The Forge In The Forest, Ian Miller

Wraparound cover illustration for Michael Scott Rohan’s Ice Age-set Fantasy novel “The Forge in the Forest””, drawn by Ian Miller

Wraparound cover illustration for Michael Scott Rohan’s Ice Age-set Fantasy novel “The Forge in the Forest””, drawn by Ian Miller (Íomhá: © 1987 Ian Miller)

Ian Miller is a British artist whose distinctive, sometimes surreal style will be familiar to many readers of Fantasy and fantasy-tinged Science-fiction even if his name is not so much. Since the late 1970s his exquisite illustrations, executed most frequently in pen and ink, have graced the covers of countless publications, notably the Fighting Fantasy and Warhammer range of books and magazines from the Games Workshop. Perhaps my favourite examples of his work come from “The Winter of the World”, a trilogy of quasi-historical Fantasy books by the Scottish author Michael Scott Rohan set – unexpectedly - on the North American continent during the last Ice Age. In general I disdain the endless catalogue of High Fantasy tales published over the last four decades, a conveyor belt of faux Mediaevalism inspired by the commercial successes of the “Hobbit” and the “Lord of the Rings” in the United States. Most are pale imitations of J.R.R. Tolkien or outright rip-offs (did anyone mention the “Sword of Shannara”?). All those Eddings and Jordans are as near to literary dross as it is possible to imagine, though thankfully there has been some light at the end of the tunnel in recent years with the emergence of writers like China Miéville and the popularity of urban-tinged fantasies (I haven’t read George R.R. Martin so I’ll reserve my judgement on his works. I will venture to say that they sound – the much heralded sex and gore to one side - distinctly traditional in both tone and setting).

However I was always impressed by Scott Rohan’s little series, despite its limitations and adherence to overly familiar formulae (the young hero unknowingly destined to greatness). Somehow his deft writing and commitment to an appealingly innovative pseudo-historic setting gave his publications a power that many other would-be fantasists would do well to take note of. I still have the books I first purchased in the late 1980s and In terms of literary merit I would place them well above many of their contemporaries, even those now regarded as “classics” of the genre. Unfortunately Michael Scott Rohan seems to have abandoned writing which is a great shame. By all accounts he was growing as a writer and one of his last works, the personally meaningful “Lord of Middle Air”, is particularly well-regarded.

However to return to Ian Miller, featured above is his 1987 cover for Scott Rohan’s “The Forge in the Forest”. It is perhaps not the best of his creative output but it is certainly one of my personal favourites. Appropriately a new collection of his artworks is now available, The Art of Ian Miller, and there is a glowing review by the Verge, as well as a typically idiotic LOL-speak overview from io9 (look at us! We’re cool! Really! Honestly we are! We’re happening! We’z bitchin’. We have lots of click-bait photos so please, please don’t stop visiting our website… Please…). Enjoy.

Generation Shame

 

Generation Shame. How some Irish people view their own Irishness

Generation Shame. How some Irish people view their own Irishness

One of the great puzzles of modern Ireland, and certainly an endless source of fascination for foreign observers of our island nation, is the great shame – embarrassment even – felt by some members of an older generation of Irish people when it comes to their own Irishness. Like some bizarre mark of Cain numerous men and women in their late forties and upwards seem to squirm and shy away from any sign of actually being Irish. Our language, our culture, our history causes them so much mental angst that they must, perforce, look elsewhere – anywhere – for some ersatz identity of their own. I’ve talked before about post-colonial theory, a national Stockholm Syndrome and even Malcolm X’s much quoted speech on “House Negros” and “Field Negros”. All are applicable. Yet the inferiority complex of some Irish people goes far beyond the bounds of rational analyses. It is a form of ideology – political, social and cultural – that they adhere to with the blind fanaticism of true believers. Can we really call such types “Neo-Unionists”? The Scientologists of Irish politics? Reading this opinion piece by David Quinn in the Irish Independent newspaper, filled with historical inaccuracies and utterly fallacious arguments, you have to wonder. Are these people quite sane?

“Every country that wanted to gain its independence from Britain has gained that independence. Sometimes it was won only after a fight. Scotland might well vote for full independence later this year. No bloodshed needed.

Most countries when they gain their independence from Britain go through a period of intense anti-British feeling. In our case, it lasted for decades. Nothing good could be said about Britain until fairly recently.

Relations between Britain and Ireland simply could not be normalised until the IRA stopped fighting and a peace agreement was arrived at.

If the IRA had not taken up the gun again during the Troubles and had instead gone down the same peaceful path as the SDLP we might have been able to spare ourselves another blood-stained chapter in the history of these two islands and relations could possibly have been normalised years ago.

In fact, watching Scotland get ready for its referendum on whether it should remain part of the United Kingdom or not, you wonder again whether 1916 was worth it. Home Rule, which had been promised and was interrupted by World War I, would have come.

In time, if we wanted it, we could have got full independence. Peacefully. There would have been no War of Independence, probably no Civil War and violent republicanism might have spiked its guns much sooner than it did.

Partition would have happened but it probably would have happened in a way that would have avoided a civil war south of the border.

There probably would not have been a debilitating trade war with Britain. Our economy would have been much stronger as a result.

Without the War of Independence, anti-British feeling would not have become as strong as it did.

If we had opted for Home Rule, bit by bit we would have been ceded more autonomy and probably we’d have gained full independence sometime after World War II. By then, Britain wouldn’t have been in the mood to fight us.

Can we imagine any circumstances under which we could find ourselves in a union again with Britain?

But if the euro were to collapse and if the EU were to fall to pieces and we found ourselves looking for the nearest thing to a safe haven in such a chaotic world, an economic union of some kind with Britain would become very imaginable. History is full of such strange and unexpected twists and turns.”

And so are the minds of the modern day Neo-Unionists. Strange and twisted thoughts fill their worldview, thoughts quite beyond the comprehension of most rational folk. No one argues that being Irish is any more meaningful or virtuous than being French or German or British. There is nothing inherently superior about it nor is there anything inherently inferior. It is merely an accident of birth, a happenstance to be acknowledged or not as one pleases. No manifest destiny or god’s chosen people here. Yet there are those who act as if being Irish rendered one, by virtue of one’s nationality, language and culture, a lesser kind of human. They see their own Irishness through someone else’s historic prism and think the image true. There is more of this delusional existentialism on display from another member of Generation Shame, this time in the Caledonian Mercury:

“The first state visit to Britain by an Irish president this week has caused me to wonder what all the fuss and suffering over the “Irish Question” was all about. And I say this reluctantly, as a former Irishman myself.

Growing up in Dublin in the 1950s, with all those proud tri-colours flying from every flagpole, was a wonderfully revolutionary experience. There was something exciting and daring about being against the British ruling class, about being different. We had a culture of our own, Irish football, hurling (I still have the scars), the Irish language taught in every school, the poetry of WB Yeats, the plays of Bernard Shaw.

But actually, all of this could have been achieved under Home Rule. What I am fondly remembering is culture not politics. And, looking back on the last 100 years, I can’t help feeling it’s the politics that has let us down. If Gladstone’s policy of “home rule all round” had been adopted in the British Isles back in the 1880s, we would all have been better off.

Instead we had a rebellion in Dublin in 1916, just what we didn’t want in the middle of the First World War. We had a civil war in Ireland which cost over 3,000 lives and left a legacy we are still dealing with. The two main political parties to this day, Fianna Fail and Fine Gael, are derived from the two opposing sides in the civil war and their leaders and individual members can trace their families back to the tribal divisions of those dark days.

Then in the 1960s until the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, we had what we call “The Troubles” – a typically Irish euphemism for marches, demonstrations, knee-cappings, bombings and shootings which left another 3,000 dead and thousands wounded. And there is still an uneasy truce and power-sharing agreement in Northern Ireland.

And yet it could have been so different if Ireland had remained a united nation, within the union of the four nations on the British Isles. The visit of President Higgins ( his name sounds a little less Shavian in Gaelic, Michael O’huiginn) is a gesture which says “Let bygones be bygones.” His father fought for Irish independence but now has he himself put it: “We all wholehearted welcome the considerable achievement of today’s reality – the mutual respect, friendship and co-operation which exists between our two countries.” Three years ago the Queen went to Dublin to say much the same thing.

Both sides have much to apologise for. The kings of England (and Scotland for that matter) regularly trampled across Ireland in their quest for power. They imposed a class of uncaring landlords. Westminster used Ireland as a useful “rotten burgh” to swell majorities in parliament. The Black and Tans did some pretty nasty things during the 1920s. On the other hand, the Irish leaders twice deserted their neighbours in their hours of need – in the First World War and the Second.

But for all that, we are part of the same British-Isles culture. We share the same language (Gaelic is spoken by just 90,000 Irish people). We share much the same music, from pop to folk. Whole swathes of people have gone back and forward across the Irish Channel. Humble farmers like my forebears moved from Scotland to County Antrim. The Anglo-Irish elite like the Churchills ( Winston spent his early childhood in Dublin) have left their mark in the form of grand houses and estates. And coming the other way, we’ve had everybody from navies to broadcasters flocking to seek their fortune on mainland Britain.

That’s why I find it bizaare that Michael Higgins should be singled out for a full blown state visit – as if he were the president of Peru. This small elderly academic looks more like the Mayor of Galway (which in fact he was). And like most Irish folk, he’s no stranger to mainland Britain. He’s a graduate of Manchester University after all and has been here 13 times since he was elected president in 2011.

In short, Ireland is no more different from England than Wales is or Scotland. I’ve got to ask: was the political turmoil of the last 100 years worth it ? The honest answer is No.”

Rather than going forward those who espouse such anachronistic views wish to pull us back, back to a past that in truth never existed except in the minds of a self-deluding few, the Vichy Irish as it were. Ireland under British rule was a nation oppressed, impoverished and exploited. Freedom was what others enjoyed. When one ponders the manner in which our island nation, a sovereign and independent state, was effectively sold to the highest bidders by its own political establishment views like the above suddenly speak of a far deeper split in Irish society. For those who promulgate them are of the same generation as many of those who sit around the cabinet table in Government Buildings and in the Houses of the Oireachtas. We are truly prisoners of our past – but not in the way they would have you believe.

An Lá Dearg I mBéal Feirste

An Lá Dearg i mBéal Feirste, the Red Day in support of Irish language rights, gathering at 2pm outside Cultúrlann Mc Adam Ó Fiaich on the Falls Road, Belfast, Ireland, 12th of April 2014

An Lá Dearg i mBéal Feirste, the Red Day in support of Irish language rights, gathering at 2pm outside Cultúrlann Mc Adam Ó Fiaich on the Falls Road, Belfast, Ireland, 12th of April 2014

Following on from the mass demonstration held in Dublin eight weeks ago during which 10,000 people marched across the capital in support of Irish language rights another demonstration is planned for Belfast this Saturday, the 12th of April 2014. Gathering at 2pm outside Cultúrlann McAdam Ó Fiach, the Falls Road, in the west of the city the protesters will proceed to Custom House Square where they will be addressed by a number of guest speakers. Several hundred people are expected to attend but the more the better as the campaign to enact full equality between Irish-speaking and English-speaking citizens in Ireland (north and south) steps up a gear. So please participate in the day of action if you can or if you can’t please distribute the details to your family and friends on all your social networks. Remember, red is the colour of Irish language protests for Lá Dearg.

Europe’s Democratic Tide

Quick post to highlight a couple of interesting articles touching upon Scotland’s independence campaign, the first from Conn Hallinan at Foreign Policy In Focus examining the rise of national self-determination across Europe, while Paul J. Carnegie looks specifically at the Scottish case for CounterPunch. Both are well worth reading.