Mí: Samhain 2011

Vintage American Cars. Good Golly Miss Molly!

Since I’ve gone the personal route today some more revelations. I love cars: fast cars and old cars (unfortunately the two don’t always go together – unless one earns considerably more money than I do). Combine that with photography and you have the perfect blog posting, as aptly illustrated over on CR Cooper Photography. Enjoy…

 

 

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Some Classic Irish Language Book Covers

I love books, especially old books (much to the detriment of my bank account). I’ve managed to gather a wide and varied collection of my own, from 19th century Fenian memoirs to mid-20th century Sci-Fi pulps, and lately I’ve started looking around for more Irish language publications (particularly the various Seanchló editions). Happily one can often combine a love for books with an interest in illustration and design (though as any SF fan can tell you, great covers don’t always make for great books. Chris Foss has a lot to answer for!).

So it was great to come across this posting on 50Watts of a series of Irish language books covers from the 1930s. Some really interesting finds here, all of which were published by the Irish state through Oifig An tSoltáthair or Oifig Díolta Foillseacháin Rialtais (this back in the day when governments cared about culture and learning). It well worth taking a look for anyone with an interest in the Irish writing or graphic design. More can be seen here on Hitone, with a wide variety of Irish publications in Irish and English.

We Are 42%

Another image borrowed from the Occupy movement with another Irish spin. More of the original images are available from libcom.org and occupypocatello.org. The 42% of course refers to the percentage of Irish people who described themselves as speaking fluent or partial Irish in the 2006 Census of Ireland. We are still awaiting the results from the most recent 2011 census.

Tá An Réabhlóid Ag Teacht!

Inspired by the images emerging from the Occupy movement here are some more adaptations of my own, this time in the style of classic activist posters. I have two versions of the same graphic for you to check out with two messages.

Bella, Joan And Me

Last week I wrote a piece criticising some of the points made by the Scottish journalist and SNP politician Joan McAlpine in her article addressing the thorny issue of the SNP’s controversial anti-sectarian bill in Scotland. Joan had previously expressed views supporting the new legislation and (unsurprisingly) stirred up something of a hornets’ nest around her, coming under quite a bit of flak from the supporters of the two main targets of the law: the supporters of the rival Glasgow soccer teams of Celtic (traditionally enjoying immigrant Irish and normally Irish Roman Catholic support) and Rangers (traditionally receiving Scottish Loyalist and Protestant support).

My article was intended as a riposte to some of the “facts” presented by Joan McAlpine in her support of the legislation, legislation which will principally involve the banning of perceived “sectarian” songs, symbols or behaviour in Scottish sporting events. It was not a critique of the legislation per se, or of Joan’s opinions on it. As I stated in the posting, and in the comments that followed, I regard the matter as a largely Scottish affair: a Scottish issue for the Scottish people to deal with as they see fit. However when Joan made some surprisingly ill-informed claims in relation to Irish history to back up her opinions I felt they needed a firm reply.

Firstly, Joan implied that the national anthem of Ireland, Amhrán na bhFiann, was a sectarian “chant” and that it should be banned from sporting grounds in Scotland. While she may have been making the argument that in certain contexts, such as an “Old Firm” game, the singing of the Irish anthem may be perceived as provocative to some Rangers’ fans she could have balanced it with the point that the British national anthem, God Save The Queen, would be just as provocative to many Celtic supporters and should also be banned. But she did not do so.

Secondly, she indicated that in her view songs (or symbols?) commemorating the Irish Revolution were similarly “sectarian” in nature, a far more tendentious argument. A reference to the recent allegations of a sectarian campaign against “Protestants” in the south-west of Ireland during the War of Independence was particularly irresponsible. To hear a Scottish nationalist spouting the counterfactual propaganda of contemporary apologists for British rule in Ireland was frankly dismaying. Joan McAlpine should have known better. This is not the behaviour one expects, or should accept, from a fellow Celtic nationalist. It was particularly distasteful when one remembers the long history of anti-Irish and Roman Catholic sentiments that were found in some Scottish nationalist and Protestant circles up to relatively recent times. It was quiet uncharacteristic of the writings of Ms. McAlpine, from what I’ve known and enjoyed, and hence my lengthy response.

However, it turns out this is not the end of the matter. Now Andrew Anderson, over at the Scottish nationalist media site Bella Caledonia, has used my article criticising Joan McAlpine as a jumping off point to address the more important issue of the anti-sectarian bill itself. However he has done so with some unfortunate misinterpretations of my original posting.

“Séamas Ó Sionnaigh raises some valid issues in his attack on Joan McAlpine and the Scottish Government’s approach to sectarianism, but whilst I would defend his right to make a polemical defence of historical and more recent armed struggle, he actually misses the point. The challenge is how to move forward so that we can live together in these islands without killing each other, in Ireland and Scotland. A good first step would be to discuss our differences without disparaging those we don’t agree with. Séamas seems to have overlooked that Joan’s article was partly prompted by the vitriolic attacks she faced in the Twittersphere for having the temerity to raise the issue. And when Séamas talks of common ethnicity he treads on dangerous ground indeed.”

Firstly, my article was not an attack on Joan McAlpine or her support of the anti-sectarian bill, nor the Scottish government’s legislative solution to sectarianism in Scotland. Neither was it a defence, as such, of armed struggle in Ireland. The historic Irish Revolution needs no such defence. The more recent armed struggle on the other hand is certainly deserving of a more nuanced and considerate approach, whatever one’s views on its validity or not. The pain is still raw for many thousands of people, on all sides, and as I stated in my article the sensitivities that stem from that should be acknowledged and respected. It was primarily a critique of the historical references to Ireland’s War of Independence made by Joan, references which surprisingly echoed contemporary British and Neo-Unionist revisionist counter-histories, that led to my article being written. Yes, I pointed out some of the incongruities of the bill, and if asked for an opinion I suspect it will cause more troubles that it will solve, but that is a matter for the Scottish people to face.

Secondly, Joan McAlpine’s sensitivities, however justified, do not excuse a Scottish nationalist promulgating British nationalist historical fantasies about Ireland. As a journalist (or blogger) if you write on subjects that are politically or culturally controversial then you must expect a reaction. It comes with the territory, particularly in the age of web-based interconnectivity and interaction. Of course the torrent of abuse faced by Joan was completely unwarranted, but I hardly think my lengthy criticism falls into the category of mean-spirited or paranoid tweets and status updates. It began with my expression of admiration for Joan McAlpine, for heaven’s sake.

I fail to understand Andrew Anderson’s reference to “dangerous ground” when I talked of the common ethnicity shared and celebrated by many Irish and Scottish people. We are Celts and Gaels, both Irish and Scottish. The ties that bind us are manifest in our related histories, languages, literature, poetry, music and sports. It is a form of pan-national ethnic identity, one that is embracive and open, one that does not require a particular passport or place of birth to join. People from Nova Scotia to Japan can and do learn the Irish and Scottish languages and in doing so enrich and enliven our societies and cultures.

Furthermore recognition of our mutual heritage, far from being divisive, is a unifying force between Ireland and Scotland. It does not advocate killing people – it advocates bringing people together. Perhaps if the Scottish government and those who support or oppose this bill lift their eyes from the minutiae and see the bigger picture we might indeed lower the temperature of the discussion – and replace it with a far more important and far reaching one instead.

180 New IT Jobs Announced In Ireland. But Who Are They Going To?

Good news on the jobs front from RTÉ:

“180 new jobs have been announced by Version 1, an IT consulting and outsourced managed services company. Most of the jobs will be in Dublin.

The firm is hiring graduates and senior technology consultants with Microsoft, Oracle and Java qualifications. The jobs will be filled over the next three years, with 45 jobs to be filled over the next three months.

The company created another 100 jobs last year and already employs 265 staff in Dublin, Cork and Belfast.”

Ireland’s true levels of unemployment have been masked for the last two years by the thousands of Irish citizens being forced out of the country every month in search of employment overseas (who in turn, of course, are sometimes accused of displacing local people from jobs in the nations they are emigrating to – this is called a free market, apparently). So even the smallest of crumbs are welcome. Only problem is, these particular crumbs may be going, um, elsewhere. The full story from BreakingNews:

“However, Version 1 is looking abroad to fill vacancies in its expansion plan, because it says it cannot get enough graduates here.

Managing director Justin Keatinge said the Government should make it easier to recruit from abroad.

“We’re trying to bring people from all over the world…to fill these vacancies, and it’s very difficult,” he said.

“We would encourage the Government to come up with a fast-track, hi-tech work permit system where within a week you could get a work permit for a person coming from Argentina, for example.””

There are not enough Irish graduates with the required IT knowledge or skills to fulfil these jobs? With 450,000 people on the dole? 450,000 people seeking employment? They can’t find 180 qualified people over the next three years? I know at least three Irish citizens currently rotting away on the dole or in low-paid, non-specialist employment who could wallpaper the inside of their houses with the amount of IT qualifications they have.

Perhaps instead of defaulting to overseas recruitment Irish-based companies should be reinvesting back into the Irish education system, in co-operation with the many public bodies out there who specialise in these areas, to create the types of graduates they want or need? Or is it just simpler to buy off-the-shelf staff from anywhere but Ireland?

Business with a social conscience? Bah!

The Contrasting Fortunes Of Gaelic Scotland And Gaelic Ireland

Scotland is to create its first Scottish-speaking museum, one primarily dedicated to its native language and culture. From Culture24:

“The first museum in the UK to use Gaelic as its first language is to open on the Isle of Lewis.

The Heritage Lottery Fund has announced that it is investing £4.6 million in a new museum and visitor accommodation in Stornoway. It is hoped that the museum will become a key destination and encourage tourism in the Western Isles.

The new museum will display the collections of Museum nan Eilean, as well as supporting the work of more than 20 different heritage organisations which have been collecting material relating to Gaelic communities during the past 30 years…”

The BBC also reports that:

“Stornoway’s Lews Castle will use Gaelic as its first language and will also offer four-star hotel accommodation.

About £14m is to be spent on restoring and converting the property, which has been shut since 1988.

The islands’ local authority is involved in finding £1.6m, which is needed to complete the funding package.

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar has committed £4.5m and Highlands and Islands Enterprise £1m to the project.”

Meanwhile in Ireland Fergal Quinn, long-time entrepreneur and member of Seanad Éireann, has emphasised the unrealised value of the Irish language for businesses at the fifth annual Good Food Ireland conference, featured in the Irish Times:

“Senator Feragal Quinn told attendees that using the Irish language made Superquinn, the supermarket chain he founded, different to its competitors.

He said: “I believe the Irish language gives us an advantage that we haven’t always used and we can use more.””

Indeed. Yet again, the Scots seem to be leaving the Irish trailing in their wake.

Cearta Teanga, Cearta Daonna – Draft Poster

There are some striking images emerging from the Occupy movements in the United States and Spain, particularly the comic and manga-inspired illustrations from Oakland, so I’d thought I’d experiment with some adaptations for the Irish-speaking community and our own struggle for equality. This is a simple first draft to see what people think, in a big old gif format. In the next while (work permitting!) I’ll sit down and come up with some artwork of my own.

The Occupy movement has several voluntary artist and graphic design collectives working on these images in several countries and they are being freely posted for internet and printing use. Where is Irish Ireland’s equivalent?

Go Lassie Go, Getting It Wrong

The Scottish journalist and SNP politician Joan McAlpine is someone I have enormous respect for. She has worked tirelessly for the betterment of the Scottish people and nation, and she’s been a passionate advocate for the same brand of progressive nationalism that many  in Ireland also embrace. So it is bitterly disappointing to read her latest article in the Scotsman newspaper addressing the divisive issue of sectarianism in Scottish soccer, particularly the long-standing rivalries between the opposing Glasgow teams of the traditionally Roman Catholic Celtic and the Protestant Rangers. Her lop-sided presentation of Ireland’s revolutionary history and her dismissive attitude towards this nation’s hard road to freedom, the same freedom the Scots now seek, is lamentable in a fellow Celtic nationalist.

“As a journalist and blogger I always felt confident about navigating my way through cyberspace with some dexterity – at least until last week when I happened to send a tweet after watching my fellow Scotsman columnist and Labour Party stalwart Michael Kelly discuss the government’s offensive behaviour bill…

I disagree with Mr Kelly’s position that the Offensive Behaviour and Football and Threatening Communications Bill victimises football fans. He attempted to distinguish between different kinds of songs supporting the IRA – an argument I have heard before. This line of thinking suggests that pre-Provisional IRA songs, many of which date back centuries, are historical and inoffensive.

One could argue that the Irish national anthem, The Soldier’s Song, was supportive of the IRA, while The Boys of the Old Brigade was played this year when The Queen visited Dublin. Exactly the same argument could be made for some Ulster unionist songs too. An old favourite such as The Sash is a celebration of religious and political identity which does not advocate attacking Catholics.”

I’m sorry, Joan, but that is an entirely specious argument. Amhrán na bhFiann is the national anthem of Ireland. It commemorates and celebrates our historic struggle for freedom and is indelibly associated with the Irish Revolution – and yes, of course, the Irish Republican Army that fought that revolution. It is not a sectarian “chant” or simply a “pro-IRA” song. It is a national anthem, no different from one that may be adopted by any future Scottish nation. The Sash, a very current folk-song of the British ethnic minority, bears no comparison. And the Sash most certainly does celebrate violence and attacks against the Roman Catholic and the ethnically non-British population of the island of Ireland. To state otherwise is simply untrue.

“But there are circumstances in which these songs, for pragmatic reasons of public safety should not be sung. That includes a football match. The heated atmosphere of the Old Firm means “folk songs” take on a far more sinister tone. And these are the borderline ballads…”

Is Ms. McAlpine suggesting that the Irish national anthem should not be played in Scotland (let alone that it is “borderline”)? Even at a national level? Will international fixtures featuring Ireland and Scotland be, per force, anthem free? Will an independent Scotland deny a visiting Irish head of state the standard courtesy of playing Ireland’s national anthem, if enough militant Glasgow and Borders’ Loyalists object?  I trust Joan is not saying that, but it shows how arguments like this can be abused and misused.

“So I disagreed with Mr Kelly when he appeared to be arguing that IRA songs of a certain vintage were no more offensive than Flower of Scotland. The issue is one of context. Rugby fans don’t attack each other after singing Flower of Scotland.”

Well soccer fans do, and Scottish and English fans did so throughout the 1970s and ‘80s. It seems Joan McAlpine can only see the context she wants to see. There then follows some of the most mendacious writing on Irish history that I’ve seen from a contemporary Scottish nationalist.

“Suggesting that IRA singing is political as opposed to sectarian, and should therefore be treated differently to chants about wading through Fenian blood, is disingenuous. The approaching 1916 centenary has led some Irish academics to re-examine the war that followed the uprising. There were atrocities on all sides and that included attacks on Protestants, including one particularly notorious incident in Cork. The indiscriminate bombing from the 1970s onwards claimed innocent lives on all sides.

It is a disgrace to Scotland that football allows some warped individuals to stoke up sporting rivalry on the back of those killing times.”

The Irish Republican Army fought the Irish War of Independence. The war the Irish fought to free the greater part of our people and the greater part of our country because of the refusal of the British state to accept the democratically expressed wishes of the vast majority of voters on the island of Ireland for independence. Does Ms. McAlpine know or understand this? Or does she, like many on the Right and Left in England, question our very right to have done so?

As for the alleged re-examination of the Irish Revolution, the majority of those who are carrying it out are British nationalist historians and their Neo-Unionist sympathisers in Ireland. These writers, some of whom are completely lacking in any academic credentials, are little more than apologists for the British Empire in Ireland. Does Joan McAlpine realise the debate going on in this country, the level of acrimony and hurt created by these revisionist apologists?

The “notorious incident” in Cork that she refers to, the subject of a recent rather more notorious book claiming to chronicle the revolutionary struggle in south-western Ireland, has been thoroughly debunked by Irish, Canadian and American historians. It is nonsense. Complete and utter. Good God, Joan, you are supposed to be a Scottish nationalist. Have you no understanding or empathy at all for your fellow Celtic nationalists? Can you not see through the same lies and counter-factual histories used against Ireland’s struggle for freedom that are used against your own nation’s struggle too?

While one can reasonably argue that the most recent conflict in the North of Ireland is so controversial and so painful to so many grieving families and communities that any references to it should be rightly removed from the arena of sports, that rule must apply to all sides. Not just one. If some Irish Republican songs and symbols that refer to the thirty-year armed struggle of the Provisional Irish Republican Army are to be banned so too should their counterparts on the other side. The other side, Joan, includes the thirty year counter-insurgency struggle of the British Army. Where do you stand on the presence of the Royal British Legion poppy in some sports grounds in Scotland where it may cause offence or public disorder? Should the poppy be banned from Celtic Park?

Perhaps I feel the pain caused by this article particularly acutely and others will disagree with me or dismiss Joan McAlpine’s views as the result of ignorance (or more worryingly the counter-intuitive strain of anti-Irish sentiment that ran through some SNP members in the 1940s, ‘50s and ‘60s). Yet, whatever justifications there may be for removing references to the most recent conflict between the Irish and British nations in Celtic Park or Ibrox Stadium, and in truth it is a matter for the Scottish people, ignorance is no excuse for gratuitously rewriting Irish history to match the distorted fantasies of contemporary British nationalist historians.

I’m a Gaelic Nationalist and I have many Scottish friends who would describe themselves the same way. We see Ireland and Scotland as two separate nations derived from one historic people, the Gaels. We share a common heritage, ethnicity, language, literature and culture. We celebrate and cherish this. We see it as a strength. However, I fear some in the Scottish nationalist tradition see it as a weakness and would rather that such “alien” links did not exist at all. They see only the anglicised, Anglophone Scotland of recent centuries. This is their Scotland. Not the one that extends across the Sruth na Maoile.

The history of Ireland’s struggle for freedom is also Scotland’s history, one we share together. From the Gallóglaigh to the Glasgow Brigade, the GPO to the Clydeside, Irish and Scottish patriots have supported and fought alongside each other. Joan McAlpine knows that. And if she doesn’t she damn well should.

When Policemen Want To Commemorate A Police State Its Time To Worry…

The RIC and British troops forcing Irish family from their home during the Land War (collective punishment in effect), 1898

The RIC and British troops forcing Irish family from their home during the Land War (collective punishment in effect), 1898

I’m really thinking of setting up a regular “Only In Ireland” series here at An Sionnach Fionn, just so I can take into account the madness, the sheer schizophrenic, self-hating insanity of the colonial mindset in Ireland. For only in Ireland could one come across a shameless rewriting of history of the type presented by Jim Cusack, the Security Correspondent(!) of the Irish Independent newspaper, today. Be warned. You may want to hold your nose before reading this:

“RETIRED Gardaí are seeking permission from the Government to erect a monument in Glasnevin Cemetery to 500 members of the Royal Irish Constabulary, including the ‘Black and Tans’, who were killed by the IRA in the War of Independence.

The Garda Siochana Retired Members Association has written to Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Minister for Justice Alan Shatter seeking the go-ahead to erect a monument in an existing plot in the cemetery, which is famous for its links to 1916 and the War of Independence.

Retired Garda Pat McCarthy, who has headed the campaign to have the RIC commemorated, said the time had come for the State to recognise all who were killed in the War of Independence.”

Yes, that’s right. You really did just read that. Members of An Garda Síochána, the democratically-mandated, unarmed civilian police service of Ireland, want to erect a monument to the members of an anti-democratic, armed paramilitary police force which upheld and enforced colonial rule in Ireland for decades.

RIC, Defending The Pax Britannica In Ireland

RIC, Defending The Pax Britannica In Ireland

The fact that most (but not all) of those RIC members were born on the island of Ireland does not give them a get out of jail free card (no pun intended). Nor do pleas about the dire economic times they lived in, or loyalty to the existing order, or following family traditions or that they were simply doing their job serve as an excuse either. If those were legitimate reasons for the most heinous of crimes then those who collaborated with the Axis Forces in Occupied Europe, or those who wrought murder and mayhem in the Balkans at the turn of the century are just as innocent and just as worthy of commemoration. Should someone phone up the Hague? All those war criminals you’ve got under lock and key: let them go. They were just following orders.

How familiar a call is that?

Cork City, RIC Black and Tans and Auxies

Cork City, RIC Black and Tans and Auxies

Be under no illusions. The RIC officers who served in Ireland during the War of Independence followed their orders. And those orders meant burned villages and towns, assassinations and executions, tortured men and women (and sexually assaulted and raped women. Yes, the British Forces – RIC included – raped Irish women and girls during the conflict in untold numbers), orphaned children, refugees and all the horrifying theatre of colonial warfare. The brutality of the British Forces was not simply the infamous “Black and Tans”, or “Auxies”, or regular British “Tommies”. It was not simply British men in British uniforms. It was Irish men in British uniforms. Many, many of whom believed themselves to be as British as anyone born in Britain. These were the RIC. The real RIC. They were not harmless country policemen: big red faces and big red hands, cycling to mass, a friendly clip around the ear for errant waifs and a sing-song in the local pub. They were the eyes and ears and willing hands of the British Empire.

The men and women of the Irish Revolution were hard people capable of hard deeds. Where do we think they came from? And who the hell do we think made them like that? Ask the RIC. They could have told you. From famine to insurrection, they were there. The British boot on the neck of the Irish people.

RIC Reserve, the Black and Tans, Policing Ireland

RIC Reserve, the Black and Tans, Policing Ireland

As someone who comes from a “Garda family”, my relatives look to Óglaigh na hÉireann, the Irish Republican Army and the Irish Republican Police for their origins, and are incredibly proud of that inheritance. They see no line of succession between themselves and the Royal Irish Constabulary and would reject any such claim. Perhaps those who claim otherwise have different loyalties? And agendas?

“The Irish Independent columnist and historian Kevin Myers said: “There is this mystique about flying columns of IRA men fighting the British army, but for the most part the killing was of RIC men, some coming out of Mass or in front of their families when off-duty.

“Many were killed on patrol and always in ambushes, where 20 or 30 IRA men were involved in killing these policemen, who were alone or in two-man patrols.”

He agreed that they should be remembered.”

I’m sure he did. Kevin Myers, the “historian” of Irish counter-history.

Next week the Waffen SS. Overeager social workers and town planners or mass murderers and war criminals? You decide.

Basque And Catalan Nationalists The Real Victors In The Spanish General Election

With the results from the Spanish general election now in it seems that the opposition centre-right Partido Popular (PP) has achieved the substantial gains predicted by the polls, taking an overall majority in the Spanish parliament. The governing centre-left Partido Socialista Obrero Español (PSOE) of Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba has seen its vote drop dramatically as the Spanish electorate punished Rubalcaba for the percieved failures of his government in the face of the global financial crisis. However the most interesting results have come from the autonomous regions of Spain where nationalist and regionalist parties have made significant gains.

In the Basque Country the conservative nationalist party, Euzko Alderdi Jeltzalea (EAJ), seems to be continuing the loss of support to more progressive nationalist forces that began with the surprise local election victories of the Bildu coalition of centre and left-wing parties earlier this year. This time the challenger is another new alliance, Amaiur, which has stunned the local political scene by taking seven seats in the Spanish parliament compared to the EAJ’s five (a loss of one). Despite this excellent result for Amaiur, some have pointed to the lack of a single, unified party as a possible sign of future weakness for the progressive nationalist movement in its contest with its older, establishment rival (the draconian banning in 2002 by the Spanish state of Batasuna, the electorally popular Basque nationalist party claimed to be the political wing of ETA, left separatist voters without a party of their own, a void filled by the smaller groupings who now make up the new alliances of Bildu and Amaiur). There is already widespread expectations of an early regional election in the Basque Autonomous Community (which was governed by the PNV until recently) which will probably see genuine separatist organisations like Amaiur gaining even greater ground.

In Catalonia, where nationalist and regionalist parties have dominated politics and local government for the last decade, the gains were even more marked. In contrast to the Basque Country though, here it was the established nationalist party, Convergència i Unió (CiU), that gained the most, increasing its seats from ten to sixteen. Mixing nationalism and regionalism, it’s soft stance on Catalan independence coupled with a much harder position on demands for far greater autonomy (but not full separation) from Madrid has appealed to a broad – and increasing – swath of Catalan voters. On the other hand the local challenger for the nationalist vote, the progressive left-wing Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC), made little headway with its separatist message keeping its three existing seats with a largely unchanged vote.

Meanwhile in Galicia, another autonomous region, the nationalist collation grouping, Bloque Nacionalista Galego (BNG), kept its two previous seats, continuing the pressure from one of the smaller national groups of Spain for greater recognition and local self-governance (albeit within the Spanish state).

As Scotland faces a vote on independence in the next four years it is interesting, and instructive, to see what is happening elsewhere in the European Union. From the SNP to Amaiur to CiU, are we seeing a new movement amongst the “subject peoples” of Europe?

Mind Your Language, Please!

The right-wing British establishment newspaper, the Daily Telegraph, carries a typically dismissive article on the Liet International Song Contest, which was held last week. The competition is an opportunity for musical artists from the minority language communities of the European Union to compete with each other. Through the Liet International organisation, which stages the event, bands, singers, schools, sporting and social groups from across Europe meet and exchange ideas and support. Which probably adds to the DT’s anglophone ire:

“The “alternative” Eurovision Song Contest was staged on Saturday night, open only to entries in tongues which few people understand. Funding, of course, came from the public purse.

Although they might not have known it, viewers tuning in to the Liet International Song Contest for minority languages heard lyrics in Sami, Vepsian, Udmurt and Rumantsch.

Now in its eighth year, the annual jamboree is funded by European taxpayers to the tune of £86,000, including £12,000 in the past three years from the Council of Europe which Britain contributes to and is currently chairing.

Organisers claim that the contest “promotes tolerance, multilingualism, friendships and combats racism and eventual risks of ethnic conflicts” – but despite its honourable intentions, the competition has yet to make an impact in the music world.”

That so? No impact in the music world?

“An estimated six million television viewers across Europe watched the latest contest, staged in Udine, northern Italy, and aired on Italian national television as well as channels in Norway, Spain and Sweden.”

So it made some impact then. In the real world of real life communities and peoples. Perhaps one of the DT’s commentators best sums up the paper’s attitude to the contest.

“The fascination with obscure minority tongues is highly divisive and socially destructive, largely for the reason that they are perceived as intrinsic features of ethnic identity, which results in hugely inflated egos of ethnic minorities, who believe their tongues are rare, unique and in need of preservation… Why don’t we focus on the common features rather than on dubious divisive markers? …with languages designed for communication, what is the point of broadcasting obscure messages in minority tongues across the widest European audience?”

Spoken like a true Anglophone. I wonder has he heard of Fine Gael?

Sábháil Ár dTeanga

The outrage sparked by the Fine Gael-Labour government’s controversial decision to abolish the office of An Coimisinéir Teanga continues to grow. The Irish Times carries the latest news:

“ACADEMICS, IRISH language organisations and former minister for the Gaeltacht Éamon Ó Cuív have criticised the decision to merge An Coimisinéir Teanga’s (the Irish Language Commissioner) office with that of the Ombudsman.

The merger, announced as part of the Government’s public sector reform programme, has been described by Mr Ó Cuív as “window-dressing” and a move that would cost more than it would save.

The language commissioner’s office costs about €600,000 annually and is charged with ensuring language rights are adhered to under the Official Languages Act.

Its annual report has been critical of a number of departments and public bodies for failing to meet these requirements.

NUI Galway Irish lecturer Dr John Walsh said that the move was “incomprehensible”. “It will not save any money, and contradicts other policies on the Irish language,” Dr Walsh said. “This is a severe blow to the promotion of Irish and undermines years of efforts to strengthen language rights.””

Which is sort of the whole point. It is increasingly clear that the Fine Gael dog, with its Labour Party tail, is set on a policy of rolling back two decades of civil rights legislation and equality for Ireland’s Irish-speaking citizens. The anti-Irish agenda of the present coalition government is only going to grow in the months and years ahead. This week it is the office of An Coimisinéir Teanga. Next time it will be the Official Languages Act itself. And after that?

Agóid Tobstailce @ Dáil Éireann

Some photos of the student demonstration held outside Dáil Éireann yesterday evening, a couple of hours after the shock government announcement of the abolishment of the office of the Language Commissioner.

 

 

 

 

 

We’re All Speaking German Now – Apparently

So who’s in charge? That’s the big question on everyone’s lips as the latest demonstration of the emasculation of Ireland’s nationhood plays out in the media. The revelation that members of the German parliament have been privy to Ireland’s upcoming budget has led to claims and counter-claims in abundance. It seems humiliation on an international stage is to become our national sack cloth and ashes for the next decade or so no matter what spin Irish government and European Union PR folk put on it.

According to the Herald:

“DETAILS of December’s Budget were leaked to several EU countries, it was claimed today.

The EU/IMF Troika was today blaming the European Commission for “mistakenly forwarding” the sensitive budget document to Germany and other EU countries.

The gaffe has caused major embarrassment for the Government who have lodged a complaint with the Commission.

The details emerged in the German Bundestag yesterday but sources now say that the EC sent the document to all member states on the EU’s Economic and Financial Committee.”

Well, that’s ok then. The Journal has the details and they make for grim reading:

“The package of documents also includes:

  • a firm commitment that domestic water charges will be introduced by the end of 2013
  • plans to broaden the income tax base in 2013, along with increases in excise duty and other indirect taxes
  • plans to cut social welfare spending and the public payroll even further in 2013
  • a government agreement to prepare a draft programme for selling state assets, to be discussed with the Troika by the end of this year
  • a request from Michael Noonan and Patrick Honohan to ‘frontload’ the bailout loans for 2012 – with deductions from the second, third and fourth instalments to make up for an extra-large first instalment
  • an update to the EU-IMF deal outlining that ”any unplanned revenues must be allocated to debt reduction
  • a commitment to “initial resolution funding” of €250m for Ireland’s credit unions
  • further commitments to open up ‘sheltered sectors’ like pharmacies, GPs and legal services

Next month’s Budget proposes to make €670m through the VAT increase, €160m through the new €100-per-house ‘household charge’, and €100m through the reform of capital gains tax.”

Which begs the question: how much pain can one nation, or society, take before it breaks? I would suggest that we are closer now than most people will admit – or perhaps even suspect. However some see the writing on the wall, as The Journal reports again:

“THE DETAILS DISCLOSED in draft documents which outline Ireland’s proposals to meet the terms of its EU-IMF agreement have been heavily criticised by Dáil opposition this evening.

Speaking to TheJournal.ie this evening Independent TD and Oireachtas Public Accounts Committee member Shane Ross said while the detail was “pretty predictable” the measures were “tyrannical” and “in keeping with the craven attitude of this government to the EU-IMF deal”.

“It’s a humiliating document because the measures which are in there are at the whim of are European masters,” Ross said.”

Additionally,

“Sinn Féin’s finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty was also critical of the documents’ disclosure to the other 26 EU member states before the Irish people, saying it was  ”quite outrageous”.

Doherty was also angered by the disclosure in the documents that all unplanned revenues such as those that come from the sell-off of State assets must go towards servicing the debt burden.

This disclosure contradicts the government’s public statements that it hopes to use the money from the sell-off of State assets to fund job initiatives. Doherty said the sale of State assets is “a disgrace”.”

Meanwhile, amongst the citizenry:

“THE mortgage crisis has hit a new high with 100,000 homeowners now struggling to meet their repayments.

Figures released by the Central Bank today show that the number of borrowers who are now in arrears of more than three months is 62,000.

And another almost 40,000 have already restructured their mortgage repayments.”

But hey, we all know who are really to blame.

“Banks are blaming rumours of a debt forgiveness scheme for the fact that many people have stopped meeting their repayments.

They say there has been a spike in arrears because some people thought there would be a scheme put in place to help people in debt.”

Selfish “people”. Expecting help. We help banks in debt. Not “people”.

Just ask the Germans. Oh, hold on. We have to ask the Germans.