Mí: Feabhra 2012

Today, Scotland! Tomorrow, The World!

Are you looking for an example of dirty politics? Then look no further than the British Nationalist camp in Scotland as they rage against the drive for independence by the SNP administration in Edinburgh with this contribution from former Liberal Democrat bigwig and holier-than-thou politico Lord Steel, via the right-wing Daily Telegraph:

“Lord Steel of Aikenwood [ASF: actually its Aikwood] said broadcasters have told him that “SNP heavies” contact them so regularly trying to influence their coverage that it is verging on “intimidation”.

He said he has also been informed the Nationalists make more complaints to journalist news rooms than all the other political parties combined.

The former Liberal leader and Scottish Parliament presiding officer delivered the extraordinary attack during a House of Lords debate on the Government’s plans to devolve new powers to Holyrood.

Comparing Mr Salmond to Kim Jong-il, North Korea’s former dictator, the peer said: “We are seeing a trend towards the attributes of the one-party state, where news bulletins are led by stories of what the Dear Leader has been doing today.”

He said he was also worried about the SNP administration’s “touch of L’etat c’est moi”, referring to the alleged statement by Louis XIV of France that: “The state is me.”

Lord Steel also used the speech to attack the SNP’s “little Scotland” mindset. Although he is friends with a former Danish foreign minister, he said he does not want to see an equivalent Scottish post “with similar limited global influence”.”

Brit Nats. What are they like? Not so much a case of L’etat c’est moi as Le monde, c’est moi!

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Heard The One About The Self-Hating Irishman?

Béal an Mhuirthead becomes Belmullet vandalism in effect

Béal an Mhuirthead becomes Belmullet – Anglophone vandalism in effect

From the Mayo News yet more depressing evidence of how no one hates the Irish as much as the Irish themselves:

“Gaeltacht communities who call for bilingual road signs ‘should be careful what they wish for’, as it could mean they lose their Gaeltacht status, according to a senior council official.

Irish-language-only road signs were erected in Gaeltacht areas in 2005. Since then, a number of local representatives have called for the introduction of bilingual signs, claiming that the  Irish-only signs were confusing tourists. Signs pointing to Gaeltacht areas such as Belmullet now only have Béal an Mhuirthead written on them. In some cases they have been vandalised, with the English spray-painted onto them.”

Incredible. For centuries under foreign colonial rule the Irish language and Irish speakers were subjugated, persecuted and driven to the point of extermination. The names of communities like Béal an Mhuirthead were anglicised or replaced with new English versions and the original Irish ones forbidden for official use by our former colonial masters. Our entire nation was violently transformed from Éire to Ireland: from an Irish Ireland to an English Ireland.

Now, after decades of restored independence and self-rule for three quarters of our nation and our people, some of us are still acting like a craven bunch of former slaves and lackeys pathetically aping the ways and manners of our now departed masters.

And over what? The rightful restoration of the genuine names of our towns and villages, our regions and localities? How is Béal an Mhuirthead not acceptable but Belmullet is? One is derived from the other, for God’s sake! Belmullet is just a crude bastardised version of Béal an Mhuirthead in a foreign language imposed centuries ago by foreign invaders!

Do the people of Germany need to change the name of München to Munich in order to keep the tourists happy? Does Roma need to become Rome? København to become Copenhagen?

What is wrong with these people? What post-colonial neuroses so corrupts their minds that they would rather play at lets-pretend-Englishness than get-real-Irishness?

“In a letter to Mr Beirne dated September 2009, Máire Killoran, a Director with the Coimisinéir Teanga, said that the vandalism of signs may indicate that people may not want these areas to retain their Gaeltacht status.

“The conclusion one might be forced to reach is that such action [vandalism of signs] could only be undertaken by individuals who believe that those particular places do not warrant recognition as Gaeltacht areas.”

As in Daingean Uí Chúis, the town in a Gaeltacht or Irish-speaking area where a violent anglophone minority intimidated and blackmailed the local community, politicians and government into reimposing the English language name of the area in a mongrel mishmash title (Dingle – Daingean Uí Chúis, the English name, but of course, first), yet again we see the ready resort to criminality by a small band of bigots from the English-speaking communities. Theses zealots won’t be content until the Irish language, and those who speak the Irish language, are gone from the face of the earth. What the English couldn’t achieve for eight centuries they will achieve for them.

And that is the biggest Irish joke of them all.

A Native Place

The new Irish language social networking site Abair Leat!, which is primarily aimed at language learners, has been officially launched by the Irish-American comedian and Gaeilgeoir Des Bishop. From the Irish Times:

“… Abair Leat! is the first user generated content application of its kind and allows users to create a personal profile, add friends and exchange messages in Irish.

The core concept of abairleat.com is that at least 70 per cent of all posts and comments must be in Irish. It automatically calculates the percentage of Irish in each post and then invites the user to amend the submission if required.

A spellchecker is provided and an integrated version of Google translate allows users to translate any words they do not know.

Updates are automatically posted to Facebook and Twitter and site developers are planning to introduce an integrated thesaurus and speech synthesiser in the coming months. A smartphone app is planned for later in the year.

Originally intended as an educational resource for students attending Coláiste Lurgan – one of the country’s oldest Irish language summer colleges, the Abair Leat! concept was developed by company owner Mícheál Ó Foighil.

The website was built in association with US digital advertising agency Fantasy Interactive (FI) using ‘Contain’, FI’s social media platform.

Founded by Dubliner David Martin in 1999, FI has developed into a global firm with offices in New York, San Francisco and Stockholm. FI counts companies such as Porsche, Ducati, Google and CBS News among its customers.”

FI’s impressive portfolio of clients has led to a lot of free publicity for Abair Leat! and the website is generating a great deal of positive feedback for its slick look and tech-savvy nature. However, in the Irish Independent, Des Bishop also points to the torrent of abuse and discrimination Irish speakers regularly face when online necessitating a site like Abair Leat!

“”I’m a big user of Facebook and Twitter but when you post in Irish, people who speak Irish respond, but then everyone else makes passive/ aggressive comments saying things like, ‘Why are you speaking this dead language?’ and ‘I don’t understand’ or ‘speak English, please’. Irish is funny for some people, they get very upset,” he said.

“If two people were posting in Polish, no one would ask, ‘Why are you speaking in Polish?’”

Indeed, but the discrimination towards Irish speakers is not confined to online, anglophone trolls and bigots but is widely reflected throughout Irish society and the media establishment in particular.

What About Our Irish Rights?

The much heralded Constitutional Convention is finally on the horizon after many a false dawn. According to the Irish Times:

“The Taoiseach and the Tánaiste are to brief Opposition leaders Micheál Martin and Gerry Adams as well as the Dáil’s Technical Group this evening on the Government’s plans for the proposed Constitutional Convention.

Mr Kenny and Mr Gilmore will meet with Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin leaders tonight.

Independent TD for Kildare North Catherine Murphy, who will attend on behalf of the Technical Group at Government Buildings, said she was preparing a “menu” of options with her colleagues.

The Cabinet formally agreed last week to establish the Convention and a spokesman said at the time that the Government would be holding consultations with the Opposition.”

I’ve highlighted my fears for the Irish speaking community of Ireland in relation to this convention, especially one convened by a coalition government dominated by the anti-Irish factions in Fine Gael and Labour, but it’s interesting to see at least one party’s main concerns. According to Slugger O’Toole the press briefing from Sinn Féin focuses on:

“• Acknowledge and take account of the relevant prior commitments under the Good Friday Agreement.

• It should be able to consider recommending a new constitution for the 21st century which is inclusive, reflects the desire for Irish unity that is shared by the majority of citizens on this island and which protects the rights of citizens, including our unionist neighbours.

• The Convention’s Terms of Reference must also ensure that the outcome does not prejudice any future process of agreeing an all-Ireland constitution – post a referendum on unity as set out in the Good Friday Agreement.

• It should involve the economically disadvantaged, citizens from all provinces including northern citizens; ordinary unionists and their official representatives; citizens in the diaspora; and our newest citizens – in addition to the political parties, civil society representatives and those with relevant academic and legal expertise – and ensuring the equal representation of women on the Convention.

• The Convention’s process must also be fully public, transparent and accountable, from discussion of terms of reference to appointments, and from the debates to conclusion of recommendations.

• There must be clarity in the Terms of Reference about the conventions final report and how it is put to the people in a referendum.

• It must be able to examine the need for guarantees of economic and social rights, the extension of voting rights for northern citizens and citizens in the diaspora, and the architecture necessary to establish a more robustly inclusive, fully representative and accountable democracy.

• It must contain all the modern equality and human rights protections that reflect the full spectrum of our international obligations and any others that are necessary to establish a rights-based society.

• Including the equivalence of human rights protections north and south.

• The Convention must in its work consider and make a complementary contribution towards an All-Ireland Charter of Rights.”

What? No Charter of Irish Language Rights, no Irish Bill 101? No guarantees to protect, or indeed to enlarge, the position of the Irish language in the Constitution of Ireland? No demands to incorporate aspects of the Official Languages Act of 2003 into the constitution?

Sinn Féin, a progressive nationalist party?

Tell that to Plaid Cymru, Convergència i Unió or Parti Québécois!

Try Again 2012!

Talking of the Irish language online there is certainly a lot of speculation at the moment about the new website “Try Again 2012” and the associated high-profile advertising campaign around the country (not to mention on social networks like YouTube and at Twitter under the hashtag #tryagain). The Herald seems to have got to the truth behind the rumours:

“I’M actually bi, says The Voice’s Brian Kennedy. Brendan Courtney “lost it at 16″ and and it made Paul McGrath feel “inadequate”.

But what on earth are they talking about?

A suggestive new campaign has tongues wagging in the city but the “bi” claims by singer Brian Kennedy are a lot more innocent than they might first appear.

A host of big-name celebrities have put their names behind a new campaign to get people dusting off their Irish – and speaking the language again.

It’s being spearheaded by former champion boxer Bernard Dunne. Other well-known participants include Lucy Kennedy, Ben Dunne, Baz Ashmawy, and Jennifer Maguire speaking about their own experiences of the subject matter.”

The new television-related campaign will be unveiled on RTÉ’s Saturday Night Show on February 25th.

Abair Leat! To Launch On 27th Of February

In December 2011 I wrote about a new online Irish language education network for language learners called “Abair Leat!“. Going through its final beta testing we were promised a full launch within months and sure enough the site will be formally unveiled on the 27th of February. From Pól Ó Muirí in the Irish Times:

“Comedian and, indeed, fear grinn, Des Bishop, will launch Abair Leat! an online Irish-language service which aims to take the language out of the classroom and to let participants use it in day-to-day situations. The site’s founder, Míchéal Ó Foighil, hopes that it will be of use to adult learners, 2nd and 3rd level students and professionals in the sector.”

With a plethora of Irish language learning sites on the internet it will be interesting to see how this one fairs. It seems to be geared towards serving as a “live” language resource with a large number of interactive features including online conversational opportunities for Irish learners with indigenous Irish speakers. So far the beta site looks fantastic and the buzz about it is certainly one of excitement and expectation.

More news as it happens.

Young Fine Gael – The Irony Is In The Name

Over the last year I have catalogued on An Sionnach Fionn the inherent hostility of the right-wing Fine Gael party to the Irish language and Ireland’s Irish speaking communities, a situation that has only worsened since it entered into government with its junior coalition partners in the supposedly centre-left Labour Party.

In power both parties have displayed various levels of antipathy or indifference to any notion of equality between the nations’s Irish and English speaking citizens. Driven by Anglophone contempt they have taken measure after measure to undermine the status of our national tongue while slowly dismantling a decade of civil rights legislation for Irish speakers (legislation that took a shameful eighty years to be put in place and which has met consistent opposition from within the civil service and other public bodies).

Now these crude anti-Irish impulses have reached their absolute nadir with the conservative “youth wing” of Fine Gael, Young Fine Gael (YFG), passing a resolution at its recent conference (attended by FG leader Enda Kenny) calling upon the party to effectively degrade the Irish language and the standing of Irish speakers in the education system by removing its obligatory teaching in the last few years of schooling. From the Irish Times:

“A resolution passed at last weekend’s Young Fine Gael national conference in Tullamore calling for the removal of Irish as a compulsory subject in the Leaving Certificate has been criticised by Fianna Fáil.

The motion, proposed by Young Fine Gael’s Wexford branch, called on Fine Gael “to live up to its election promise and remove Irish as a compulsory subject in the Leaving Certificate.”

Fianna Fáil spokesman on Justice, Equality and Defence Dara Calleary said…“The continuation of this policy by Fine Gael to downgrade Irish within the education system has no merit and threatens to undo the significant work that has been carried out, particularly through the Gaelscoil movement, to increase Irish usage in our communities.”

Mr Calleary said Fine Gael was intent on damaging progress made in advancing the language in recent years and criticised the party’s “lack of enthusiasm” for the 20-Year Strategy for the Irish Language 2012-2030…

The proposal was criticised by language and Gaeltacht community groups last year prompting a number of Fine Gael election candidates to express their disquiet at the plan.

In February students marched on Fine Gael headquarters and handed in a petition signed by more than 15,000 students opposed to the measure.”

Young Fine Gael, which has moved increasingly to the right in recent years, has regularly embroiled itself in questionable activities and policies (not to mention quiet bizarre attempts to recruit new members). At the start of this year YFG activists publicly supported a proposal to make the controversial former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher an “honorary member” of their organisation despite her disastrous role in Irish affairs in the 1980s, a role which arguably prolonged the conflict in the North of Ireland by over a decade. FYG members have been involved in invitations to various right-wing figures from around Europe to make speeches or give lectures in Ireland, notably the infamous Holocaust-denier and Nazi-apologist David Irving, and Nick Griffin the leader of the British National Party, an extreme right-wing British nationalist organisation with Neo-Nazi and fascist roots (the “Irish” commentator and arch British-apologist Kevin Myers seemed to make an extraordinary defence of both in his regular column for the anti-liberal Irish Independent newspaper in January).

Now, true to Fine Gael’s corrupt Neo-Unionist and anti-democratic roots, elements of the party are once again targeting those in Ireland who identify with our indigenous language and culture in an attempt to roll back the slow progress of growth and development made by the Irish-speaking communities of Ireland since the 1990s. A veritable vipers’ nest of Anglophone intolerance and bigotry, Young Fine Gael – like much of its parent party - represents all that is wrong and self-destructive in modern Irish society. A society where all too many are still bound by the mental shackles of eight centuries of colonial occupation.

Less Young Fine Gael and more Young Palesmen.

From Irish Ireland To English Ireland

There’s been something of a surprise result from Latvia where a national referendum has rejected moves to make Russian the second official language of the small Baltic nation along with Latvian. In an unusually high turnout which saw 70% of registered voters going to the polls, a majority of 75% voted against the proposal, much higher than was expected. From the Guardian newspaper:

“Latvian voters have resoundingly rejected a proposal to give official status to Russian, the mother tongue of their former Soviet occupiers and a large chunk of the population.

Russian is the first language for about a third of the Baltic country’s 2.1 million people, and many of them would like it to be a national language to reverse what they claim has been 20 years of discrimination.

But for ethnic Latvians the referendum was an attempt to encroach on Latvia’s independence, which was restored two decades ago after half a century of occupation by the Soviet Union since the Second World War.

Many Latvians still consider Russian, the lingua franca of the Soviet Union, as the language of the former occupiers. They also harbour deep mistrust towards Russia and worry that Moscow attempts to wield influence in Latvia through the ethnic Russian minority.

“Latvia is the only place throughout the world where Latvian is spoken, so we have to protect it,” said Martins Dzerve, 37, in Riga, Latvia’s capital. “But Russian is everywhere.”

With more than 93% of ballots counted, 75% of voters said they were against Russian as a national language, according to the national election commission.

More than 70% of registered voters cast ballots, considerably more than in previous elections and referendums. Long lines were seen at many precincts both in Latvia and abroad, with voters in London reportedly braving a three-hour wait.

…Mara Varpa, 57, said she voted against the proposal since Latvian was an integral part of the national identity and should therefore remain the sole official language. “I don’t think there should have been a referendum to begin with because it’s already in the constitution, but since there was I had to vote,” Varpa said.”

It’s interesting – and instructive – to see how the Latvians and other Baltic peoples regard their languages as the primary signifier of their national and cultural identities. This has been explored from the point of view of Irish speakers in Ireland where once the Irish language was indelibly associated with Irish national identify (and still is for many citizens).

Yet, as I noted recently, much of “Official Ireland”, the political establishment and its fellow-travellers, has now rejected the notion of an Irish Ireland and has instead embraced the concept of an English Ireland while paying lip service to any concept of bilingualism. Indeed this was heralded way back in 1996 by the Constitution Review Group which included many “experts” close to Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Labour Party and which recommended that the Irish language be robbed of its status as Ireland’s national language (its unique legal position under Article 8 of our constitution). Instead they urged that the English language be given the same status once reserved for Irish.

Article 8 [the current wording in the Constitution of Ireland]

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.

Discussion [by the Review Group]

Article 8 establishes the two official languages of the State. It accords primacy to the Irish language which is described both as the national language and the first official language. The English language is recognised as a second official language. This wording is unrealistic, given that English is the language currently spoken as their vernacular by 98% of the population of the State. The designation of Irish as the ‘national’ and the ‘first official’ language is of little practical significance. The intention to give special recognition to the Irish language is understood and respected but it is arguable that this might be better achieved, while allowing both languages equal status as official languages, by including a positive provision in the Constitution to the effect that the State shall care for, and endeavour to promote, the Irish language as a unique expression of Irish tradition and culture.

The Review Group considers that there is an implicit right to conduct official business in either official language and that the implementation of this right is a matter for legislation and/or administrative measures rather than constitutional provision.

Recommendation [by the Review Group]

The first and second sections of Article 8 should be replaced by English and Irish versions on the following lines:

1 The Irish language and the English language are the two official languages.

2 Because the Irish language is a unique expression of Irish tradition and culture, the State shall take special care to nurture the language and to increase its use.

[However the third section of Article 8 would be left the same:

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.]”

In other words, the Irish language would be of the same legal status with the English language but the state would be free to make exclusive use of the English language if it so wished. And who imagines it would do otherwise?

So, given all the promised constitutional reviews and amendments committed to by the (anti-Irish) Fine Gael – Labour coalition in their programme for government how long will it be, I wonder, before this particular section of the 1996 review is dusted off?

Teilifís na Life?

Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg, the high-profile Welsh Language Society, is to launch a new web-based television service, initially operating for two hours a week.

From the BBC:

“Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg will transmit Sianel 62 via the web to mark the 50th anniversary of the society.

Describing it as the first new Welsh language channel for 30 years, the society says Sianel 62 will broadcast two hours every Sunday at 20:00 GMT.

Organisers say the online channel, which will be operated from Cardiff and Caernarfon, will have a “fresh vibe”.

Sianel 62 co-ordinator Greg Bevan said: “The channel will offer a new platform for unique and alternative voices that tend to be ignored by traditional broadcasters.

Organisers say the channel offers a platform for “unique and alternative voices” “There will be voices and political and satirical content that we don’t see on current TV programmes.””

Now there is an idea we could borrow from the extremely pro-active Welsh Rights movement. With Nuacht 24 already providing limited web-based news and current affairs video clips perhaps there is an audience out there for something more? After all a Dublin-based Irish language channel would have a natural appeal to many of the capital’s Irish-speaking citizens (the English-speaking ones being already catered to by Dublin Community TV).

We have Raidió na Life, which is partly funded by Conradh na Gaeilge and controlled by Comharchumann Raidió Átha Cliath Teoranta (CRÁCT), a non-profit co-operative anyone can purchase shares in.  What about a web-based television service linked to the radio station, which already broadcasts on the internet as well as on the FM frequency?

Teilifís na Life?

Speaking In Two Tongues

Do you know that you live in an officially bilingual Ireland?

Believe it or not but the Government of Ireland committed itself to a policy of “official bilingualism” across the country way back in 2006. In a statement issued six years ago, and supported by all the major parties in Oireachtas Éireann, the government pledged itself to implement new legislation and a series of programs to create a genuinely bilingual nation. The aim was a society where full equal rights would exist between Irish and English speaking citizens and where bilingualism would become part of the weft and weave of the nation (instead of being ghettoised in the education system).

Gone was the commitment to a purely Irish speaking Ireland, rejected on the basis of the utility of the English language in the global free market (that worked out well, didn’t it?). Instead all the major Irish political parties dedicated themselves to the much less ambitious policy of a bilingual Ireland (and with n’ery a sign of shame or embarrassment for their utter failure to do any better over the previous eight decades).

So, not an Irish Ireland but an Irish and English Ireland.

And how’s that going?

Well, not terribly well to be honest. Why? Mainly because most of the parties who signed up to the 2006 policy statement on the Irish language didn’t mean a word of it. In fact the same old prejudices and indifference that made them ignore our native language in favour of the language of the invader (for so the English language is however much some would rather forget it) continued unabated. No matter that 50% of the original policy statement consisted of aspirational airy-fairy fluff that didn’t mean a damn thing. Even the half that remained was a wee bit more than the establishment politicos could stomach.

In 2010 (four years after the 2006 Statement of Policy on the Irish Language) we got the “20-Year Strategy for the Irish Language 2010-2030”. Unfortunately it’s taken until this year, 2012, for the Strategy to actually start being implemented. However, guess what? We are still very much in the mode of discussions about discussions.

In Ireland the wheels of government move slow. Not sure about the steady bit though.

In Canada, another “officially bilingual” nation, they do things differently. Their political classes actually seem to mean what they say – or sign up to do. From the National Post we have an article by Canada’s Language Commissioner. He does the same job our Language Commissioner here does. Y’know, ensuring equal rights among all citizens regardless of which of the two official languages they speak? That’s the same Commissioner our Fine Gael Labour coalition government is determined to get rid of.

How’s that official bilingualism thing going for you, then?

“For me, it is a question of identity … I am Canadian — I speak French.” These were the words of Savroop Kullar, a French immersion student at the University of Ottawa, addressing an international conference on post-secondary immersion on Friday.

I thought of this remark reading David Frum’s argument that Canada’s immigration policies will mean the gradual disappearance of the political influence of French-speaking Canada in general and Quebec in particular.

Frum mentions a hypothetical Québécois who meets a girl from a Chinese immigrant background. What he neglects to mention is the enthusiasm that the Chinese community has demonstrated for sending their children to French immersion schools, perhaps inspired by former governor-general Adrienne Clarkson’s eloquence in both official languages. Many immigrants, like Savroop Kullar, see bilingualism as an aspirational goal linked to Canada’s identity.

(This is not unique to Canada; Irish language classes in Dublin are filled with immigrants from Eastern Europe who see learning Irish as a way of affirming their commitment to their new country.)

As Frum points out, Stephen Harper has won a majority government without strong representation in Quebec. But this has not stopped him from beginning every news conference in French, and speaking French at G-8 meetings in Washington and Beijing. This is partly his understanding of Canada’s identity, at home and abroad. But he also knows that, while 98% of Canadians speak English or French, there are 4 million French-speaking Canadians who speak no English. And he also knows that, in addition to the 75 seats in Quebec, there are 19 seats outside Quebec where French speakers represent at least 10% of the population — and he won 10 of them.

For the first time, six of Canada’s premiers are bilingual: A reflection of their interest in understanding national issues, but also the interest that premiers Charest, Ghiz, Alward, McGuinty, Selinger and Redford have shown in the minority language communities in their provinces. And those Canadians who want to understand the country as a whole — whether politicians, public servants, soldiers, academics, labour leaders, business people, judges or hockey coaches — have made a point of learning both official languages.”

If only the same could be said of dear old bilingual Ireland.

Get Your Gael On!

There’s an interesting site with some fun games for Irish language learners at Digital Dialects. The vocabulary seems correct and so far I’ve not seen any mistakes. It’s all very simple but something for some enterprising gaelgoir to build upon…?

For more online Irish lessons I’d highly recommend the award-winning Talk Irish, a popular new kid on the block that has so far gained nothing but praise (and nearly 12,000 members!). It’s a very comprehensive site largely aimed towards those with little or no Irish, and it utilises the latest technologies to bring Irish language learning to a truly global audience in a fun and easy manner. However, unlike some other online educational courses, there is no lessening in academic quality and the materials on the site are carefully drawn up and vetted. In other words it is a site you can trust. Money well spent!

Another professional site is Ranganna, though one aimed at the slightly more serious online learner with a more academic tone overall. It has courses geared towards second and third level students in Ireland, as well as specialist courses for teachers, civil servants, IT specialists, lawyers, etc. However its general Irish language courses are highly recommended by experts and it has the added advantage of linking to live courses in venues around Ireland run by Gael Chultúr, as well as the Irish language book group Club Leabhar and the online Irish language bookshop Siopa.

A more traditional site is Bitesize Irish Gaelic, which though lacking the glossiness and comprehensive nature of Talk Irish or Ranganna has gained a loyal following. It is run by the same company that hosts the similar Learn Irish Gaelic, the travel group Gaeltacht Travel, and Irish Gaelic Translator. The latter is a well regarded online Irish language forum with over 65,000 members (mostly from Britain, continental Europe, North America and Australasia) though the level of fluency varies greatly. In recent years it has become better known for providing free Irish language translations for tattoos, children’s names and people’s houses though it retains its very active – and at times fractious – message boards. In recent years the site has helped found and drive the collaborative online Irish dictionary, Irishionary.

However the “official” online Irish language dictionary remains Focal, which is funded by the Irish state and is the result of an ongoing academic program. This is the one favoured by most enquirers because of its professionalism and government status. It is also linked to Logainm, the official list of placenames in the Irish language across the island of Ireland (and a hugely popular site for visitors), and Ainm, the national biography of historic figures in the Irish language.

For general enquires and help with the Irish language the now famous online discussion board Daltaí na Gaeilge is second to none. It has been helping people learn Irish since 1981 and was probably one of the first Irish language groups to go online. An incredible feat for an organisation that is in fact based in the United States and Canada and not in Ireland! Its forums are a legendary and any enquirers generally receive a warm welcome. It also has the added advantage of providing information on language courses throughout North America and beyond.

For more learning materials the web-based retailer Litríocht (the “Irish Amazon”) is generally regarded as your “one-stop-shop” for books, CDs, DVDs, etc. with low-cost shipping available to a host of international destinations. You can also try the excellent Udar, another major online shop, or the Irish publishers Futa FataCló Mhaigh EoCló Iar-Chonnacht and Cois Life all of whom sell direct to the public as well as through online retailers and highstreet stores.

For more Irish language resources please try these sites:

Conradh na Gaeilge 

Gael Linn

Oideas Gael 

Foras na Gaeilge 

Cumann Gaeilge na hAstráile 

Conradh na Gaeilge Shasana Nua 

Coiscéim

Scríobh

Nascanna

Finally, if you want to experience the real thing, then Gael Saoire is the travel service for the Gaeltachtaí or Irish-speaking regions of Ireland, with a host of information and links for visitors.

My own personal bit of Gaeltacht heaven? Now that would be telling!

Native Americans – Second Class Americans

There is a disgraceful story of discrimination towards Native American schoolchildren at a local high school in the United States, highlighted by the Indian Country Today:

“On January 19, a Menominee Indian seventh grader named Miranda Washinawatok was benched and suspended from a Catholic School in Shawano, Wisconsin, for speaking her Native Menominee language with two other girls from the Menominee reservation. Shawano is a small town located several miles south of the reservation; like many off-reservation communities, there is a longstanding history of racist attitudes against Indians, although we like to think that the relations have improved over the years. Unfortunately, this incident shows that racism is alive and well in Wisconsin. That this also happened in a parochial school makes it a wake-up call for everyone who believes that America has moved beyond such displays of ignorance. Historical precedents to this type of action are plentiful—think of all the Native children who were cruelly punished for speaking their languages in the shameful days of Indian boarding schools in the 20th century. Yet, the bad heartedness behind this history persists when a 12-year-old child is subjected to such treatment in 2012.”

There is an ongoing petition which can be signed here.

Guns For Hire – From RIC To RUC

In the 1920s, following the British defeat in Ireland’s War of Independence, many serving members of Britain’ paramilitary police force in Ireland, the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC), went on to become “guns-for-hire” throughout the waning British Empire. What they failed to do in Ireland, the defeat of an anti-colonial revolution, they attempted to do in many an outpost of the Pax Britannica. The most infamous of these ex-RIC officers were the former gunmen of the Royal Irish Constabulary Special Reserve (the loathed Black and Tans) and the Auxiliary Division of the Royal Irish Constabulary (the notoriously barbaric Auxies). Many ended up in the Middle East fighting with Britain’s Palestinian Police Force, the Transjordan Frontier Force and other paramilitary outfits against Arab and Israeli nationalists while others served in India and the Far East.

A decade after Britain’s compromise peace in the North of Ireland some former members of the British paramilitary police force in the north-east of the country, the hated Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC), are once again turning up in Britain’s overseas conflicts, in an eerie rerun of history. Journalist and Irish civil rights activist Eamonn McCann touches upon this in an article for CounterPunch:

“Norman Baxter may find policing in Kabul these days more congenial than policing in Belfast. The former RUC and PSNI Detective Chief Superintendant is one of a number of senior Northern Ireland police officers who have decided that the new, reformed force is not for them, have taken redundancy and signed up with a private firm of “security consultants” with a contract from the Pentagon to help train the new Afghan police force.

Since leaving the Police Service of Northern Ireland in 2008, Baxter has spoken and written of his anger and frustration at changes which have seemed to him to belittle the sacrifices of Royal Ulster Constabulary in the long fight against the IRA and at policies brought in under the peace process which he believes now hamper the force in its continuing fight against terrorism. A year and a half ago, Baxter joined New Century, founded and led by Belfast-born Tim Collins, a commander in the Royal Irish Rangers.

He has been joined in the upper echelons of New Century by a cluster of colleagues, including Mark Cochrane, former RUC officer in charge of covert training; David Sterritt, a 29-year RUC/PSNI veteran and specialist in recruitment and assessment of agents; Joe Napolitano, 25 years in the RUC/PSNI, retiring as a Detective Inspector running intelligence-led policing operations; Raymond Sheehan, 29 years a Special Branch agent handler; Leslie Woods, 27 years in the RUC/PSNI, with extensive Special Branch handling the selection, assessment and training of officers for covert intelligence-led operations. And many others.”

The whole article is essential reading for anyone wanting to know why the echoes of Britain’s dirty war in Ireland continue to rumble so loudly. And why it continues to be unfinished business.

GQ Magazine – Rebellious Scots To Crush!

Crikey, law’ luv-a-duck! The ‘nglish meadja establishment is so bloomin’ terrified of Alex Salmond an’ ‘is SNP stormtroopers that even the toff magazine GQ has joined in the fight fer queen an’ country, lor’ bless ‘em!

“In Scotland, Salmond’s popularity rests not so much on his politics but his ability to string a sentence together – not something his two predecessors were very good at. He at­tracts left-wingers by maintaining Soviet levels of state spending in Scotland. And he talks about low tax, good enough for the reformed Tories. In England, his strategy is to provoke. He loves that Scottish university students pay no upfront fees, while English ones are billed. He loves that the Scottish elderly are given more expensive care – all due to the £20bn subsidy that England gives. The more Englishmen find this outrageous, the better.

And his trap? He’ll hold his referendum probably in two years time, after the Glasgow Commonwealth Games and the subsequent upsurge in Scottish patriotism (nothing stirs Scottish blood more than sporting failures). He hopes to allow 16- and 17-year-olds to vote (independence is more popular among the young). And then: the celebs. His cam­paign already has the posthumous backing of the Makar (the Scottish poet laureate), Edwin Morgan. He bequeathed the SNP almost £1m in his will last year. The UK’s biggest lottery winners, Colin and Chris Weir from Ayrshire, are longtime SNP supporters and are reported to have pledged another £1m to the pro-independence campaign. Then we have the bus tycoon, Brian Souter, who has already bankrolled two successful SNP election campaigns. The devoted, bearded, folk-music-loving SNP members can be ex­pected to dig deep for a once-in-a-lifetime op­portunity to break free from the Auld Enemy. It’ll have the cash, the money, the glam – and Sean Connery.”

Its like wot I told ya, those Scotch are not trus’worthy, not civilized like wot we normal ‘nglish folk are. Altogether now, in yer best Vera Lynn:

“May by thy mighty aid

Victory bring.

May he sedition hush,

And like a torrent rush,

Rebellious Scots to crush.

God save the Queen!”

Anne Coulter – Close Encounters Of A Right-wing Kind

I’ve been asked by a couple of readers to offer some commentary on the current contest amongst the Republican Party in the United States as it decides who its next nominee for election to the White House will be. Santorum, Romney, Gingrich or Ron Paul?

So here it is.

Is it just me or does rent-a-mouth Anne Coulter look suspiciously like the big, spindly alien from Sci-Fi classic “Close Encounters of a Third Kind”?

Seriously.

It’s positively disturbing!