Mí: Aibreán 2012

Scotland Moves Forward – While Ireland Goes Into Reverse

In Ireland a significant number of government departments and other public bodies, along with many public officials, have spent much of the last decade actively opposing the nation’s Official Languages Act of 2003, a piece of legislation introduced eighty years after independence with the objective of ensuring some form of limited equality for Irish-speaking citizens with their English-speaking peers when accessing state services and resources. As the 2011 report by An Coimisinéir Teanga on the workings of the Languages Act has revealed, the institutional discrimination towards Irish-speakers in our culturally English civil service is as virulent as ever.

In Scotland they have their own problems trying to gain equality and respect for their indigenous Gaelic tongue, in the form of the Scottish language, but the willingness of much of the body politic in Scotland to support the Gaelic Language Act of 2005, particularly the governing Scottish Nationalist Party under Alex Salmond, has led to an increase in the social and cultural standing of Scottish-speakers. Though there is still far to go before true equality and equal access to the resources of the state is reached it is a promising start. But just a start.

Along the way there must be more actions like this one, reported by the Stornoway Gazette:

“Sabhal Mòr Ostaig’s Gaelic Language Plan, which was recently published, aims to further promote and strengthen Gaelic in every area of the work and operations of the college, which is the National Centre for Gaelic Language and Culture.

Sabhal Mòr, along with a number of other colleges and universities, was asked by Bòrd na Gàidhlig to prepare a plan under the auspices of the Gaelic Language (Scotland) Act 2005. The Plan was created by the College’s Language Development Officer, Janni Diez, and other college staff who are expert in the field of language development and planning.

It builds on the College’s Language Policy and strengthens Gaelic usage among students and staff at the College. The Plan increases the already-strong status of Gaelic at the college, and will enable Sabhal Mòr to introduce projects and initiatives which will encourage even greater use of Gaelic in a variety of settings and situations.

Bòrd na Gàidhlig Ceannard (CEO), John Angus MacKay, said: “Bòrd na Gàidhlig congratulates Sabhal Mòr Ostaig on the publication of its first Gaelic Language Plan. This is another significant milestone in our journey to achieving the aim of the Gaelic Language Act of seeing the status of the Gaelic language as an official language of the whole of Scotland, commanding equal respect to the English language.

The plan was submitted to Bòrd na Gàidhlig for approval last year following a public consultation where people could submit opinions on the plan. The plan will last five years before being reviewed.

A copy of the Gaelic Language Plan can be viewed at: website

Following on from earlier news about the petty discrimination faced by some Scottish speakers this report is particularly welcome.

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The Banality Of Discrimination

The most notable thing about discrimination, whether towards a race or an ethnicity, is the utter, petty banality of it all. In Ireland Irish-speakers experience this on a regular basis (not to mention the institutionalised bigotry rife throughout much of the Irish state) but we’re not the only Gaels forced to deal with it. In Scotland Scottish-speakers face many of the same challenges in their daily lives. From the Lochaber News comes this tale of small-minded prejudice:

“A YOUNG Lochaber musician scooped a top award at an international competition but was unable to cash in on her winnings when her local bank refused to accept her prize cheque – because her name was written in Gaelic!

Hannah MacRae (14), of Lochyside, Fort William, was a member of a group of local musicians and singers who were very successful at the Pan-Celtic International Festival held recently in Carlow Town in Ireland.

The event was attended by 10,000 people and featured competitors from six countries.

The teenager, a third year pupil at Lochaber High School, was the individual winner of the fiddle competition for her age group, earning her a handsome cheque for 100 Euros – which showed her Gaelic name of Hannah NicRath as the payee.

But when Hannah’s mum, Ann-Marie, presented the cheque, along with Hannah’s bank book, at the Fort William branch of Bank of Scotland, the staff studied it before advising that they could not accept it.

Mrs MacRae was told the cheque has to filled in exactly as per the account name on the passbook.

Despite pleas for common sense to prevail – including a request that staff ‘Google’ the name “NicRath” to confirm it is the Gaelicised version of MacRae – senior staff in the branch, although sympathetic, said they were only implementing Edinburgh head office policy.

Mrs MacRae even asked if the branch could email HQ, with a covering letter and a copy of the cheque, explaining the situation, but was told that cheques can actually be returned to customers if their names are shown as “Mc ” instead of “Mac” – or vice versa.

Ironically, the Fort William branch – like so many in the Highlands and islands – proudly emblazons its Gaelic name, Banca na h-Alba, in huge lettering on the side of its 125-year old premises on the town’s High Street.

The bank has also been issuing its own Gaelic chequebooks since 1972.

These points, said Mrs MacRae, were not lost on the local staff.

Meanwhile, further along High Street, the Royal Bank of Scotland – “Banca Rìoghail na h-Alba” – was happily accepting Pan-Celtic cheques from other local artistes who, like Hannah, had won Euros.

Mrs MacRae, who works for a local insurance firm, said: “There’s a point of principle here.

“The Pan-Celtic Festival organisers have paid all the various winners by cheque – in Gaelic – anticipating that two of the major Scottish banks can operate their transactions on a bilingual English-Gaelic basis.

“We know that other prizewinners – from Harris and from Wales for example – were presented with similar cheques to that issued to Hannah.

“It will be interesting to know the policy adopted by their banks.”

Mrs MacRae has now contacted the Pan-Celtic Festival bursar who said he was sorry to hear about the apparent problems with the cheque. A fresh cheque is being made out out, payable to “MacRae”.”

Like some banks (and other businesses) here in Ireland, in Scotland a few companies will adopt Gaelic as a sign of their distinctiveness – while making no real effort to serve the needs of their customers who actually speak in that language. Though, of course, even signs in Irish or Scottish are going too far for some people.

[With thanks to Daithí Mac Lochlainn for the link]

Éamon Ó Cuív – Republican Dissident?

Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin in government together? Something surely to send the Seoníní elite at the Irish and Sunday Independent newspapers into a bug-eyed frenzy of outrage and opposition to a new “Pan-Republican Front”. Yet here is Éamon Ó Cuív in the Oirish Mail on Sunday:

“Éamon Ó Cuív has called for Fianna Fáil to consider coalition with Sinn Féin in a move that would reunite the parties split by his grandfather, Éamon de Valera.”

Did Éamon de Valera split the revolutionary era Sinn Féin? I thought it was the Pro-Treaty faction who split from Sinn Féin and formed Cumann na nGaedheal, the forerunner of Fine Gael, in 1923? Oh well. History and journalism in Ireland doesn’t really go together. Er, Irish history that is.

“Mr Ó Cuív insisted that Sinn Féin’s recent history would not be a problem, declaring: ‘They’d be as acceptable as were the Workers’ Party, which now runs the Labour Party.

‘They have a bit of history and one of them is Tánaiste now,’ he said, referring to Éamon Gilmore’s past as a Republican Clubs [Official Sinn Féin/Official IRA] and Workers’ Party member before Democratic Left merged with Labour.

However, Mr Ó Cuív acknowledged that there would be major ideological and policy differences.

Asked if a coalition with Labour remained a possibility, Mr Ó Cuív was dismissive.

‘I don’t think Fianna Fáil are compatible with Labour at all. The one time we were in with them it didn’t last long. I don’t think we’re compatible with Fine Gael either,’ he said.

‘What’s the difference between Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin when it comes down to it – except that it took them 70 years to recognise the Dáil? We’re both republican parties and we both come from the same stable.’

Fianna Fáil has 19 seats in the Dáil and Sinn Féin has 14. The Fine Gael-Labour Government has an overwhelming majority.

However, Sinn Féin surged in the most recent polls – to 21% – on the back of its opposition to the water and household charges and the coming referendum.”

Flag flying by Ó Cuív on behalf of the few Republican dissidents left in a political party that has all but divested itself of any pretence of Republicanism? Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin in coalition? Unlikely (and given the ferocity of Micheál Martin’s continued – and increasingly anti-historical - attacks on SF he certainly believes so) but a breakaway faction of FF under Éamon Ó Cuív?

Or is Ó Cuív lining himself up for a tilt at the leadership of Fianna Fáil itself, with an appeal to grassroots that are considerably greener than the party’s elected representatives? He seems to have a vision for the future of FF; and its not just one of crude survival and precious little else.

People Not Pots?

For all you hardcore historian-types out there an interesting article from Discover Magazine on the “pots-not-people” paradigm that dominated archaeological studies from the 1970s onward but now seems to be changing as our knowledge of DNA characteristics in ancient population groups, etc. grows.

“With the recent publication of the paper on the archaeogenetics of Neolithic Sweden I feel like we’re nearing a precipice. That precipice overlooks lands of great richness, filled with hope. It’s nothing to fear. It is in short a total re-ordering of our conception of the recent human past, at minimum. The “pots not people”paradigm arose in archaeology over the past few generations due to both scholarly and ideological factors. The scholarly ones being that intellectuals of the 19th and early 20th century made assumptions of extremely tight correspondence between material and cultural characteristics, and demographic dynamics, which seem to have been false. Therefore, the rise of an Anglo-Saxon England and the marginalization of Celtic Britain to the western fringes was not just a cultural reality, but also a fundamentally racial one, as Germans replaced Celts in totality. The ideological problem is that this particular framework was take as a given by the Nazis during World War II, lending a bad odour to the hypotheses of migration which were once so ascendant.

No one could deny that material cultures rise and fall in pulses, and exhibit variation in spatial distribution over the millennia. But by and large scholars large took a very skeptical view of the idea that large scale migrations of populations may have occurred in prehistory, and could have been the underlying causal factors driving the changes in material culture. But a null hypothesis of demographic stasis was in itself a positive statement of beliefs as to the character of the human past. It was no withholding of judgement.

Today the results from ancient DNA, and more powerful inferential methods which extract patterns out of extant variation, simply can not be easily fitted into a “pots not people” framework. Nor can we go back to a race-is-culture and culture-is-race model in the vein of the Victorians. Rather, the new order model must take into account the imperfect, but non-trivial, correlation between cultural and genetic variation, and, the differences between patterns of cultural and genetic variation.”

There is also some stuff here on Celtic and Irish origins, as well as language change in historical Ireland (it has been argued that as recently as the 1870s the majority of people on the island of Ireland remained monolingual Irish-speakers).

Words Of Wisdom

Just a quick post to note and recommend the wonderful, informative and always entertaining Irish Blog at Transparent Language. Its idiosyncratic nature is its joy. There are more Irish language online resources here and here.

If you like languages (and just plain wisdom) then also have a look at the Omniglot Blog, which is part of the Omniglot website.

Institutional Discrimination In The Irish State – The Culture Of An “Anglophone Stormont”

Céatadán na ngearán de réir cineáil (Percentage of complaints by type)

If you’ve been wondering just exactly why the Fine Gael – Labour coalition government seems so utterly determined to scrap the office of An Coimisinéir Teanga or the Language Commissioner, despite a torrent of criticism and opposition both at home and abroad, read on. Seán Ó Cuirreáin has released his 2011 Annual Report on the adherence to the regulations governing the Official Languages Act of 2003 by public and state-funded bodies throughout Ireland, and it has proved yet again to be an absolute indictment of continued institutional discrimination within the Irish state towards the nation’s Irish-speaking citizens and communities.

“The year 2011 was a busy and eventful one for the Office of An Coimisinéir Teanga.

At the same time, my Office laid two special reports before the Houses of the Oireachtas with regard to cases where public bodies had breached their statutory language obligations but then failed to implement the commendations made to ensure compliance. The organizations involved – the Health Service Executive and the National Museum of Ireland – did not appeal to the High Court against the decisions reached in the relevant investigations, but they did not implement the recommendations made by the investigations. This was the first time since its establishment that my Office had to take such action.”

This relates to serious breaches of the Official Languages Act by two branches of the civil service, both of which astonishingly continue to flaunt the law despite being publicly named and shamed before Oireachtas Éireann. The absolute arrogance of elements of the Irish civil service in relation to their legal obligations when it comes to Irish is breathtaking.

Céatadán na ngearán de réir cineáil (Percentage of complaints by type)

“During the year, my Office dealt with 734 cases of difficulties or problems accessing state services through Irish – the largest number of complaints from the public to the Office since its establishment. This represented an increase of 5% on the number of cases in the previous year.

Particular significance attaches to an investigation which found that An Garda Síochána stationed a substantial number of members of the force, who did not speak Irish, in the heart of the Donegal Gaeltacht in breach of statutory obligations. Only one of the nine Gardaí stationed in the parish of Gaoth Dobhair spoke Irish. This occurred at a stage when the status of Irish as a community language in the Gaeltacht is more vulnerable than at any time in the past. The State can hardly expect the Irish language to survive as the language of choice of Gaeltacht communities if it continues to require people in such areas to carry out their business with the State through English.”

If one had any queries on the status of the Irish language in modern Ireland it’s place is made quite clear by the fact that in 2011 An Garda Síochána, our national police service, continued to provide non-Irish speaking Gardaí or police officers to serve in Irish speaking communities. One is left wondering if anything has changed since the days of the Royal Irish Constabulary, the former British colonial police force in Ireland?

“As a result of two other investigations it was found that the Department of Social Protection failed to correctly award bonus marks for competence in Irish and English in internal promotion competitions. The system, which is in operation since 1975, was set up as a replacement for ‘compulsory’ Irish, and it was designed to ensure that Irish-speaking staff would be available at all grades in the Civil Service. The Department of Social Protection did not appeal the decision of the investigation to the High Court, but neither did it implement the recommendations. That in itself is a matter of concern but the situation is made worse by the knowledge that the practice of failing to award bonus marks correctly is common throughout the Civil Service.

If bonus marks are not awarded for proficiency in the two official languages in internal promotion competitions at a time when little recruitment is taking place in the Public Service and at a time when the work of Gaeleagras, the Irish language training body for the Public Service has been all but terminated, it is very difficult to see how the quantity and quality of state services through Irish could be improved.”

Scéimeanna imithe in éag (Schemes expired)

Again, what is this but institutionalised discrimination and the determination of anglophone supremacists within our state services to remove Irish as a language of government?

“In 2011, my Office continued a programme of detailed audits of public bodies in order to monitor compliance with the provisions of the Official Languages Act. The monitoring capacity of the Office was mainly focused on the implementation of language schemes. It is clear from the completed audits that the majority of public bodies do not succeed in fully implementing all commitments given in their language schemes within the lifetime of the schemes. Often, the commitments that are not implemented are the very ones most likely to be of benefit, such as the availability of Irish language versions of websites and online services and interpersonal services in Irish.”

Do people understand what is happening here? This is deliberate and wilful criminality by sections of the civil service. These are public officials who have abrogated to themselves the right to ignore the law. Indeed to act outside it.

There then follows one of the most condemnatory parts of the entire report:

“The system of language schemes is at the very heart of the legislation and we rely on the language scheme system to improve the quantity and quality of much of the services provided in Irish by public bodies.

During 2011, the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht confirmed only one new language scheme.

In total, 105 language schemes have been confirmed by the Minister to date, but by the end of 2011, 66 of these had expired. This means that no second scheme has been confirmed for two thirds of public bodies, a development that would have increased the supply of services through Irish that could be expected from those public bodies.

At least 20% of the language schemes had expired for more than three years and a further 20% for more than two years.

The following were among the public bodies whose language schemes had expired for long periods at the end of 2011: the Office of the President (three years and eight months), the Arts Council (three years and six months), Office of the Ombudsman (three years and six months), the Courts Service (three years and five months), Galway County Council (three years and four months), the Revenue Commissioners (three years and three months), and the Department for Education and Skills (three years and one month).

In addition to the above, 28 other public bodies had been asked to prepare a first draft scheme but by the end of 2011 these schemes were still not confirmed by the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. In the case of ten of those, more than five years had elapsed since they were initially asked to prepare a draft scheme, in two other cases four and a half years had elapsed. It is of particular significance that four years and seven months had elapsed since the HSE was requested to prepare a draft language scheme; this is an organisation with very close ties to the community and where almost a third of public sector employees work. It is almost three years since An Post was asked to prepare a draft language scheme and more than two years since the Office of the Houses of the Oireachtas, RTÉ and the National Roads Authority were asked to prepare schemes.

By year end, no language scheme had been confirmed for the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, which was formally established on June 1st 2011.

Last year’s statistics show that matters have undoubtedly been allowed to slide out of control and that the system for the confirmation of language schemes appears now to have failed completely. I regret to say that I am of the opinion that it will prove next to impossible to re-establish confidence in that system.”

Considering that the language schemes were regarded as the minimal method for implementing some form of limited equality between the nation’s Irish and English speaking citizens in the eyes of the state, the decision by large sections of the state to conspire to deny those rights by simply refusing to implement full or adequate language schemes is a scandal. Furthermore the hundreds of complaints by Irish citizens in relation to discrimination at the hands of public servants or other breaches of the law by public bodies come from right across the country, 79% from outside the Gaeltachtaí or Irish-speaking regions, with 50% in Dublin alone (an increase of 9% from 2010).

Gearáin – An Ghaeltacht agus lasmuigh den Ghaeltacht (Complaints – Gaeltacht and non-Gaeltacht)

What is required by the Irish state, and the civil service that comprises so much of it, before it will recognise and accept the right of Irish-speaking citizens, Irish men, women and children to full equality under the law with their English-speaking peers? When will the culture of an “Anglophone Stormont” in our public institutions be faced head on?

Gearáin de réir contae (Complaints by county) – Gearáin de réir cineál comhlachta phoiblí (Complaints by type of public body)

After 90 years of waiting, and some might say centuries of waiting, what will it take for equality between Irish Ireland and English Ireland to be reached in our lifetimes?

Or do the Irish-speaking citizens of this nation need their own Derry March of 1968 or their own Burntollet? Will it take a Gaeilgeoirí Battle of the Bogside before anyone will take notice?

We Shall Overcome – Civil Rights In Ireland – The 1960s

There is more information on this at Galltacht – The Hidden Ireland.

Québec Independence – Only A Matter Of Time?

Two fascinating reports today on the independence movements in Québec and Scotland and the effect both are having on each other. The first article is from The National Post:

“Former Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff says Quebec “eventually” will become an independent country and that a victory for Scottish separatists in an expected 2014 referendum will launch a new effort by Quebec nationalists to fulfil their sovereignist dream.

Ignatieff, an author and academic who left the Liberal leadership after his party was badly beaten in the 2011 election, made the comments in an interview being broadcast Monday on BBC Scotland.

He also said Quebec and the rest of Canada have little to say to each other and that the two already are “almost” separate countries.

Ignatieff told BBC Scotland that devolution of central powers, whether from London to Edinburgh or from Ottawa to Quebec City, likely will be only temporary.

“It’s a kind of way station. You stop there for a while, but I think the logic eventually is independence — full independence,” Ignatieff said in an interview in his home last month.

Asked by interviewer Glenn Campbell if he was referring to Quebec as well as Scotland, Ignatieff replied: “I think eventually that’s where it goes.”

The only area where “the union still holds together” is in fiscal and monetary policy, he said.

“But the problem here is we don’t have anything to say to each other anymore,” he added. “There’s a kind of contract of mutual indifference which is very striking for someone of my generation.”

Noting that he speaks French, Ignatieff said he couldn’t imagine Canada without Quebec.

“But that’s not the way most English Canadians now think of their country. They might have done 30 or 40 years ago when we thought we could live together in this very strange hybrid country called Canada.

“Now effectively . . . we’re almost two separate countries. Although Quebec does not have sovereignty it acts domestically almost as if it did, and that I think has produced this strange reality that I don’t think most Canadians I’m thinking of are happy about.”

Ignatieff, describing the United Kingdom as one of the oldest multinational states in the world, said a ‘yes’ vote for independence in Scotland will have reverberations around the world.

“I think if Scotland goes independent a lot of other smaller nations in Europe will start accelerating their quest for independence,” singling out national minorities in Spain and Belgium.”

Meanwhile the BBC is reporting that the:

“…SNP has sought advice from Quebec nationalists ahead of the referendum on independence for Scotland.

The SNP’s Westminster leader, Angus Robertson, travelled to Canada last summer to consult key figures in the Parti Québecois, which wants independence for the province.

The Quebec nationalists have fought and lost two referendums.

The last one was in 1995, where they fell just 53,000 votes short.

The SNP is keen to learn lessons to help the party win in 2014.

Two former premiers of the province say they were consulted, but it is not just the SNP which is drawing on the Quebec experience.

A senior Downing Street adviser also visited the dominion as the UK government considered its response to plans for a vote on Scottish independence.”

Native Americans – Trapped In The USA

Unexpected but welcome news in the Guardian as a United Nations (UN) committee is about to carry out an investigation into the treatment of the citizens of the Native American nations within the United States of America.

“The human rights inquiry led by James Anaya, the UN special rapporteur on indigenous peoples, is scheduled to begin on Monday.

Many of the country’s estimated 2.7 million Native Americans live in federally recognised tribal areas which are plagued with unemployment, alcoholism, high suicide rates, incest and other social problems.

The UN mission is potentially contentious, with some US conservatives likely to object to international interference in domestic matters. Since being appointed as rapporteur in 2008, Anaya has focused on natives of Central and South America.

A UN statement said: “This will be the first mission to the US by an independent expert designated by the UN human rights council to report on the rights of the indigenous peoples.”

Anaya, a University of Arizona professor of human rights, said: “I will examine the situation of the American Indian/Native American, Alaska Native and Hawaiian peoples against the background of the United States’ endorsement of the UN declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples.”

Apart from social issues, US Native Americans are involved in near continuous disputes over sovereignty and land rights. Although they were given power over large areas, most of it in the west, their rights are repeatedly challenged by state governments.

Most Americans have little contact with those living in the 500-plus tribal areas, except as tourists on trips to casinos allowed on land outside federal jurisdiction or to view spectacular landscapes.

Anaya is originally from New Mexico and is well versed in Native American issues.

He will visit Washington DC, Arizona, Alaska, Oregon, Oklahoma and South Dakota, and will conclude his trip with a press conference on 4 May. He will present his findings to the next session of the UN human rights council.”

Following on from a period of unprecedented rapprochement between the indigenous peoples of the US and the government in Washington under President Barack Obama, this is a very promising development, even at this most partisan of times in American politics. However even a casual examination of the facts on the ground shows how truly abysmal life is for the vast majority of Native Americans in the “Reservations” (itself a terrible and all too revealing word: wild animals are kept in reservations not human beings). It is difficult to see how this can change without a radical transformation in the political and judicial fortunes of each of the individual Tribal Nations in relation to the United States.

More Cloak And Dagger Shenanigans In Fantasy Troubles

And so it rumbles on, the latest chapter in the tale of Britain’s super-superspy and double-agent extraordinaire Freddie “Stakeknife” Scappaticci, with the audio recordings of calls between Ian Hurst (the nom de guerre of Martin Ingram, an alleged former British military Intelligence agent) and Sir John Wilsey (former General Officer Commanding the British Army in the Occupied North of Ireland during the early 1990s). Not much new, not much we didn’t know already, and all rather desperate really. But judge for yourself here.

David Starkey And The Dark Side Of English Nationalism

Well, we’ve seen the SNP leader and Scotland’s First Minster, Alex Salmond, compared to the dictator Robert Mugabe by the “respected” BBC journalist Jeremy Paxman (recent convert to the cause of the Apologia Pax Britannica), so should it come as any surprise that he is now being compared to the dictator “Adolf Hilter”? This latest jibe comes from the right-wing British TV historian and English nationalist David Starkey. An unapologetic defender of Greater England, the controversy-seeking academic made his claim at a conservative think-tank meeting in Britain (quelle surprise!).

The Huffington Post carries the details:

“Historian Dr David Starkey has compared Scottish first minister Alex Salmond to Nazi German leader Adolf Hitler.

“If you think about it, Alex Salmond is a democratic Caledonian Hitler, although some would say Hitler was more democratically elected,” he said.

“[For him] the English, like the Jews, are everywhere” he added to gasps from the audience.

Starkey was speaking at a debate, hosted by the Bow Group think tank, on the teaching of British history in UK schools.

“England has shaped the world and now the world has shaped England” he said, “every other country focuses on its own history and it’s absurd that we don’t.”

Teaching should, he said, “unashamedly focus on political history. Social history is… mere sentiment”.

The British needed positive teaching of their history, Starkey argued, to preserve national identity.

Starkey lamented that in the wake of Enoch Powell’s controversial Rivers of Blood speech, it was “no longer” possible to speak about nationalism.“

Starkey, of course, rose to particular infamy last year with his “…the whites are becoming blacks” declaration on British television following several days of rioting in a number of English cities. However he has repeatedly expressed his distaste for all things “Celtic”, dismissing Scotland, Wales and Ireland in a previous TV performance as “feeble little countries”, to the delight of the extreme right in Britain. In his warped worldview the natural supremacy of the English race and its dominance over its neighbours is the only matter of worth in the history of the island of Britain and nearby nations – including Ireland.

Will this latest outburst finally put paid to his inglorious career? Probably not. The more likely scenario is yet more academic respectability-by-association for the extreme right of English nationalism as it slowly creeps towards the centre-place of British politics and the media.

Incidentally David Starkey is a patron of NOGOE (No to Greenwich Olympic Equestrian Events) a local pressure group in Britain opposed to aspects of the London Olympic Games. Amongst its more recent pronouncements have been these particular gems, along the lines of: No Olympics Here, And No Irish Too!

From Boycott To Frankfurt, Only Our Rivers Run Free

“When apples still grow in November

When Blossoms still bloom from each tree

When leaves are still green in December

It’s then that our land will be free

I wander her hills and her valleys

And still through my sorrow I see

A land that has never known freedom

And only her rivers run free”

So go the lyrics of Mickey MacConnell’s famous ballad “Only Our Rivers Run Free”, an indictment of the British Occupation and apartheid state in the North of Ireland in the 1960s, and now it seems that our Fine Oibre coalition government has determined that in the finest traditions of our colonial past even our waters will no longer run free. From the Irish Times:

“HOUSEHOLDS WILL pay an average of €39 per annum over 20 years to cover the cost of the loan from the National Pension Reserve Fund to install water meters in one million Irish homes.

Government sources confirmed yesterday the cost per household, based on the size of the NPRF loan, would work out at about €780, but that the cost would be levied as a standing charge over a period of two decades, in much the same way as such charges are already imposed by other utilities such as the ESB and Bord Gáis.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny confirmed yesterday that householders would pay for the cost of the meters but that the cost would not be an upfront one. Charges are to become operable in early 2014.

Government sources said last night that, in general, no charge would be applied until water meters were installed. However, it is unlikely that all one million homes will have meters in place by the end of next year.

The sources said households that have no meters installed will pay an “assessed charge” based on the metered charges paid by comparable metered properties. This system will be applied to the approximately 350,000 households that will not be metered because it would be too costly or too logistically difficult.”

Along with the so-called “Household Tax” the citizens of Ireland are being burdened with yet another mechanism to forcibly extract the maximum amount of money from their household earnings in order, ultimately, to pay off the banks and financial institutions of Germany, Britain and elsewhere in Europe (and we’re not the only ones). Irish families will go hungry (or into exile) while our absentee landlords in Frankfurt and London will grow fat on our suffering. And if we dare to resist this blatant system of extortionAccording to the Irish Independent:

“TAOISEACH Enda Kenny has warned that people will be cut off it they fail to pay water charges.

Amid continued speculation that households face an €800 bill for new meters, Mr Kenny refused to give details of potential costs when the new charge is introduced in 2014.

“These are all matters for discussion about how the system is actually going to work,” said Mr Kenny.

“If you don’t pay your electricity bill, if you don’t pay your water bill, it’s cut off.”

The Taoiseach pointed out that while water is “fundamental for life”, the Government is not in a position to give people a free allowance.”

Water is but of course “fundamental for life”, which is exactly why the Fine Gael – Labour government is ready to tax it – and at the behest of their masters in Europe. Like some bizarre, reborn clone of the 19th century Irish Parliamentary Party the coalition government will simply become the public face, the cipher and mechanism, for foreign interests in Ireland. Interests whose only purpose is to exploit the Irish nation and the Irish people for their financial, economic and political benefit.

However, not all the croppies are ready to lie down and die. As the Irish Examiner points out:

“Backlash over planned water charges has deepened after campaigners warned of a one million strong household boycott.

As Taoiseach Enda Kenny was accused of sending mixed messages over threats to cut-off non-payers’ supplies, a mass of residents’ committees nationwide warned they would not pay.

It has been previously reported that the Government could allocate 40 litres of water per day free to each household. Any water used on top of that would be charged.

Sinn Fein deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald said: “The Government is so gung-ho in forcing out levy after levy that the Taoiseach doesn’t know what he’s telling people.”

Ms McDonald said his contradictions were just another example of the “confused fiasco” during the run-up to the introduction of the household charge.

And with no Government guidance on costs for water, the Association of Combined Residents’ Associations (Acra) warned its members would not pay any tax on the family home.

“Our members up and down the country are already pinned to the collar trying to survive,” said spokesman Malachy Steenson.

“We successfully made the household tax one of the biggest campaigns in recent decades. Water charges will be even more forcefully opposed.”

John Lyons, Campaign Against Household and Water Taxes, said the fact that half the population had yet to register for the controversial household charge suggested the same people would protest against water.

“If they cut our water supply – this life giving force – there will be a hell of a lot of trouble,” Mr Lyons warned.

“I think we could see a million people marching against the Government over this.”

The Government has estimated that around 906,000 households have registered for the €100 euro household charge – of a total 1.6 million that are eligible.

Socialist Party TD Joe Higgins accused Mr Kenny of “constructive ambivalence” and warned that the controversy surrounding the Government’s mixed messages would only intensify opposition to the charges.

“You could say that the Government is inept, but it maybe also reflects the fact that the Labour Party is desperately trying to cover up its pledge that it would not introduce water charges, which it has since betrayed,” Mr Higgins added.”

Of course one is left pondering the most obvious question of all. How is it that at the start of the 21st century the people of Ireland find themselves in the same position in relation to foreign powers and institutions that they were in at the start of the 19th century? Or indeed the 20th?

Is this not the ultimate indictment of our political, business and media classes who have led us full circle into a new quasi-colonial relationship with the European Union, and the absentee landlords of the IMF-ECB. From Boycott to Frankfurt, we find ourselves yet again the playthings of others.

“I drink to the death of her manhood

Those men who’d rather have died

Than to live in the cold chains of bondage

To bring back their rights were denied

Oh where are you now when we need you

What burns where the flame used to be

Are ye gone like the snows of last winter

And will only our rivers run free? “

Estonia – Defending What Anglo-Ireland Won’t

I’ve drawn attention to the Baltic nations of Eastern Europe before and how they have successfully mounted a defence of their respective languages and cultures over the last century and more despite the proximity of far greater and more influential neighbours: and contrasted this with Ireland’s abysmal record over the last one hundred years.

Now the Guardian examines Estonia and its emergence as a new global “cyberhub”, a remarkable feat which has seen the tiny country of less than one-and-a-half million souls embrace modernity while retaining its own distinct national identity.

“In 1995, four years after Estonia broke free from the USSR, Toomas Hendrik Ilves read a “very Luddite” book by Jeremy Rifkin called The End of Work.”It argued that with greater computerisation there would be fewer jobs,” remembered Ilves, then a senior diplomat, now the country’s president, “which from his point of view was terrible.”

Ilves and many of his colleagues saw it differently. In a tiny (population: 1.4 million) and newly independent country like Estonia, politicians realised computers could help quickly compensate for both a minuscule workforce and a chronic lack of physical infrastructure.

Seventeen years on, the internet has done more than just help. It is now tightly entwined with Estonia’s identity. “For other countries, the internet is just another service, like tap water, or clean streets,” said Linnar Viik, a lecturer at the Estonian IT College, a government adviser and a man almost synonymous in Estonia with the rise of the web.

“But for young Estonians, the internet is a manifestation of something more than a service – it’s a symbol of democracy and freedom.”

To see why, you just have to go outside. Free Wi-Fi is everywhere, and has been for a decade.

Viik says you could walk 100 miles – from the pastel-coloured turrets here in medieval Tallinn to the university spires of Tartu – and never lose internet connection.

“We realised that if the government was going to use the internet, the internet had to be available to everybody,” Viik said. “So we built a huge network of public internet access points for people who couldn’t afford them at home.”

The country took a similar approach to education. By 1997, thanks to a campaign led in part by Ilves, a staggering 97% of Estonian schools already had internet. Now 42 Estonian services are now managed mainly through the internet. Last year, 94% of tax returns were made online, usually within five minutes. You can vote on your laptop (at the last election, Ilves did it from Macedonia) and sign legal documents on a smartphone. Cabinet meetings have been paperless since 2000.

Doctors only issue prescriptions electronically, while in the main cities you can pay by text for bus tickets, parking, and – in some cases – a pint of beer. Not bad for country where, two decades ago, half the population had no phone line.

To an outsider, it is not immediately clear why Estonia took to the internet so much faster than its Baltic cousins, Latvia and Lithuania. All three won independence at the same time. All three needed quick ways of revamping their ailing infrastructure. But to Estonians, the reason is simple. Estonia has a sizeable Russian-speaking minority, but the country’s ethnic Estonian majority feel Nordic, rather than Slavic or eastern European. In the early 90s, this meant they looked to tech-happy Scandinavia for both inspiration and investment.”

Indeed it was the presence of a significant, and hostile, ethnic Russian minority that led the Estonians to emphasise their distinctiveness as a nation and people, not least through the planned modernisation of their country and society. An example that Ireland could take to heart? We are told that we cannot have an Irish Ireland because we live in an English-speaking world culture. Perforce we must have an English Ireland. Yet the Estonians (like the Finns) have shown that argument to be just another ramshackle excuse for wallowing in a post-colonial inferiority complex.

Unlike us they have had their cake – and eaten it too.

(NÓTA: Of course, one might argue that in Estonia a community we could very loosely term as “ethnic” Estonians came to power with the regaining of independence from the former Soviet Union in the 1990s, and so restored and reshaped the nation in their image. In Ireland, on the other hand, it is at least debatable whether or not a community that we might generally describe as “ethnic” Irish took power in the 1920s. In fact it could be suggested that what came to power in post-independence Ireland was an Anglicised-Irish or Anglo-Irish ethnicity, a minority of whom loosely identified with an “ethnic Irish” identity. But that is a story for another day).

NÓTA: Thanks to Siôn for this great link, with some more information on the story above.

Wales, Scotland And Manifestations Of Greater England

Wales Online is reporting on what some critics are claiming was an attempt by a local branch of the British Labour Party in Cardiff to stir up “ethnic” tensions between Welsh-speaking and English-speaking residents in the city in the run-up to local government elections in Wales.

“Labour has pulped 5,000 copies of a Cardiff council election leaflet because it contains a resident’s comment that they “can’t apply for most jobs in Wales because you need to speak Welsh”.

Last night an angry row erupted between Plaid Cymru and Labour, with Plaid’s deputy council leader Neil McEvoy accusing Labour of seeking to inflame the language issue. The four-page Labour leaflet, which has not been distributed by the party, was intended for the residents of Ely. It includes a column with pictures of a number of people explaining why they are voting Labour.

As well as First Minister Carwyn Jones and former MEP Baroness Eluned Morgan of Ely, it features a local resident named only as “David” who is quoted as saying: “I’m a graduate looking for a job but thanks to Plaid I can’t apply for most jobs in Wales because you need to speak Welsh.”

Coun McEvoy said: “Carwyn Jones should order an investigation into how this leaflet came to be produced in the first place. Labour has a history in Cardiff of trying to divide people over the Welsh language. …I don’t believe Labour has withdrawn this leaflet out of principle – they’ve done so out of embarrassment.”

A Welsh Labour spokesman said: “Following external production of a leaflet for the Ely ward in Cardiff, the local party identified a small paragraph which contained words from a local resident that clearly ran contrary to Welsh Labour’s policy position and core beliefs.

“The obvious decision was immediately taken by Ely branch Labour Party and Welsh Labour to not distribute the leaflet, and to destroy the 5000 copies. To suggest that Welsh Labour would ever condone, enable or facilitate the distribution of the sentiments contained in the endorsement is as offensive as it is absurd.”

This story comes hot on the heels of an attack on Welsh-speaking parents and schoolchildren in the indigenous-speaking region of Cardigan by a group of anglophone business leaders who claimed that the use of the Welsh language in Wales was threatening the local economy and their business-interests.

Meanwhile the right-wing British nationalist newspaper, the Daily Express, has carried an attack on the Scottish language with a “scare-story” about discussions to use bilingual signs and emblems in hospitals in Scotland. A quick read of the article proves that the claims in it simply fail to stand up to scrutiny and it is nothing more than crude anti-Scottish, Greater Englander spin.

“DOCTORS and nurses could be forced to wear bilingual badges as part of the SNP Government’s drive to promote Gaelic, it emerged yesterday.

Hospital and doctors’ surgery signs, letterheads, and health board logos may also include the language under a five-year action plan drafted by ministers.

Those seeking an NHS job would be quizzed “about their Gaelic skills” the document states.

Bosses would have to encourage medical and administrative staff to learn Gaelic and use it in their everyday jobs.

Opposition parties and public spending campaigners yesterday described the proposals as an “expensive rebranding exercise”.

Scottish Tory health spokesman Jackson Carlaw said: “It’s not the job of Government to insist on Gaelic on nurses’ uniforms any more than it should be a condition of the ScotRail franchise that they post station names in Gaelic where a Gaelic-speaking tradition has never existed.”

Labour’s Jackie Baillie said: “At a time elderly patients can’t even get a blanket, I hardly think this sort of expensive re-branding is a priority.”

The Government’s document says it wants to explore “potential use of dual branding throughout NHS communication channels in Scotland so the public recognise the equal status of Gaelic and English in the day-to-day activities of NHS Scotland.”

It says: “We’ll also consider use of Gaelic in uniforms. During the course of this plan we’ll liaise with all of NHS Scotland’s health boards on potential development and use of bilingual logos. We will ask job applicants about their Gaelic skills.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said it was a matter for individual health boards.”

She added: “The plan commits to undertaking an assessment of the value of dual language branding of the NHS Scotland logo, which will take into account financial cost, acceptability and what impact this would have on Gaelic language promotion.

“The recommendations will have minimal cost implications and are built on the use of existing resources.”

In other words it is a story about nothing. Except, perhaps, a sign of the growing strength and status of the indigenous Celtic languages of the island of Britain and the continued hostility and bigotry of the anglophone supremacists in the British Nationalist camp and their ideological defence of “Greater England”.

The United States And The Native American Nations – Progressing Towards True Equality

Some welcome news for dozens of Native American nations as the US government has announced that it is to pay more than 1 billion dollars (around 760 million euros) in settlements to end a series of long-running legal battles with a number of indigenous peoples in the United States.

From a report by the Indian Country Today Media Network :

“The Obama administration announced April 11 its intent to resolve 41 long-standing disputes with Indian tribal governments over the federal mismanagement of trust funds and resources.

Ignacia Moreno, assistant attorney general at the U.S. Department of Justice, said the settlements will amount to a combined total of $1.023 billion to the 41 tribes for past federal mismanagement.

Beyond money, the settlements also set forth a framework for promoting tribal sovereignty and improving nation-to-nation federal-tribal relations, while trying to avoid future litigation through improved communication, Moreno said.

The announcement was made at a White House ceremony, with Attorney General Eric Holder, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, Senior Advisor to the President Valerie Jarrett, and other senior members of the Obama administration joining tribal leaders in attendance.

“May we walk together toward a brighter future, built on trust, and not acrimony,” said Hilary Tompkins, Solicitor General of the Interior Department, at the event. “And when I say the word trust, I don’t mean the legal definition of that word, I mean the dictionary’s definition of that word—assured reliance on the integrity, veracity, justice, friendship, or other sound principle of a person or thing….”

The announcement is one of several settlements the Obama administration has announced with individual Indians and tribes since 2009.

In 2010, the administration settled the $760 million Keepseagle case brought by Native American farmers and ranchers against the U.S. Department of Agriculture. They alleged discrimination by the agency in its administration of loan programs.

President Barack Obama also signed into law the Claims Resolution Act in December 2010, which included the $3.4 billion Cobell settlement agreement that aims to resolve a lawsuit over the management and accounting of more than 300,000 individual American Indian trust accounts. That settlement is still on appeal in federal court. It was first announced by the administration in December 2009.

The Claims Resolution Act also included four water rights settlements, meant to benefit seven tribes in Arizona, Montana, and New Mexico.

In October 2011, the Obama administration reached a $380 million settlement with the Osage Nation over the tribe’s long-standing lawsuit involving the federal government’s mismanagement of trust funds and trust resources. That settlement featured measures designed to improve the trust relationship between the tribe and the United States.

Chief James Allan, Coeur d’Alene tribal chairman, said at the event that he believes Obama has done more for tribes than the last five presidents combined.

Gary Hayes, chairman of the Ute Mountain Tribe, thanked the U.S. agencies for moving to settle the lawsuits that have already proven costly to tribes as they have carried out their legal challenges for years. He also thanked the Native American Rights Fund for its role in assisting tribes on the deals.

“The seeds that we plant today will profit us in the future,” Hayes said. “These agreements mark a new beginning, one of just reconciliation, better communication…and strengthened management….”

Let us hope that the positive political developments of the last few years for the indigenous communities of North America herald the birth of a true era of respect and equality between themselves and the United States of America. But there is a long way to go.

Speak English! Or Else…

On Tuesday I discussed the slow but steady linguistic change currently taking place in Wales, with increasing numbers of Welsh people returning to their native language, largely due to a positive political environment in which equality legislation and clearly defined language policies have shaped the cultural landscape of the nation. Over the last two decades virtually all the political parties in Wales have embraced the concept of bilingualism and it has transformed the country. The days of politicians paying lip service to the Welsh language, or being actively hostile and discriminatory to Welsh speakers, have slowly faded away.

The institutional bigotry of English-speaking Wales has been broken, if not entirely erased. It can still kick back, as is evident from this report on the bizarre claims by businessmen in the Welsh-speaking region of Ceredigion that the transformation of the last bilingual English-and-Welsh speaking school in the area into a monolingual Welsh-speaking school (to meet the needs of local parents and children) will threaten jobs and the economy. Apparently speaking a language other than English means you will be punished by being made unemployed. I wonder has anyone told that to the Germans? Or the Japanese? Not to mention the Chinese.

From Wales Online:

“A row has erupted over plans to phase out teaching pupils in English at a primary school in a Welsh language stronghold.

Business leaders say the move could hinder the economy.

Ysgol Gynradd Aberteifi is the last remaining dual language primary school in the Cardigan area, with the nearest school teaching in English more than 20 miles away in New Quay.

All other eight schools within an eight-mile radius offer education through the medium of Welsh. The decision has ignited a row with business leaders who say the move could deter potential businesses and workforces from moving to the area.

Cardigan and District Chamber of Commerce said changing the status of the school will also have a “negative effect” on the expansion of existing businesses.

More than 1,000 people signed a petition against the change last year but the authority’s education cabinet gave the go ahead for the scheme last month.

Supporters say only a small number of pupils are currently taught in English and education director Eifion Evans said the change would be introduced gradually over a period of time, starting from September 2013.

Pupils already at the school will continue to be educated in Welsh and English during their time in the school. The school would become a full Welsh medium school in September 2019.

The Chamber has called for a delay on the move until a full consultation is carried out with firms in the area.

“We are objecting on the grounds that there has been inadequate consultation in relation to the effect such a change will have on the ability of local businesses to expand, and on the ability to attract new businesses,” said chairman Paul Oakley.

In a letter to the education authority, he said Ceredigion has the lowest earnings in Wales with a large community that desperately needs better paid jobs.

Welsh Government figures show the average weekly earnings in Ceredigion are the lowest in the country but house prices are disproportionately high.

Ceredigion remains one of the strongholds of the Welsh language, with 61% of those in the economically active age group speaking it.

Mr Oakley said the authority has said it has no evidence that the medium of education is an issue for prospective businesses.

“Quite who the education authority has consulted on these assertions is not clear but the obvious contact – the Chamber of Commerce, which represents more than 50 local businesses – has not been consulted, and would not agree with that,” he said.

“Key skills required by companies to move into new areas will be more difficult to recruit if there is no English stream in the local school.”

Councillor Ian ap Dewi, chairman of the council’s education scrutiny committee, said the decision was a very positive development for Cardigan and for the county.

“This is a big step and I congratulate the school for taking it. Welsh medium education is completely natural and normal.”

He added that late-comers to the Welsh language who move in from non-Welsh speaking areas will be able to attend to county’s language centre to prepare them for Welsh medium education.

Meinir Jones, spokeswoman for the Welsh Language Board, said: “Parents will still be able to help their child by reading bilingual books with them, by using audio books, and by taking an interest in school life and offer practical help if needed.

“In many parts of Wales the vast majority of children in Welsh-medium schools come from non-Welsh-speaking homes, so the schools are experienced in dealing with such situations.”

Reading the report one is left wondering if this is a case of Anglophone businessmen in Ceredigion issuing “warnings”: or issuing threats. Take away our English language and we will take away your jobs? Less a case of expressing the virtues of English and instead a simple case of expressing the inherent supremacism of some English-speakers.

What next? The “Blue Book” and the “Welsh Not” sign for children’s necks?