Údar: Séamas Ó Sionnaigh (An Sionnach Fionn)

Poblachtach Ghaelach, scríbhneoir agus ealaíontóir

Fine Oibre Government Faces Electoral Shock And Awe?

Uisce Éireann (Irish Water), EU direct-taxation by other means?

Uisce Éireann (Irish Water), EU direct-taxation by other means?

So local residents at Togher in Cork and Raheny in Dublin are refusing to allow domestic water meters to be installed in their estates by contractors from Uisce Éireann (Irish Water) resulting in a large posse of Gardaí descending on both communities. Just the headlines the Fine Oibre coalition needs in the run-up to local and European elections and with both government parties already displaying serious electoral jitters. Are these the first concrete signs that Seán and Síle Citizen is finally taking a stand when it comes to the imposition of iniquitous Euro-taxes, albeit with the encouragement of existing anti-austerity activists? Will the loftily self-entitled ministers of Fine Gael and Labour take the hammering they deserve come ballot day? The positively frigid reception for Ruairí Quinn, Minster for Education and autocrat par excellence, by the ASTI conference certainly indicates that the Éireannaigh are well and truly fed up by those who-would-be-kings (or at least act like kings). Whatever about in times past, of late teachers in Ireland have not been exactly noted for their rebelliousness and Quinn’s act went down like a lead balloon with the gathering (“feminisation” and all).

Perhaps one indicator of how badly the scandal-beset government has actually governed over the last few years is the need for it to focus on anything but its own governance when facing the electorate. So Labour Party and Fine Gael members have been advised to attack Sinn Féin, now the most visible face of the anti-austerity Opposition. Even the Green Party, as tepid an electoral threat as one could find, is to be targeted for opprobrium by worried FG and Lab activists. One is only waiting for the media establishment to role in behind Official Ireland, especially with its nose out of joint by the continued high-showing of SF and the Independents in the polls (Gerry Adams most popular party leader in Ireland? The screams from Talbot Street were audible all over the capital!). With a pretty dire record of government mismanagement, the ruthless imposition of misdirected taxation and cuts in public services aside, it is hard to see anything positive in three years of Fine Gael and Labour coalition rule. Something which they pretty much acknowledge themselves. One is reminded of the end of the premiership of Winston Churchill in Britain after World War II. He may have been perceived domestically as the man who “won the war” but he paid an electoral price for doing so. FG and Lab may have won their austerity war – but the electoral price for it is being calculated as I write.

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Putting Catholic Unionists On A Leash

Former DUP member and convicted terrorist John Smyth Junior pictured with his party leader Peter Robinson in 2010. He is the son of DUP councillor John Smyth, who was similarly convicted of British terror attacks.

Former DUP member and convicted terrorist John Smyth Junior pictured with his party leader Peter Robinson in 2010. He is the son of DUP councillor John Smyth, who was similarly convicted of British terror attacks.

So Tina McKenzie, the European Parliamentary candidate for Ireland’s newest Unionist party, NI21, has been forced to sign a declaration pledging her opposition to “political violence”. Why? Because her father is Harry Fitzsimmons, a former Volunteer of the (Provisional) Irish Republican Army, who was divorced from her mother way back in the 1970s. Or at least that is the excuse given in public and to the news media to explain away the bizarre pledge-signing. The organisation that demanded it, Innocent Victims United, has stated that it will only deal with British Unionist parties like NI21, the DUP, UUP, TUV, APNI and the Conservatives while boycotting Sinn Féin, the IRSP, éirígí, and other elected Republican/Nationalist representatives it disapproves of.

No such requirement, of course, has been made of the numerous DUP and UUP politicians with links to various British terror factions. Nor indeed as far as I am aware was David Rose, one of the early members of NI21, forced to sign such a declaration. That would be the same Rose who was for many years the very public face of the PUP, the minor Unionist party that operates as the political wing of the UVF, a British terrorist grouping in Ireland. The difference between Tina McKenzie and David Rose? Well, why don’t we just start with her religion and go on from there.

British Unionism in Ireland. The same as it ever was.

The Fenian Flame

Proclamation of the Irish Republic Dublin Ireland 24th April 1916

A copy of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic being read by Dr. Edward McWeeney, Dublin, Ireland, 24th April 1916

For decades, or indeed centuries, the British sought to criminalise the Irish Republican cause, to portray Ireland’s revolutionary movements as little more than criminal collectives, self-serving organisations driven by greed, avarice and violence. In recent years, during the latter half of the conflict in the north-east of our island nation, the British and their allies took the old acronym “the RA” (Republican Army) and transformed it into “the RAfia” a spin on the term “Mafia”. It was of course untrue, just another weapon in an ongoing propaganda war but it seems that contemporary Republicans, in the ironies of ironies, are now determined for it to come true.

How else would one describe the events of the last five years and the obvious convergence of Irish revolutionary politics with the country’s illicit underworld? Minor organisations like the Continuity Irish Republican Army (CIRA) have been assimilated almost entirely into Ireland’s crime-networks; indeed they have become a network of their own. That is not to deny that genuine and committed Republicans exist amongst its membership or supporters but the grouping is hopelessly compromised, beyond any reform or saving (if that was even desirable). Those who remain committed to the CIRA remain committed to murder and criminality not freedom and unity. They are simply narco-terrorists with all that the term implies. Much the same can be said of the so-called New Irish Republican Army (NIRA), the organisation which arose from the merger of the Real IRA, RAAD and various independent Republican activists. Despite the much-publicised attempts to carry out what is euphemistically termed “house-cleaning” it remains riddled with criminals and their associates. If ever a case was required to illustrate the dangers of mixing politics and crime – even at the level of so called “taxation” – the Real IRA and its successor organisation are it (though frankly how any Republican worthy of the name could be part of the faction which brought mayhem and destruction to the Irish town of Omagh is beyond me. Are war criminals now passing as revolutionaries?). Óglaigh na hÉireann (ÓnaÉ) which professed to above such criminality is itself now at the centre of numerous accusations of malfeasance, though many as yet remain unproved.

The simple facts are these. Since 1998 the various groupings under the umbrella of the Republican Resistance (the so-called Dissidents) have killed – murdered – more Irish men, women and children than the very Occupation Forces they are supposedly fighting against. They have inflicted horrendous violence upon each other and upon the uninvolved. They have – and this most reprehensibly of all – provided a mechanism by which Ireland’s criminal underworld has become ever more violent, ever more technically assured of itself when it comes to everything from bomb-making to eluding forensic detection. When Republicans of any organisation or allegiance are demonstrably worse than that which they oppose then they are no longer worthy of the name of Republican. They have stripped themselves of that right.

All of which leads me to an article in the Irish Times featuring an interview with Dominic Óg McGlinchey, the son of the late leader of the INLA, Dominic McGlinchey (who’s own assassination – and internecine conflict within the INLA and between it and the IPLO –  foreshadowed what was to happen when Republicans and criminals became uneasy bedfellows. But was anyone willing to learn the lesson?). I strongly recommend a read as it spells out many of the criticisms coming from within the broad Republican community, from those not aligned to Sinn Féin or any other organisation.

No one is arguing that Irish Republicans need cease to be Irish Republicans. SF has taken its path under Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness and arguably used the allied military and political successes of the 1969-2005 armed struggle to make considerable progress towards the reunification of our island nation. However an honourable compromise is not the end point, it is merely a staging point in that ongoing journey, one that Republicans of all hues need to play a constructive part in. If Sinn Féin is now seen as being reluctant to force the pace of progress then others need step forward. That does not necessitate a renewed armed struggle, nor does it require a rejection of armed struggle. Revolutionary warfare is simply a means to an end, not an end in itself. The British Occupation of the north-eastern part of our country can be resisted, opposed, by other means: political, social, cultural and linguistic. The final destruction of the last administrative remnant of the British colony on our island nation can be accomplished – must be accomplished – by means other than simply military ones. It is only when such mechanisms of resistance and liberation have been exhausted, when they have proved themselves to be futile, that one may legitimately resort to armed struggle as the final option of last resort. Not first.

Are the appeals to the Republican traditions and rhetoric of times long past still valid? Are 19th or 20th century solutions workable for 21st century challenges? Or does a 21st century Ireland require a 21st century republicanism, a revolutionary vision re-imagined? As Ó Conghaile predicted, what use freedom if nothing changes but the flag upon the mast? And as An Piarsach urged, not merely free but Gaelic too. No one person or organisation is the holder of the true faith. Ideological interpretations are many, none more or less valid than any other.  The Fenian flame burns bright in the minds of all true Republicans. It does not require martyrs or sacrifices. It requires nothing more than committed and determined men and women. And it belongs to us all.

Beir bua indeed…

Update: Please note the critical Comment from Ginger below who makes some reasonable points in relation to the post above.

NI21 Gets Its Irish On

Bilingual Irish-English poster for NI21, a liberal if minor Unionist party in the north-east of Ireland

Bilingual Irish-English poster for NI21, a liberal if minor Unionist party in the north-east of Ireland. A sign of things to come?

By all accounts Ireland’s newish British Unionist party, NI1921, is in grave difficulties following a series of internal squabbles over policy direction and the dominance of the organisation by its only recognisable faces, former UUP politicians Basil McCrea and John McCallister. A liberal, centre-right party attempting to make room for itself in the same electoral space shared by the ideologically-similar Alliance Party many media observers predict death-by-ballot-box as Unionist politics in the north-east of the country increasingly falls under the influence of militant extremes like the Protestant Coalition. However the Twenty-oners at least have shown how one can outperform the frequently janus-faced Alliance Party when it comes to recognising that the British Unionist community lives on the island nation of Ireland, not Britain. From the Belfast Telegraph:

“Five of NI21′s total of 30 billboards for the European elections have been written in Irish as part of a campaign which will be the fledgling party’s first test at the polls.

Party leader Basil McCrea denied the decision to put their slogan ‘This is Fresh Politics’ in Irish could backfire.

“As far as I know we are probably the first pro-UK party to use the Irish language in our election campaign,” the Lagan Valley MLA said.

Ahead of the party’s expected launch later this week of more than 50 candidates for the 11 new councils, he said: “We are taking a stand as conviction politicians.

“We are an inclusive party. We believe Northern Ireland should be a place where everybody can celebrate their own culture.

“Although we believe that NI is better off remaining part of the United Kingdom we do not see why we should not be pluralist and diverse.”

The former Ulster Unionist, who resigned from the party along with South Down MLA John McCallister, said his party was not against the Irish Language Act which Sinn Fein is demanding at Stormont.”

Given that a senior Alliance Party candidate, Anna Lo, recently voiced her honest opinions on the anachronistic remnants of the British colony in Ireland can we be viewing the emergence of a Fíorpholaitíocht or Realpolitik movement amongst the Unionist minority? A reaction to the dominance of the “No to Democracy” fringe who have controlled the news headlines for the last year and more? Whatever the case one at least must be generous in recognising that the NI21 grouping is taking a step in the right direction (albeit a step surrounded by provisos).

What were those demographic predictions again?

Corto Maltese, an tEachtránaí Eiseamláireach

Arna chéadfhoilsiú ar An Tuairisceoir:

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

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Ireland’s English State

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

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

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

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

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

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

Séamas Ó Sionnaigh (An Sionnach Fionn):

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

Arna chéadfhoilsiú ar Come here to me!:

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

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

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

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Big Boost In Funding For Scottish Language Broadcasting

BBC Alba

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

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

Yahoo News And The Murder Advocates

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

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

Proud Scotsman  •  11 hours ago

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

Daniel  •  11 hours ago

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

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

Atmo-Craft, Colin Wilson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Hysterical history

Séamas Ó Sionnaigh (An Sionnach Fionn):

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

Arna chéadfhoilsiú ar Wee Ginger Dug:

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

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

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A Tale Of Two Languages

A mass Basque nationalist demonstration in Bilbao, 2012

A mass Basque nationalist demonstration in Bilbao, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ireland’s British Rebels

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Existential Angst From John Waters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Errr… quite.

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

Five Thousand March For Irish Rights In Belfast

Dearg Le Fearg

Dearg Le Fearg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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