Cúrsaí Reatha (Current Affairs)

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Language // “Criticising Gaelic Medium Education”

Arna chéadfhoilsiú ar on travel, culture, language & politics:

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© Emory Maiden

Last month, a piece of research by Aberdeen University was published which examined the Gaelic usage of pupils in a primary school class somewhere in the Highlands.

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Howth Gunrunning Ladies

Arna chéadfhoilsiú ar Choosing the Green - Roghnú Glas :

100 years ago exactly, a large shipment of arms landed in Ireland. It took the actions of extraordinary women to accomplish the Howth Gun Running scheme of 1914 in Ireland. One, Alice Stopford Green, gave a loan to have the capital for negotiations. Two more, Molly Childers and Mary Spring Rice, raised the rest of the funds to purchase the weapons. They were transported on the Childer’s family yacht – The Asgard – and the two women sailed proudly with them. This is not to say that they did it alone but without the actions of these women, this large landing of arms destined for the hands of the Irish Volunteers may never have happened.

Many of the weapons smuggled in that day were used in the Easter Rising  of 1916. Though the rising was not yet being actively planned, the Ulster Volunteers had been arming themselves and doing a…

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Charlie Flanagan and Ireland’s Green Light To Israel

An Sionnach Fionn:

Where are the Irish statesmen and diplomats with the wisdom and vision of a Seán MacBride or a Frank Aiken? We are left with fools and charlatans…

Arna chéadfhoilsiú ar Cunning Hired Knaves:

Charlie Flanagan

Charlie Flanagan

On Wednesday, Ireland, along with the rest of the member countries from the European Union, abstained from voting on a UN Human Rights Council resolution to establish a Commission of Inquiry to investigate war crimes in Gaza. An initial statement from the European Union countries was issued, and then Ireland released a supplementary statement outlining its particular reasons for abstaining.

On Thursday, Ireland’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Patricia O’Brien, appeared on RTE’s News at One radio programme. She gave a lengthy explanation of the diplomatic considerations behind the decision to abstain. It was a strange appearance. You might wonder why a diplomat should be giving an account to the public of an abstention that ultimately reflected the government’s political viewpoint. The crucial part of Ireland’s cited decision to abstain –the feeling that the resolution did not give adequate condemnation to rocket fire from Gaza- did not…

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This Land Is Mine, Israel And Palestine

From the talented Nina Paley.

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Politics // Glasgow 2014: Human Rights and the Commonwealth

Arna chéadfhoilsiú ar on travel, culture, language & politics:

Glasgow 2014

This article was originally written in Gaelic and published here by the Gaelic online magazine, Dàna, which I co-edit.

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Equal In Any Language

In yesterday’s Guardian newspaper the journalist and political activist Ellie Mae O’Hagan argues that the Welsh language should be part of the school curriculum not just in Wales but in other parts of the island of Britain too. Since “England and Wales” are essentially treated as one constitutional and legal entity under British law it is perfectly valid to question why the second most-spoken and officially recognised language in the co-joined region, Welsh, is not also taught as a subject in English schools.

“Adam Ramsay, as part of Open Democracy’s Scotland’s Future series, has written a series of pieces in favour of independence – many of which have hovered over the questions of British identity. In one piece, he lambasts no advocate Danny Alexander for being blinded by “bombastic British nationalism”.

I’ve loved reading these pieces by Ramsay (though I make no argument either way about independence here), but I take issue with his criticism of British nationalism. To me, what Alexander is defending is not British nationalism, but a type of English nationalism that sees Britain as a “greater” England and Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland as subordinates whose cultures exist as only anachronistic novelties. I’m sure that’s what Ramsay was driving at in his piece, but that’s not British nationalism, it’s English nationalism, English entitlement – and Wales is suffering under it too.

There are many economic, social and cultural reasons for Scotland’s yes campaign to have reached such an unexpected level of success; but from my Welsh point of view I suspect that one reason must surely be frustration at the way that the English domination of Britain has led to the marginalisation – if not jingoistic ridiculing – of Scottish and Welsh identity. Our unique cultures and languages are habitually erased in favour of an umbrella Englishness.

It’s time to end the English domination of Wales and Scotland, regardless of outcome of the referendum in September. To do this, I propose schoolchildren take part in compulsory lessons in Welsh and Scottish studies, during which they at least learn how to speak basic Welsh. I don’t see why not: Welsh is an official British language, the oldest language in Europe and the most common in Britain after English.

Many will write this off as a ludicrous proposal, but in doing so they reveal, to quote Ramsay again, “something fascinating about the nature of British nationalism – how it is so ubiquitous as to be unnoticed; so hegemonic, as to go unchallenged.” After all, nobody would find it ludicrous to expect Welsh and Scottish schoolchildren to learn the English language and English history, and to imbibe English culture as a necessary result of its dominance.

If the Scottish people do vote no in September, Westminster should not take that as a validation of English empire. For the good of the many component parts, languages, and cultures that make up Britain, it’s time for something different.”

Typically the Comments beneath the article are full of Greater England derision for a “useless” and “dead” language that “no one” speaks. As pointed out on ASF before the Anglophone supremacism so often displayed in Ireland has its natural home (and origins) in Britain and more specifically in England. There is no language but the English language, there is no culture but English-derived culture. Given that the Welsh and Scottish (Gaelic) languages all have official status in Britain the argument that they should take their place alongside the de facto and vernacular language of the state, English, is overwhelming. Teaching British schoolchildren some knowledge of all the national languages that share the island of Britain, English, Welsh and Scottish (and Cornish too) is a threat to no one except the most intolerant expansionists of Greater England. Of which there are too many.

Meanwhile here in Ireland our national language continues to be denigrated and ridiculed by a state and political establishment that deliberately failed to revive it as the speech of the majority and now wishes to kill it as the speech of the minority. The broadcaster and radio producer Cuan Ó Seireadáin points out the farcical and dishonest nature of recent government actions for the Irish Central.

“Serious questions about the judgement of Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Enda Kenny are being posed this week after his attempt to recover popularity by reorganizing his government last Tuesday backfired spectacularly, sparking off protests, a social media storm, tetchy scenes in the Dáil, and almost universal criticism in the press.

It is the unprecedented appointment of a non-Irish speaker to the position of Minister of State with responsibility for the Gaeltacht that has caused the greatest uproar.

Gaeltacht is the name given to the last pockets of territory in the remote south, west, and northwest of Ireland where Irish is still the primary language of communication.

Recent studies have shown that unless drastic action is taken, the gradual decline in population may mean that, within fifteen years, Irish could disappear as the default language of communication in those areas.

The Minister for the Gaeltacht is tasked with helping to reverse this trend, as well as improving economic conditions in the Gaeltacht. As part of his duties, he regularly meets with representatives of the Gaeltacht and other interest groups that are doing their best to keep Irish alive.

Until now, those meetings were held in the Irish language. From now on, residents of the Gaeltacht will be forced to speak English to the Minister.

The symbolism of an Irish government Minister with responsibility for helping to preserve and promote the Irish language forcing those in his presence to switch to English is unprecedented and bizarre.

The Irish Daily Mail’s front page headline “AN INSULT TO IRISH SPEAKERS” was echoed in The Irish Times, which dropped its usual reserve, and, in a blistering editorial broadside asked:

“How could Taoiseach Enda Kenny have appointed a junior minister with a special responsibility for the Gaeltacht, who lacks an essential qualification for that job – fluency in the State’s first official language? And how could Joe McHugh, who is the Minister of State with that responsibility, have accepted the portfolio? Mr McHugh is hopeful that he can quickly master the language and he yesterday invited the public to “join him on his journey” as he improves his knowledge of the language. Good intentions are, however, not good enough at this level.”

Conradh na Gaeilge, the democratic forum for the Irish speaking community, was quick to respond, and organized a flash protest outside Enda Kenny’s office within 24 hours of the appointment. The protest was well attended and supported by the leaders of all the opposition parties.

The appointment of a non-Irish-speaker to the position of Minister for the Gaeltacht is the latest example of a worrying tendency by the current government to disregard the civil rights of Irish speakers, despite widespread sympathy for their plight. In February Conradh na Gaeilge organized Lá Mór na Gaeilge, the largest and most successful Irish language Civil Rights protest in 50 years, which was attended by 10,000 supporters.

It is difficult to interpret Kenny’s selection of a minister who is incapable of communicating with residents of the Gaeltacht and those who are choosing to live their lives through the medium of Ireland’s oldest and first official language as anything other than an insult – to the 10,000, to the Gaeltacht, and to Irish speakers everywhere.”

The Orange Order – Enough Is Enough

Margaret Thatcher touring the British Occupied North of Ireland in 1981 wearing a beret of the UDR, an infamous British Army militia responsible for scores of terrorist attacks during the 1970s, '80s and '90s

Then British prime minister Margaret Thatcher touring the Occupied North of Ireland in 1981 wearing a beret of the UDR, an infamous British Army militia whose members were responsible for scores of terrorist attacks during the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s

From 1975 to 1982 a British terrorist faction nicknamed the “Shankhill Butchers”, part of the militant UVF, carried out a series of attacks designed to instil terror in the Irish Nationalist community of Belfast, randomly targeting men, women and children living in isolated enclaves around the city. Like Al-Qaeda in Iraq during the intercommunal conflict the Unionist grouping simply didn’t kill their victims. Armed with guns, explosives, axes and butchers knives they kidnapped, tortured, mutilated, hacked the limbs and cut the throats of those they encountered, often using various pubs and bars around the city to carry out their murderous activities (sometimes with the full knowledge of staff and customers). Fuelled by alcohol and drugs they boasted of the time it took to slay their captives or of how many they had killed that week, from ten year-old Kevin McMenamin to forty-eight year Marie McGrattan. Existing in the twilight world of British colonial culture on the island of Ireland, nationalism and religion fused together, they came to represent all that was evil on the ideological fringes of Unionism. Eventually their frenzied behaviour and ancillary criminal ways became too much for the British authorities and paramilitary police and they were brought to heel, arrests and assassinations (both internally and by Irish Republicans) breaking the back of their amorphous organisation.

One of their number was Eddie McIlwaine, a serving British soldier with the infamous Ulster Defence Regiment, who helped the group secure weapons, intelligence information and safe passage through British security cordons and checkpoints (though he was not the only one to do so). He was convicted in 1979 of kidnapping, assault and possession of weapons, the least of the charges that could have been brought against him. His only admitted victim was Gerard McLaverty, a young man the gang grabbed off the street while posing as police officers, beat, strangled and slashed with a knife before leaving for dead. Back then McIlwaine was an acknowledged psychopath, a dangerous soldier-cum-terrorist addicted to inflicting human suffering. Today he is an honoured and all-but venerated member of the Orange Order, the anti-Catholic and anti-Irish fraternity devoted to fundamentalist Protestantism and Britishness. From the Belfast Telegraph newspaper:

“One of the Shankill Butchers stewarded an Orange Order parade past a Catholic church in Belfast last weekend.

Eddie McIlwaine was filmed by Carrick Hill residents ushering members of the loyal orders past St Patrick’s on Donegall Street on the Twelfth.

McIlwaine was jailed for eight years in 1979 for being part of the Shankill Butchers gang that killed 19 Catholics and Protestants.

Last year Sunday Life pictured him parading through east Belfast during the UVF’s 100th anniversary parade.

He wore a UVF armband emblazoned with the words ‘UVF West Belfast 1’, and a medal understood to signify time spent in prison.

McIlwaine’s involvement with the Orange Order was first revealed a decade ago when he was pictured carrying a banner commemorating UVF killer Brian Robinson at the controversial Whiterock parade.

A spokesman for the Orange Order defended the Shankill Butcher’s role in the organisation, saying: “I can confirm that Eddie McIlwaine is a member of that lodge and in good standing…

“As long as Mr McIlwaine upholds the principle of the institution and has paid his debt to society he has done nothing wrong.””

Politicians, journalists and observers sometimes claim a moral equivalence between the actions of the (Provisional) Irish Republican Army, the British Occupation Forces and the British Terror Factions during the conflict in the north-east of Ireland and beyond. They argument goes that they all were equally guilty of militarism and violence. This is simply untrue. While the IRA can be justifiably criticised and condemned for many of its actions, up to and including war crimes, more often than not it exercised restraint. As dreadful as the war was it could have been far worse had the IRA chosen to act entirely outside the norms of western European behaviour at the end of the 20th century (or what the communities who supported it were willing to tolerate). That is not to negate the suffering caused by the Republican Army, the many innocent victims both direct and indirect left by its actions. The litany of its barbarisms, deliberate or otherwise, is lengthy and bring no credit to anyone. The war was not a clean one. Heroes are few and far between.

However the terrorist gangs organised and functioning under the aegis of the British state, acknowledged or otherwise, are a different matter. It was these factions which embraced as a weapon of war the policy of “ethnic cleansing” as the ultimate solution – or fallback – to the conflict and the defeat of their enemy. Acting as the cutting edge of Britain’s counter-insurgency strategy they engaged not armed opponents, guerrilla fighters or their commanders, but ordinary Irish men, women and children.

35% of all those killed by the (Provisional) Irish Republican Army were civilians.

51% of all those killed by the British Occupation Forces were civilians.

85% of all those killed by the British terror factions were civilians.

When the Orange Order permits the membership of someone like Eddie McIlwaine, a literal butcher of human beings, when it elevates him to a position of authority in its organisation, however slight, it sends a message to the people of Ireland as a whole. It is the same message that ISIS, the would-be Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, sends to Shia Moslems and Arab Christians or Israel sends to the Palestinians of Gaza: you and yours are unhumans.

France Had Pétain, We Nearly Had Redmond

John Redmond MP presents a regimental flag to a unit of the Irish National Volunteers, the paramilitary wing of the Irish Parliamentary Party, the Phoenix Park, Dublin, Ireland, April 1915

John Redmond MP presents a regimental flag to a unit of the Irish National Volunteers, the paramilitary wing of the Irish Parliamentary Party, the Phoenix Park, Dublin, Ireland, April 1915

John Redmond is probably one of the more divisive figures in Irish history and rightly so. The patrician head of the Irish Parliamentary Party whose followers eulogised him with an almost messianic fervour while excoriating any and all critics he was the self-proclaimed “leader of Nationalist Ireland” who bullied and cajoled thousands of young Irish men into sacrificing their lives in the service of the British Empire from 1914-18. While opposing “militant” nationalism at home he was a devout defender of British militarist nationalism abroad, a committed if “devolutionist” imperialist whose desire for Home Rule was driven as much by self-serving political ambitions as justice for the Irish people as a whole. Like his followers Redmond believed that Ireland was the personal fiefdom of the Irish Parliamentary Party and acted accordingly. Dissent was rarely tolerated and when rival forces arose, like the disparate Irish Volunteers in 1913, they were quickly appropriated or side-lined.

His conservatism shaped his political, economic and social world-view. Limited autonomy for Ireland within the so-called United Kingdom based upon exploitative class lines little different from that under the existing British administration allied to the diktats of the Roman Catholic church. The conformist, anti-pluralist state shaped in the 1920s by the Irish counter-revolution and the political forerunners of Fine Gael was in many ways the embodiment of Redmond’s constitutional ambitions, albeit with considerably more independence than he would perhaps have felt comfortable with.

So given John Redmond’s deplorable track record on the separation of church and state, women’s rights, employee rights, opposition to comprehensive health and social care, and generally early 20th century “neo-liberal” socio-economic outlook it is surprising to see Rónán O’Brien, a Labour Party activist and former advisor to several Labour ministers in government (at the cost of €114,000 per annum, a chairde!), defending Redmond’s tarnished political legacy in the Irish Times. Albeit in a self-defeating manner:

“It is not difficult to understand why a man who called on Irish nationalists not only to defend the island of Ireland during the first World War but to volunteer for the British army has been written out of a national narrative based on Easter 1916.

It is not difficult to see either how a man whose Irishness was matched by an affinity to the British Empire was forgotten in independent Ireland.

And it is not difficult to see how a man hostile to women’s suffrage (unlike his brother) would be disregarded by at least half our population.

But none of these things should detract from the contribution made by him and his party to Irish independence.”

Actually, I think you’ll find that they should. And do.

Helpless In Gaza

An Sionnach Fionn:

A thought-provoking view on the dreadful events in Occupied Palestine… from Occupied Ireland.

Arna chéadfhoilsiú ar Keeping An Eye On the Czar of Russia:

Israel-Palestine is a subject I have avoided for years. For a serious newspaper columnist or a humble Blogger, its a thankless task to try and analyse that particular conflict. History is about “nuance” and the partisans of Israel and Palestine just don’t do “nuance”. You are either “with us” or “against us”. It scares people. It scares journalists and academics as every word is scrutinised for some kinda ethnic defamation.

For LetsGetAlongerists, Peace Journalists and Conlict Resolutionists…there is “right and wrong” in every conflict. And for Historians also. But the thing is that the blame for war is not 50-50. Can we really say that on 1st September 1939, the Poles were as much to blame as the Germans? Can we really say that on 7th December 1941 the Americans were as much to blame as Japan?

Oh yes ..there IS Nuance. But ultimately it is not an equal share…

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Scottish Referendum Poll Shows Yes Vote Gaining Ground

Alba Gu Brath - Scotland Forever. Thousands attend Scottish independence rally, Edinbugh, Scotland, 2012 (Photo: Wings Over Scotland)

Alba Gu Brath – Scotland Forever. Thousands attend Scottish independence rally, Edinbugh, Scotland, 2012 (Photo: Wings Over Scotland)

The latest TNS BMRB poll in Scotland is showing a small if significant rise in support for the pro-sovereignty Yes side in the run-up to the September referendum on Scottish independence. When “undecideds” are stripped out the anti-sovereignty No vote has dropped to 56% while the Yes vote has increased to 44%, a 3% jump since the last poll in June. In part the rise in support for the SNP-led proposition is the growing popularity of independence amongst British Labour Party supporters in Scotland despite the party’s fierce opposition to constitutional progress. The latest poll is being interpreted as a sign that voters are now firming up in their preferred choices on the referendum question.

Name The Kincora Abusers

 

The bizarre sight of an Israeli flag in a British Unionist area of Belfast flying above a British terrorist banner and Britain’s national flag, Ireland

For the first time an allegation long made in private has been stated in public: a senior member of the largest political party representing the British Unionist community in the north-east of Ireland and a current minister in the regional executive in Belfast was once an associate of Tara, a would-be British terrorist grouping founded in the 1960s by the notorious paedophile, Orange Order chaplain and British-Israelite occultist William McGrath. The latter individual is indelibly linked with the Kincora Boys’ Home Scandal, the Belfast care home where vulnerable children were “ritually” abused by McGrath and suspected members of Britain’s political establishment flown in for the occasion, not to mention others linked with the paramilitary police, armed forces, intelligence services and various militant factions.

McGrath’s organisation seems to have been part of a wider if loosely organised network of paedophiles in Britain from the 1950s to ‘90s whose more notable members have become familiar names in the controversies of recent months. He is also closely linked with the inception of the “Ulster-Scots” völkisch movement, in particular those who believe in a catalogue of pseudo-historical theories linking the Unionist community in Ireland with the ancient Pictish peoples of eastern Scotland and the Lost Tribes of Israel. If all this sounds very Dan Brown I suggest that you employ Google or Bing for yourself to discover more. The truth is more fantastical – and worrying – than any novel. Religious fundamentalism meets ultranationalism with hefty doses of colonial racism and fringe academia thrown in. And in this case made subservient to the physical and sexual exploitation of children.

The Irish and British media will remain silent on this one. But for how long?

The Irish State Versus The Irish Language

Irish rights activists protest in Dublin at the controversial decision the Fine Gael-Labour coalition government to appoint ministers dealing with Irish-speaking communities and citizens who have little to no ability in Ireland's national language, 2014

Irish rights activists protest in Dublin at the controversial decision by the Fine Gael-Labour coalition government to appoint ministers dealing with Irish-speaking communities and citizens who have little to no ability in Ireland’s national language, 2014 (Íomhá: Irish Times)

More on the controversial decision by the Fine Gael-Labour coalition to appoint two government minsters to departments dealing with Irish-speaking communities and citizens both of whom have little to no ability in the language despite the fact that a number of their colleagues are fluent speakers. The now familiar hostility and apathy towards our indigenous language and culture by the government parties could hardly be any more pointed. From the Irish Examiner:

“Taoiseach Enda Kenny provoked uproar in the Dáil when he insisted that appointing two ministers to the Gaeltacht Department who did not speak Irish would inspire other people to learn the language.

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams branded the decision to promote Heather Humphreys to Cabinet rank in the portfolio, and make Donegal TD Joe McHugh her junior — despite neither of them having much grasp of Irish — as a “backwards” step.

Mr Adams said the situation was made even more bizarre by the fact that the other junior minister in the portfolio did speak fluent Irish, but was not responsible for any Gaeltacht issues.

“It is evidence of the disregard that the Government has for the Irish language,” Mr Adams said.”

From the Irish Independent:

“Mr McHugh defended his lack of Irish by saying he did live close to a Gaeltacht region in Donegal.

Under questioning from Irish speaking politicians, Mr McHugh said he understood their questions but did not have the confidence to reply in Irish.

The Donegal TD and the newly appointed senior Minister in the Department of Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht, Heather Humprheys, struggled with the native language during their first Dail debate.”

From the Donegal Democrat:

“Conradh na Gaeilge staged a wild cat protest outside the Department of the Taoiseach earlier today to oppose the appointment of Donegal TD Joe McHugh as the the new Minister of State for the Gaeltacht.

The protest was prompted by the fact that the Donegal TD is not proficient in Irish.

Julian de Spáinn, General Secretary of Conradh na Gaeilge said: “10,000 people marched on February 15 in Dublin for fairness and equality for the Irish language and Gaeltacht community.

“The Taoiseach should therefore, even at this late stage, assign responsibility for Gaeltacht Affairs to another Minister of State who has previously demonstrated their proficiency in the Irish language, such as the Minister of State Aodhán Ó Riordáin who is already assigned to the Department Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, or appoint an additional person who is proficient in the language, such as the Teachta Dála Seán Kyne or someone else.”

According to Conradh na Gaeilge this is the first time since the establishment of the State that the Minister of State for the Gaeltacht is not proficient in the Irish language.

“This further lowers the status of the Irish language and the Gaeltacht community when taking into account that there was a Senior Minister proficient in Irish with responsibility for the Gaeltacht in the last Government, that this was lowered to a Minister of State with a proficiency in the language in the new Government in 2011, and that this is to be lowered yet again by this Government in its appointment of a Minister of State without proficient Irish, and by furthermore assigning another responsibility to him (i.e. natural resources). All this displays a total lack of prioritising the needs of the Irish-speaking and Gaeltacht community in the agenda of the current Government,” Conradh na Gaeilge stated.”

Twenty-six Irish language scholarship students from Canada and the United States, 2014 (Íomhá: Galway Advertiser)

While elsewhere in the country, via a report by the Galway Advertiser:

“Nineteen Canadian and seven American Irish language learners were presented with awards at Acadamh na hOllscolaíochta Gaeilge in An Cheathrú Rua in the Galway Gaeltacht recently.

Awards were also presented to six Irish language instructors selected by the Ireland Canada University Foundation (ICUF) to teach Irish at a range of locations across Canada for the academic year 2014-15.

These awards are the result of ongoing collaboration developed by the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht has developed with ICUF and the Ireland-United States [Fulbright] Commission for Educational Exchange. They reflect the deep interest in the Irish language in the United States and Canada where, every year, many Irish language learners choose to attend courses at the National University of Ireland, Galway Galway, An Cheathrú Rua and other venues. The awards are financed in partnership with universities and institutions in both Canada and the United States.”

It seems that if you speak the Irish language, and wish to do so while being treated with respect and equality, anywhere but Ireland is the place to be…

Irish-Speakers Lie Down!

Fine Gael - No Irish

Fine Gael – No Irish!

If there is a nation anywhere on the planet more ashamed and embarrassed of its own existence, of its very language and culture, than Ireland then I think we need to hear of it. Only the modern Irish could disdain their millennia-old identity in pursuit of some nebulous form of Anglo-Americanism. Only the modern Irish could set about completing a process of ethnocide begun in colonial invasion and annexation several centuries ago. It is sad. It is laughable. It is truly an Irish joke. The faltering Fine Gael-Labour coalition has announced that the new minister for Irish-speaking regions and the Irish language in general will be the non-native, non-fluent English-speaking politician Joe McHugh. Yes, that’s right, the government official ultimately charged with matters relating to Irish rights and services will be someone with barely any grasp of the language those rights and services should be offered in.

From Seán Tadhg Ó Gairbhí in the Irish Times:

“As rumours circulated this morning about the imminent elevation of Fine Gael TD Joe McHugh to the post of Minister of State at the Department of the Gaeltacht, Irish speakers reacted with a mixture of bemusement and anger.

By necessity they have become fluent in all known dialects of double-speak. When it comes to paying lip service to the language, our political classes have long since lost their capacity to surprise all but the most naive of Irish speakers.

Just last week the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste published a ten-page Statement of Government Priorities for the next two years. There was no mention of the Irish language or the Gaeltacht. The Irish language speaker is under no illusion about how the language is viewed by Government, and it’s been a long time since anyone made him feel like a priority.

But this was different. Nobody saw this one coming. Even as the rumours on twitter about McHugh’s appointment hardened into confident predictions, some clung to the notion that the correspondents in Leinster House must be mistaken. The idea that the Taoiseach would appoint a non-Irish-speaking “Minister for the Gaeltacht” seemed a bridge too far.

Well, they just did and we now have a Gaeltacht minister who doesn’t have enough Irish to conduct a credible live interview about Gaeltacht affairs with RnaG or Nuacht TG4.

Our politicians have often shown great ingenuity in finding new ways to undermine the language while simultaneously professing their unceasing commitment to its promotion, but for sheer audacity and shamelessness Enda Kenny has now set the bar higher than anyone imagined it could go.

The last pretence has been dropped.

“Lads, did ye hear the one about the Minister of the Gaeltacht who couldn’t speak Irish?” Essentially, that is what the Taoiseach is asking us while trying to keep a straight face.”

From Clare Cullen in the Irish Independent:

“This government have made some idiotic decisions since being elected but this one takes the cáca.

Enda Kenny has made the decision of appoint a ‘Minister of State at the Department of Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht Affairs’ “with a special responsibility’ for Gaeltacht matters” that openly admits his “conversational Irish certainly wouldn’t be great”.

To draw a parallel, this would be like me being appointed, in France, as a Minister for the preservation of French, with only school French. French that I haven’t spoken since I left school seven years ago and would then be expected to write, read and pass legislation in. Not only that, but the senior Minister in the Arts department, Heath Humphreys, has little or no Irish.

Sinn Fein’s Peadar Toibin pointed out that “for the first time Irish language documents would have to be translated into English” for the ministers and the department’s first language would now be English.

…to appoint a junior Minister for the Gaeltacht who openly admits he can’t speak it is beyond embarrassing. It’s amaideach.

Fianna Fáil TD Éamon Ó Cuív released a statement saying that “fluent Irish should be an absolute prerequisite for a Minister with responsibility for the language; without it they cannot adequately carry out their duties in Gaeltacht Affairs”. He should know – he was in charge of Gaeltacht Affairs from 1997 to 2010.

Conradh na Gaeilge Secretary General, Julian De Spáinn, said the Taoiseach “effectively reduced the status of the language” by not providing a Minister of State unable to “communicate with Irish speakers in their own language”.

The Journal.ie reported that when challenged in the Dáil, Kenny claimed that Joe McHugh would take a “refreshers course” in Irish and RTE reported that he booked a course through Oideas Gael in Glencolmcoille. The whole thing reads like an unaired Father Ted episode!

Enda Kenny’s record with the Irish language is very poor – or, at least, a cruel indifference. Remember when he proposed to remove Irish from the Leaving Cert as a compulsory subject?

Kenny has stopped even paying lip-service to the upkeep of the language with this appointment, deliberately ignoring the needs or wishes of  100,716 people (census 2011).

That number is only those living in Gaeltacht areas – there are many more Irish speakers living in non-designated Gaeltacht areas. Many of those who don’t even count Irish as a language they are fluent in still don’t want to see the language die – but the criminal indifference of the country’s leader to the upkeep, promotion and encouragement of the language will certainly see it faster to its grave.

The worst thing is that he knows he can get away with it. There will be a small amount of uproar from a niche group and he will just close his curtains while they protest outside – the same way the government did when the students protested. There isn’t enough people that really, really care to get a national response, and he’s taking full advantage of that. Even those that do care may feel that they shouldn’t protest unless they’re fluent, which is not the case. Ireland needs to show the government that we care about our national language and  support those that have taken it upon themselves to preserve it for the next generation.

Irish speakers are already fighting an uphill battle to keep the language alive. Pennies are spent on the provision of Irish language services (none of which are up to standard), the Gaeltacht areas are underfunded, undervalued and under-resourced. The national broadcaster has next to no Irish language programming and TG4 is half the station it should be…

Not only is it difficult but there have been cases of the language being illegal in parts of the country. The Belfast telegraph reported that in March this year, the national treasurer of Sinn Féin Poblachtach Diarmuid Mac Dubhghlais was arrested and charged “under anti-terrorism legislation” by the PSNI for giving “his name and address in Irish when he was stopped by police”. Legally, in the Republic, you have the right to speak to a guard as Gaeilge but I would not feel confident that it would not be seen as being ‘difficult’.

Even if you don’t care about Irish, you should respect the right of Irish citizens to their national language.”

Meanwhile, and with hardly a murmur from the dominant Anglophone media, the coalition policy of starving Irish-speaking communities and citizens of resources claims yet another organisational victim. From The Journal:

“SIX STAFF AT an Irish language board have been laid off as the board has decided to close Comhdáil Náisiunta.

The Irish language support centre says that the decision was made after government funding was withdrawn.

The decision to close the centre, which was founded in 1943, was made at a meeting in Dublin last night.

In a statement, the centre says that it had taken the decision “with a heavy heart”.

President of the National Council Deirbhile Nic Raith commended the “professionalism of the staff, and the great work carried out on behalf of the language for over 70 years”.

She said that the work done by the congress had made it a key organisation in the Irish language movement.”

In case you don’t understand the message from the ruling Fine Gael and Labour parties and the Irish state as a whole it is an easy one to summarise: Irish-speakers lie down!

Britain’s Legacy In Ireland, 800 Years In The Making

A British Unionist and Orange Order bonfire decorated with sectarian and racist messages, Ireland, July 2014

A British Unionist and Orange Order bonfire decorated with sectarian and racist messages, Ireland, July 2014

Pictured above is an “Eleventh Night” bonfire, one of many dozens erected across the north-east of Ireland by usually adolescent members of the British Unionist minority to commemorate a series of 17th century Protestant British victories over Catholic British and Irish opponents during localised conflicts in the pan-european War of the Grand Alliance. In Ireland the primary struggle, known as Cogadh an Dá Rí or “War of the Two Kings”, reasserted Britain’s colonial rule over the island nation and the association of militant Protestant fundamentalism with Britishness. As is now the (controversial) tradition in some districts the bonfire is “decorated” with a number of sectarian, racist and homophobic symbols and slogans aimed at those deemed outside or anathema to British ethno-national culture and identity.

Starting from the top of the pyre we have:

A number of Irish flags, both current and historical, including the national flag of Ireland (commonly called the Tricolour), the Irish Harp flag (superseded by the Tricolour) and the Gal Gréine or Irish “Sunburst” banner, a symbol derived from indigenous literature.

A Palestinian flag (some British Unionists in Ireland believe in the pseudo-historical and messianic myth that their community or “folk” is descended from one of the Lost Tribes of Israel while others identify with contemporary  Israeli settlers in the Occupied Territories).

A Rainbow or Gay/LGBT Pride flag, homosexuality and gender-realingment being widely viewed as a biblical abominations by Protestant fundamentalists amongst the Unionist minority.

Various banners painted with political acronyms and slogans:

Keep Antrim Tidy = KAT = Kill All Taigs “Kill All Irish/Catholics”

We’re Not Racist We Just Don’t Like Cotton-Picking Niggers / We’re Not Racist, Just Don’t Like Niggers

I Ran Away = IRA = Irish Republican Army

[With thanks to babeufinsiberia]

 

 

Commemoration as manipulation

Arna chéadfhoilsiú ar The Irish Republic:

Imagine the United States suspending Independence Day ceremonies for 36 years, or the French doing likewise with Bastille Day ceremonies. Imagine if the British government announced that, even for one year, there would be no Remembrance Day ceremony at the Cenotaph on November 11th. There would be national uproar in any of these countries. Yet, here in Ireland, just such a suspension occurred. There was no state ceremony to mark the 1916 Rising on what was then seen as the National Day of Commemoration, at the GPO on Easter Sunday, between 1971 and 2006 when it was reinstated.

By that time the idea of national commemoration had had its emphasis shifted away from remembering and commemorating the issuing of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic on April 24th 1916 and the week-long revolution that followed which fueled a partially successful War of Independence. In 1986 a new National Day of…

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