Polaitíocht (Politics)

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.”

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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.

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?

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]

 

 

The Reality Of War

Densely packed urban areas in the Gaza Strip subjected to aerial bombardment by Israel in contravention of international law, 2014

Philip Weiss links to a shocking and profoundly disturbing video of a Palestinian father unable to accept the killing of his young son during an Israeli military attack on a civilian population centre in the Gaza Strip. This the reality of Israel’s latest campaign against the besieged population of Gaza while supposedly countering the military forces of the Hamas-led government and assorted Palestinian insurgents. This will also be the consequence of Israel’s actions following the warning that a quarter of a million people living in northern Gaza have just 24 hours to flee their homes in gross violation of international law.

The atrocious murder of three Israeli teenage boys does not justify the murder of over a hundred Palestinian men, women and children. Especially when the vast majority of those men, women and children had nothing whatsoever to do with the former event. It is arbitrary and collective punishment of entire families and communities. So what is the difference between what Israel is doing now in Occupied Palestine and what Russia did in Crimea and is still doing in eastern Ukraine? Or what Assad is doing in Opposition-held Syria? Or what ISIS is doing in Syria, Iraq and Kurdistan?

 

The Calm Before The Storm

British Unionist and Orange Order supporters light huge bonfires across Belfast, Ireland’s second city, 2014 (Íomhá: Roghnú Glas)

The infamous Ku Klux Klan had – and probably still has – burning crosses. The equally infamous Orange Order has burning bonfires. The function of both is the same: celebration, defiance, intimidation. With “only” three ethnically motivated stabbings, scattered and desultory rioting, a handful of inter-communal clashes, minimal damage to property, shorter than previous road and street closures or diversions, several arrests and no police injuries it has been what is generally viewed as a “good” July 11th and 12th. The increased number and size of bonfires, complete with prominent sectarian and racist messages and effigies targeting Irish, Chinese-Irish, Polish-Irish and other communities, is considered a small price to pay. Not to mention the heavy preponderance of flags celebrating the KKK, various British terrorist organisations and British Army units noted for their participation in war crimes here in Ireland.

Last year the Orange Order refused to denounce violent protests by their supporters and the British terror factions dutifully followed suit and brought mayhem onto the streets. This year the Orange Order instructed that there be no violent protests by their supporters and the British terror factions dutifully stayed off the streets. However we are told that there are no links between both…

The view of Fitzjames Horse is the most honest opinion so far.

 

Rhetoric Should Take Second Place To Respect

The Gaza Strip under Israeli assault (Íomhá: The Guardian)

The Gaza Strip under Israeli assault (Íomhá: The Guardian)

The ongoing military operations being carried out against the civilian population of Gaza and Occupied Palestine as a whole by the Israeli defence forces and government in pursuit of Palestinian insurgents are dreadful and may well fall into the category of war crimes. However the use of deliberately egregious language to describe or condemn those operations, especially language that knowingly harks back to World War Two and the Third Reich, is not only offensive but counter-productive. Six million men, women and children from a Jewish background, however tenuous, died in the concentration camps or the killing fields of Europe between 1939 and 1945. To refer to an “Israeli blitzkrieg” on Gaza as An Phoblacht did today is to echo language normally used in relation to the Nazis. It is both insensitive and unnecessary. Likewise the Israeli government, however much it is influenced by sectarian and racist views, is not a “Zionist regime”. It is all the more ironic that this article comes from the newspaper of Sinn Féin, a party that sits in a regional power-sharing government in the north-east of Ireland with another grouping whose isolationist world view is not so far removed from that of the current governing parties in Israel.

A Sickness At The Heart Of Britishness

The once much-lauded British Unionist militant and notorious paedophile William McGrath photographed in his regalia as a

The once much-lauded British Unionist militant and notorious paedophile William McGrath photographed in his regalia as a “chaplain” of the Orange Order. Throughout the 1970s he procured the “ritualised” abuse of children for suspected members of the British military, police, judiciary, government and aristocracy

As Britain witnesses the revelations of a decades old culture of institutionalised paedophilia and sexual abuse within the heart of the state (seemingly encompassing the BBC, the lower and upper houses of parliament, the judiciary, the police and intelligence services, the “aristocracy”, and past – and possibly current – governments in London) it is worth remembering how the conflict in the north-east of Ireland was exploited to feed the baser vices of the ruling elites in our neighbouring island. The Blether Region, which normally focuses on issues relating to the Irish, Scottish and Scots English languages, has done an exemplary job in reminding us of the squalid nexus of sectarianism, terrorism, money and power as represented by the infmaous Kincora Boys Home Scandal. For ten years the “reverend” William McGrath, a fanatically anti-Catholic member of the Orange Order in Belfast, the founder of a would-be terror gang, a Far Right conspirator, and a believer in the myth of the Lost Tribes of Israel, worked with others in the 1970s to supply a chain of boys and youths for the “ritualised” pleasures of fellow Unionist leaders, members of the British armed forces, the intelligence services, and senior government officials (elected and otherwise). The list of those possibly involved seems to grow with every passing week as more information comes to light, primarily through the efforts of a few honest campaigners in Britain, and now Ireland, with the British news media lagging well behind (you can assume your own reasons for that). The latest post is here and should be read by all those concerned with just how incredibly dirty the “Dirty War” really was. Beyond even the reckoning of most of its protagonists.

When politics and religion, fantasies and ravings, are mixed together this is the result.

Syria’s Other War

The 12th century Krak des Chevaliers or قلعة الحصن‎ near Homs in Syria, under recent bombardment (Íomhá: BBC)

As if the dreadful loss in human life and untold misery inflicted upon tens of thousands wasn’t enough the internecine struggle in Syria now rivals the conflict in Iraq for the irreparable damage it has caused to the physical heritage of the Middle East and its many peoples. A thoroughly depressing report from the BBC:

“Syria, graced with thousands of historic sites, is seeing its cultural heritage vandalised, looted and destroyed by war…

In March the Syrian air force bombed the world’s best preserved Crusader Castle, the 12th Century Krak des Chevaliers in Homs province.

In November a mortar shell, fired from rebel-held areas in the north-eastern suburbs of the capital, Damascus, struck the priceless mosaics on the facade of the 8th Century Great Mosque – the spiritual heart of the city.

Among the 2,000-year-old remains of the Roman oasis city of Palmyra, to the north-east, the army has dug a road and earth dykes, and installed multiple rocket launchers inside the camp of the emperor Diocletian.

Further north, Aleppo’s Great Mosque, founded in the early 8th Century, has come under heavy fire. Its 50m-tall Seljuk minaret, a masterpiece of elegance dating from 1095, was considered one of the most important monuments of medieval Syria.

The minaret, whose height made it a useful rebel lookout and sniper position, collapsed as a result of shelling in March 2013.

Aleppo’s souks, dating back in parts to the 13th Century, were considered the finest of any in the Middle East, with more than 12km of winding alleys. Not just a major tourist attraction, they represented the beating heart of the commercial city, founded in the 2nd Millennium BC.

Free Syrian Army rebels established a headquarters in a bath-house near the old souk, making it a target for bombardment.

The Old City of Homs suffered more aerial bombardment than any other city in Syria. Many ancient buildings, including several active churches and monasteries, were flattened. Umm Al-Zinnar Church boasted a relic from the belt of the Virgin Mary.

Far to the south, the 2nd Century Roman amphitheatre of Bosra, once the capital of the Roman Province of Arabia, is concealed within a 13th Century fort not far from the Jordanian border. It has been occupied during the current fighting by army snipers and shabiha militia, its windows piled with sandbags, firing at rebel pockets in the Old Town of Bosra.

The famous tells or archaeological mounds of Mesopotamia – rich repositories of man’s earliest history once carefully dug by the likes of Agatha Christie’s archaeologist husband Max Mallowan – are now systematically being plundered with heavy machinery to fill the coffers of Islamist militant group Isis. While some ancient artefacts are traded for weapons or cash, others that represent humans or animal gods are seen by Isis as heretical to Islam and destroyed.

Isis has also bulldozed statues of lions along with Sufi and Shia shrines in the Raqqa province, the militant group’s headquarters.”

Whatever about removing modernist symbols of relatively recent oppression in various nations around the world, Queen Victoria in Ireland, Stalin in Ukraine, Pol Pot in Cambodia, using contemporary political or religious ideology to justify the destruction of ancient monuments indicates the facile nature of those beliefs.

Gaelic Medium Education Growing In Scotland

Dún Éideann, Albain

Dún Éideann, Albain

Some positive signs pointing towards growing stability in the numbers of Scottish (Gaelic) speakers in Scotland. Despite the decline caused by centuries of political, social and cultural exclusion – in particular since the 1800s -  communities are remerging in urban regions like Edinburgh and Glasgow. From the Scotsman newspaper:

“THE growth of Gaelic education throughout Scotland in the last year has been hailed a success by the language’s national body – despite a continuing decline in its historic heartland of the Western Isles.

Bòrd na Gàidhlig’s annual report for 2013/14 highlights a rise in numbers seeking to be educated in the language.

Gaelic-medium education has risen by 6.1 per cent at primary school level, with the number of children entering into primary one rising by 13 per cent to 486 entrants.

The number of pupils also doing Gaelic-medium education at secondary level rose by 7 per cent, totalling 1181.

Further growth was seen the early years sector with the number of parent and toddler groups and playgroups increasing from 80 to 93, thus furthering the potential of increasing the number of entrants to GME in the coming years.

But the Western Isles is still proving to be a sore point for the body, which supported by public funds.

Through the course of the year the Bòrd dealt with 349 applications for funding from different organisations throughout the length and breadth of Scotland. 72 per cent however of the funding received by the Bòrd from the Scottish Government was distributed to others.

Minister for Scotland’s Languages Dr Alasdair Allan said: “Parents across the country have been clear that they recognise the benefits of a bilingual education for their children and the rolls for GME schools and units continue to grow.

“This support is one of the key reasons that the 2011 census showed that the number of Gaelic speakers under 20 had grown in the last decade and the historic decline in the number of speakers has slowed dramatically.”

CLG Versus GAA?

Dónal McAnallen is a passionate and well regarded Irish rights activist, sports historian and writer so what is the source of the controversy that has blown up over the last few days in relation to his Irish language advocacy within the GAA? From a report by the Belfast Telegraph:

“[GAA] President Liam O’Neill could be forced into a humiliating climbdown, after he confronted a GAA employee delivering a speech in Croke Park on Saturday before staging a public walkout before the address was completed.

Dónal McAnallen, an employee of the Ulster Council, was in Croke Park on Saturday delivering a presentation on the Irish language, when O’Neill interrupted the session and made a number of angry allegations, to the effect that McAnallen was in some way harming the Irish language.

He was in Croke Park delivering a presentation on measures that county language officers and clubs could use in order to advance the use of Irish language within their units.

O’Neill took exception to the content of the text and confronted McAnallen.

When McAnallen began to explain, O’Neill refused to listen and departed the room.

Other county board representatives who were present at the meeting backed up this version of events.

A spokesperson for the GAA replied and confirmed that O’Neill did leave the meeting adding: “He was disappointed at the tone and tenor of some of the comments and at one presentation in particular, in light of the fact of how passionate he has been and continued to be in favour of the Irish language.”

From what one hears the speech discussed matters already under debate by the GAA (Gaelic Athletic Association or Cumann Lúthchleas Gael) which not too long ago recommitted itself to furthering the use of Irish within the organisation. So why the allegedly explosive reaction by the GAA president? Why would greater facilities for Irish-speaking players and communities harm a movement which supposedly has the indigenous language of this island nation at its heart? More on this when I have it.

A Colony Cannot Be Reformed

A 1960s’ civil rights march in the north-east of Ireland demanding equality in housing, jobs, justice and voting. Decades on little has changed

In case you missed it, from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights at the United Nations:

“Press Statement by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on adequate housing…

From 29 August to 11 September 2013, I undertook an official visit to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland at the invitation of the Government. My visit included various cities in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The main objective of my visit was to assess the country’s achievements and challenges in guaranteeing the right to adequate housing and non-discrimination in this context, in accordance with existing international human rights standards. The assessment includes legislation and policy frameworks as well as the consideration of concrete outcomes from those policies, examining how they respond to the housing needs of women, men and children, with a particular focus on those most vulnerable and disenfranchised.

Planning systems reforms are also being considered in Northern Ireland, devolving powers to Local Councils, which will also be territorially redefined. In this context, I want to express my concern at the potential that this decentralization may have for increased sectarianism and discrimination.

… population groups, highlighted by the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in 2009, which continue to face inadequate access to affordable housing are Catholics in Northern Ireland, specifically in North Belfast. The current allocation scheme was created to be fair and open, and to allocate accommodation on the basis of meeting the housing need of people. Despite the efforts of the Northern Ireland Housing Executive, I remain concerned that full equality has not been achieved yet.”

Nearly five decades on from the eruption of the war in the north-east of Ireland and the causes of the conflict remain as current as ever. Despite the signing of the Belfast Agreement in 1998, despite supposed power-sharing and improvements in civil rights institutionalised discrimination based upon religion and ethnicity remains the dominant feature of the last remnant of the historic British colonial state on our island nation. One cannot reform the unreformable. One can only wipe the slate clean and start again.