Saving The Language Commissioner

Sábháil Ár dTeanga

Sábháil Ár dTeanga

It’s been a hard struggle, and a long one, but the Fine Gael-Labour coalition government has finally succumbed to public pressure and agreed to retain the independent office of the Language Commissioner, the state official who oversees the implementation of the Official Languages Act. In Ireland the default language of government is English meaning that Irish-speaking citizens are placed at a disadvantage when using their native language while dealing with public officials or state documentation (ironically Irish is in fact Ireland’s “national” and “first official language” while English is merely recognised as “a second official language”. However governments of all hues gloss over this constitutional inconvenience, as do the police and the courts). The 2003 legislation was passed to ensure that limited equality was provided to Irish-speakers with their English-speaking peers after fears were expressed that the constitutional primacy of the Irish language could force the courts to judge in favour of a genuine system of bilingual governance and services. However the Anglophone culture of Ireland’s civil service and its general antipathy to Irish has meant that the regulations are barely adhered to which is why the investigatory role of the Language Commissioner was so important. Inevitably this earned the office the enmity of both public and political officials and resulted in the plans by the Fine Gael and Labour parties to effectively emasculate the office. So a retreat in the face of protests on the streets and elsewhere is welcome. However here’s the catch. There is every indication that the retention of the Language Commissioner is something of a smokescreen to hide the ongoing dismantling of the 2003 Act to render it even weaker and more ineffective than is already the case. In other words Ireland may have a Language Commissioner but there will be little to nothing for him to be commissioner of! From the Irish Times:

“Two major Irish-language groups, Gael Linn and Conradh na Gaeilge, have today welcomed the Government’s decision not to amalgamate the Office of Coimisinéir Teanga (Language Commissioner) with that of the Ombudsman. Chief Executive of Gael Linn, Mr Antoine Ó Coileáin, said that it was the right decision but he was still concerned that “the proposal to dovetail the publication of the annual report and accounts of An Coimisnéir Teanga seems to be designed to limit his access to the Houses of the Oireachtas with the attendant opportunity to highlight his work”.

He said that the Government’s Heads of Bill for a revised Official Languages’ Act, also published today, gave “an opportunity to learn from the first 10 years of the Act and to plan for the needs of a bilingual society. The office of An Coimisnéir Teanga must then be resourced appropriately to do its work”.

He had doubts over the proposed new “language schemes”, that is, agreed plans by which departments and organisations provide services through Irish for the public…”

This is just one victory in one battle of a war that has yet to be won.

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Norman Baxter? Who’s Norman Baxter? Oh Right, That Norman Baxter!

Séamas Ó Sionnaigh (An Sionnach Fionn):

Norman Baxter, the RUC ghost at the PSNI feast, is back with a media bang!

Céadfhoilsithe ar The Broken Elbow:

That one-man argument for the disbanding of the RUC, Norman Baxter emerged from his Afghan hideout yesterday to make an appearance at Ian Paisley Jnr’s House of Commons committee at Westminster investigating the OTR controversy to make the claim that in 2007, British prime minister Tony Blair, at the request of Gerry Adams, had asked the PSNI to release two men, Gerry McGeough and Vincent McAnespie from police questioning about the attempted killing of a UDR soldier in 1981. You can read the reports here and here .

Baxter, a former Detective Chief Superintendent and the PSNI’s liaison with MI5 in his final years of service (the mind boggles!), took the line that the British were bending over backwards to appease pro-peace process republicans and that as a result IRA victims were being denied justice. On the face of it that might sound like the sort of complaint one would…

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No Aboriginal Culture In Trinity College, Please!

Trinity College, the University of Dublin. Bringing 1960s’ Alabama to Europe…!

Sir John Pentland Mahaffy GBE CVO, the late 19th and early 20th century Anglo-Irish classicist, was one of the most widely despised figures in the Unionist intelligentsia of pre-revolutionary Dublin. That is hardly surprising given his unremitting contempt for those he described as the “…aborigines of this island“. As well as serving in Britain’s colonial regime in Ireland, first as a High Sheriff and later as a Justice of the Peace, Mahaffy was also one of the last provosts of Trinity College in the decade leading up to independence. At the time (and for many long years thereafter) Trinity lay at the centre of the cultural and social life of Unionist Dublin, the aristocratic heart of “West Britain”. Given his chauvinistic views of the Irish people (echoes of which continue to sound in the contemporary Neo-Unionist movement) few will be shocked to learn that his greatest hatred lay for that most distinctive definition of Irishness: the Irish language. Throughout his academic career the scholar battled any recognition of the “Celtic speech”, let alone its presence in the hallowed halls of his university. Though, in fairness, he did magnanimously admit that a few words were useful if one were forced to converse with the peasants when shooting or fishing.

So it is interesting to see that the early 20th century spirit of Sir John Pentland Mahaffy is well and truly alive in early 21st century Trinity College. From the University Times:

“An Cumann Gaelach has voiced heavy criticism of the new Trinity logo presented to students for containing only the English Language in its default form, as opposed to the previously bilingual logo that has been used for many years.

A statement sent to all An Cumann Gaelach members and shared on Facebook explained that at an open forum for undergraduate students on April 2nd 2014, students were told that the default logo (crest and name) that would be considered and recognised as the predominant logo of Trinity College (The University of Dublin) would be in the English language only. They added: “A college, long been playfully made fun of as ‘An Coláiste Oráiste’ whose students have in recent years made unprecedented strides nationally at the forefront of the student Irish language movement is, seemingly, making moves to turn its back on those same students.”

An Cumann Gaelach has asked all those in favour of including the Irish language as part of the logo on all college materials, publications and communications to attend an open forum being held for staff and students tomorrow at 11am in the Stanley Quek Theatre in the Trinity Biomedical Sciences Institute on Pearse Street.”

So the predictions of quite a few observers have apparently come true (an Lorcánach and others, take note). Trinity College is once again to become a cold house for the “wrong type” of Irish

Sir John Pentland Mahaffy GBE CVO. We'll have no Abos in Trinners!

Sir John Pentland Mahaffy GBE CVO. We’ll have no Abos in Trinners!

The PSNI & The Ivor Bell Case: Some Thoughts On Motives And Consequences

Céadfhoilsithe ar The Broken Elbow:

As I post this article reports are coming in from Belfast that the 56-year-old man arrested by the PSNI this morning in connection, according to evident police leaks, with the disappearance of Jean McConville has been released. Hardly surprising since he was only 14 in December 1972 when the unfortunate mother & widow was abducted by the IRA.

That makes the PSNI’s cull so far a 77-year-old man, who was not with the Sinn Fein programme since the mid-1980′s and someone who was 14 when the crime took place. Meanwhile as far as I know the PSNI has yet to respond to the offer to present himself for questioning made by Gerry Adams, who has been named as the man who actually ordered her disappearance.

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There is one thing that every lawyer I have spoken to since the arrest and charging of former Belfast…

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Britain’s Very Own Own Crimea In Ireland

British terrorists of the UDA-UFF on parade in the north-east of Ireland.

British terrorists of the UDA-UFF on parade in the north-east of Ireland. The organisation remained a legal grouping until the 1990s when Britain was forced by international pressure to ban it. However it continues to enjoy relative immunity from prosecution.

Military jeeps driven by masked men wearing combat fatigues drive through the darkened streets of a city while hysterical crowds scream “Bring out the guns!” before confronting local paramilitary police. A week later over a hundred masked and uniformed men invade a local community, ransack homes, setting some on fire, driving people onto the streets before again confronting paramilitary police officers this time with sustained violence.

The Ukraine? Crimea? Transnistria?

No, this is Western Europe and this is Britain’s rotten colony in the north-eastern corner of Ireland. A medieval anachronism in a modern world. So why do we put up with it when we know what the solution is? The same solution that ended the greater part of Britain’s historic colony on our island nation and centuries of misrule. “Northern Ireland” is simply the rotten afterbirth of British imperial ambitions and it is time to flush it into the sewer of history where it rightfully belongs.

Gabriel Rosenstock, Margadh Na Míol In Valparaíso

Margadh na Míol in Valparaíso

Would I be right in suggesting that Gabriel Rosenstock and Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill are probably the two greatest living Irish poets? There are many contenders for that title but when looks at the breadth of their works it is hard to imagine a more deserving rival than those two doyens of Ireland’s literary scene. Sometimes I prefer Rosenstock, sometimes Ní Dhomhnaill, each appealing to my particular moods or where I am in life (in fact at the moment I am sick as the proverbial madra but that is an aside).Of course the Anglophone media don’t rate either very highly and for one reason and one reason only: they write in Irish not English. So while the late Séamus Heaney will be rightfully eulogised those who express their art through our island nation’s indigenous tongue will forever be placed at the back of the literary bus. Indeed both receive greater respect and admiration outside of their own country than they have ever done at home. So this is interesting, from Mícheál Ó hAodha in the Irish Times:

“It is common knowledge that Gabriel Rosenstock belongs to the Innti generation of poets, that generation that coalesced around UCC in the early-1970s and who sparked the smouldering embers of a hitherto rural-based Irish language idiom and culture into life, a culture that was like an old dead woman whom a former lover can’t bear to rest his eyes upon in the wake-house. The Irish language was battered and bogged down and had nothing urban or hip about it.

But the Innti generation of Ní Dhomhnaill, Davitt, Rosenstock, Ó Muirthile and co. came along and put a fire beneath it. Like the “Burnings Limbs”(or the “Géaga tré Thine” (2006) – (a title of one of Rosenstock’s poetry collections) and inspired and energized by the tearing down of old barriers and repressions on the broader stage of the world – the burgeoning civil rights movements of Northern Ireland and the USA, the Paris upheavals, the struggles for minority rights among peoples, languages and cultures – the Innti generation created a new and transgressive language, a language of challenge and rebellion, both political and social.

This is all common knowledge. It is well-known amongst the literary cognoscenti of Ireland. Or is it?! The reality is that the Irish language including Irish language poetry is so marginal to this country’s literary circles in the apparently “multicultural” Ireland of today, so peripheral still, that no-one is quite sure what space it occupies – if any.

What might not be so well-known outside to those outside the small world of Irish-language literature is that Gabriel Rosenstock, of the aforementioned Innti generation continued (and continues) writing. This bilingual volume Margadh na Míol in Valparaíso/The Flea Market in Valparaíso (Cló Iar-Chonnacht) is a very comprehensive collection of his “New and Selected Poems” as translated by Paddy Bushe…

Rosenstock and his fellow Irish-language poets are constantly breaking new ground and became interlocutors with the wider poetic worlds of Eastern Europe, the US and Asia long before many of their more staid European contemporaries did. Why is this?

… it is not because they have that ancient “sense of place” that so fascinated the Irish poets of old; it is that the language is their home-place rather than any geographical locale.

This brings with it an enormous freedom. And yet Irish-language poets such as Rosenstock are still an essential element and link in the Gaelic literary tradition. They haven’t abandoned the responsibility that goes with the oldest role of the poet in Irish culture – to act as a balm when people are hurt or damaged by the violence of this world, to celebrate profound sadness and ecstasy or to reflect more deeply on the nature of life and the world.”

Béal Feirste le bheith Dearg le Fearg

Céadfhoilsithe ar An Tuairisceoir:

Pobal na Gaeilge ó thuaidh le léirsiú ar son a gcuid cearta

Níl amhras ar bith ach go bhfuil gluaiseacht na Gaeilge múscailte óna suan agus ag gníomhú arís ar son a gcuid cearta.10003348_10153999668135644_170845916_n

Bhí lá stairiúil ann ar an 15 Feabhra nuair a rinne 10,000 Gaeil athghabháil ar an phríomhchathair agus iad ag éileamh cearta do Phobal na Gaeilge agus na Gaeltachta.

Spreag seo muintir Chonamara chun gnímh agus tháinig 1,000 Gaeil ar na sráideanna na Gaeltachta ar an 23 Feabhra le ‘Slán le Seán’ a rá, ag tagairt don Choimisinéir Teanga, Seán Ó Cuirreáin a d’éirigh as mar gheall ar chaimiléireacht agus chur i gcéill an stát ó dheas i dtaobh na Gaeilge. Tá Gaeil ar fud an oileáin ar lorg seirbhísí cuí agus cearta do Phobal labhartha na teanga agus muintir na Gaeltachta.

Is ag leanúint ó Lá Mór na Gaeilge sa phríomhchathair, go dtáinig gníomhairí teanga…

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Gaelic Ribaldry

Céadfhoilsithe ar The Virtual Gael:

I’m happy to report the release of another book on Scottish Gaelic tradition, this time of a much more jovial nature: The Naughty Little Book of Gaelic, a title suggested by my lovely wife, which I forgot to acknowledge in the book itself. (Oops… Who’s naughty now?)
Naughty

This is a collection of Gaelic terms, idioms and creative expressions related to swearing, cursing, smoking, drinking and sex – all of the stuff you wanted to ask your Gaelic teacher, but didn’t. I tapped a very wide range of sources of this, from the oral tradition of friends in Scotland and Nova Scotia, and from various printed articles and books going back to the 18th and 19th centuries. It was fun to produce and the artist Arden Powell did a fantastic job creating illustrations that are clever, funny and visually evocative of medieval Celtic art. I’m very proud of the results.

Although this is mostly…

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Time For Truth, An Fhírinne Anois

With thanks to the Mirror, a powerful video from the Irish victims support organisation “Relatives for Justice” which campaigns for truth and openess in relation to the former conflict in the north-east of Ireland. Though focused on those who suffered at the hands of the British Forces and their terrorist allies the pain and suffering on display here is applicable to all the victims of the Long War regardless of nationality or allegiance. Please watch it in full and share with your family and friends on your social media networks.

Tweet #Time4Truth and #AnFhírinneAnois.

Only A General Amnesty Will Yield The Truth

Jean McConville, a Belfast woman suspected of being a British Army informer, was arrested and executed by the Irish Republican Army in December 1972 and her body hidden as one of the so-called “Disappeared” until August 2003

As the impact of the arrest of the veteran activist Ivor Bell continues to reverberate within Republican circles there is a lot to agree with in this analysis by Kevin Cullen of the Boston Globe:

“Ivor Bell is awaiting trial in Belfast on charges he aided and abetted the murder of Jean McConville, a widowed mother of 10 who in 1972 was abducted, shot, and secretly buried by the IRA after she was accused of being an informer.

Bell’s lawyer said Bell was innocent, but acknowledged that Bell was the man referred to as Mr. Z in a series of tape-recorded interviews made by a researcher hired by BC to compile recollections of republicans and loyalists who fought in Northern Ireland.

That researcher, former Irish Republican Army volunteer and prisoner Anthony McIntyre, told me from Ireland that he expects police to knock on his door any day. If they do, they’ll be wasting their time. “I wouldn’t even tell them hello,” he said.

Neither will Bell, 77, who was a senior IRA commander before his star dimmed…

Bell was among a group of IRA veterans who opposed the compromise accepted by Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams in 1998, effectively ending the Troubles.

Now, police would love Bell to implicate his former comrade turned foe, Adams, who has repeatedly denied involvement in McConville’s murder. Adams says BC naively allowed McIntyre, who openly opposed his leadership, to interview former IRA members who were inclined to implicate him for political reasons.

McConville’s children believe that Adams was behind their mother’s murder and insist he face justice. But this debacle has never been about justice. It’s about politics, specifically about sticking it to Adams and his party…

…the prosecution is so biased and politically motivated as to undermine all credibility.

The police in Northern Ireland have shown no interest in the other half of the oral history project: interviews with loyalists, who presumably could shed light on state-sanctioned murders they carried out with the covert assistance of the police and British military.

Ed Moloney, the journalist who oversaw the Belfast Project paid for and archived by Boston College, called Bell’s arrest “a cheap publicity stunt” by police and prosecutors who know that the oral histories, given to an academic by people who were neither under oath nor given legal warnings about self-incrimination, will not stand up as evidence in court.

As critical as he is of the authorities in Northern Ireland, Moloney said it wouldn’t have gotten this far if the US Department of Justice had rebuffed British authorities who asked their American counterparts to gain custody of the BC tapes, or if BC officials were willing to risk fines and even imprisonment to defy the government.

What a mess. An American university has been unwittingly and unwillingly used by a foreign government, with the acquiescence of the US government, to build a criminal case.

Oral history and academic freedom are dead and gone.”

The author Ed Moloney has suggested on several occasions that the pursuit of the forty-year old McConville case by Britain, and particularly by the PSNI or the British paramilitary police force in the north-east of Ireland, has more to do with the settling of old scores than any concerns over justice delayed. During the Irish-British conflict from the late 1960s to the early 2000s the RUC, the much-feared predecessor to the PSNI, incurred thousands of casualties amongst its officers while combating the (Provisional) Irish Republican Army and others. Though that came to an end with the Peace Process of the late-to-mid 1990s the negotiated settlement also brought an end to the RUC. However despite promised reforms many hardcore RUC men were kept within the ranks of the new PSNI or subsequently rejoined it when the political spotlight moved on to elsewhere. Under their influence, and that of some senior British government officials, retribution upon former opponents has become a primary impulse of law and order in the north-eastern region of Ireland. This post-conflict vendetta is one that anti-Sinn Féin elements of the Irish and British media have proven eager to pursue with little thought for the consequences (which in this case is a not inconceivable eruption of renewed armed conflict). Nor is SF itself blameless. Elected members of the party, notably Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness, have been less than honest with their electorates and the Irish people as whole. While there were good reasons for their obfuscation during and in the immediate aftermath of the war those reasons are looking increasingly threadbare now that we have had over a decade of (near) peace. Furthermore Sinn Féin’s willingness to see former, now rival, Republican comrades and colleagues thrown to the PSNI wolves is less than edifying.

All this is not to excuse the Republican movement of any wrongdoing when it comes to the central issue of Jean McConville’s death. It is clear that after a considerable debate McConville was executed/killed/murdered by the (Provisional) Irish Republican Army on the orders of senior officers within the organisation, her body hidden and her relatives left with no (honest) account of what had happened. Repeated claims by the news media in Ireland and elsewhere that McConville was killed because she had lent aid to a British soldier wounded outside her home by a sniper are completely unfounded. It simply never happened, as a 2006 investigation by the Police Ombudsman Nuala O’Loan made clear. Indeed the belief that such a gesture of simple human decency would elicit the ultimate penalty says much about the wilful ignorance of the conflict by observers both in Dublin and London.

While the O’Loan examination went on to find no evidence of McConville communicating with the British Forces, and specifically denied that she was a known informer, it did reveal that the British Army had initially insisted that her disappearance was a hoax or later that she had willingly deserted her children and was living elsewhere in Ireland. Whether that reflected poor intelligence or something more sinister has never been established (certainly such rumours may have originated with the IRA in an effort to confuse any potential investigation though local people were aware of her execution and the reasons behind it within weeks). Unfortunately Britain has refused access by journalists and members of the McConville family to the regimental records of British Army units deployed in Belfast during this period which is why so much of the case remains in the realms of speculation. However we do know that no serious investigation was carried out by the RUC into her disappearance until some considerable time after her death (and that the subsequent investigation was thrown off track by the misinformation supplied by the British military despite the RUC’s more informed sources). The evident reluctance of the British to address the disappearance of Jean McConville in 1972/3 remains the subject of much discussion, both fair and unfair.

The Irish Republican Army is adamant in its counter-claim that Jean McConville was a known informer who had been warned about her activities until finally discovered in the possession of a concealed military radio transmitter supplied to her by the British Army. Though we cannot be sure it seems likely that she was seized by the IRA’s Belfast Brigade the day before her known disappearance, interrogated (perhaps beaten) and then released. That would match British military reports and statements from some of her family relating to the discovery of a woman likely to be McConville in streets near her home in a state of some distress and confusion the day before she was abducted. With the radio transmitter in its hands the IRA must have discussed what actions to take based upon the evidence gained, no doubt in part spurred on by fears that Jean McConville would be spirited away to safety by the British now that her cover was truly blown or that she had further knowledge to impart to the enemy (her son, Robert McConville, was a member of the Official IRA and detained in the infamous Long Kesh concentration camp at the time of her death. During this period the OIRA and PIRA were bitter rivals, especially in Belfast and McConville remained a committed Republican activist going on to serve with the insurgent INLA). This resulted in her arrest the next day by the Irish Republican Army and transport across the border to the spot where she was shot dead. Or at least we can suppose that is the sequence of events. The truth is, of course, that everything to do with the killing of Jean McConville is supposition. We simply don’t know what happened during that dreadful period some forty years ago. However, as yet, no one has produced a plausible reason for the controversial killing of a mother of ten from an intensely closeknit community beyond that offered by the killers themselves.

The only legitimate way to end yet more years of speculation and anguish for the McConville family is for the governments of Ireland and Britain to agree a general amnesty that will allow all participants to the conflict, willing or otherwise, to give truthful testimonies free of fear or repercussion. Only then will we learn the truth about Jean McConville. Or about Gerry Adams.

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Steve Moore 1949 – 2014: A Personal Appreciation

Séamas Ó Sionnaigh (An Sionnach Fionn):

A thoughtful, personal tribute to the late Steve Moore…

Céadfhoilsithe ar Pádraig Ó Méalóid AKA Slovobooks:

Stephen James Moore was born at 2:00pm on June 11th, 1949, in a house on Shooters Hill in South London, where he lived all of his life, and died on or around the 16th of March, 2014, still in that house on the hill. In between, he produced a huge body of work, of a very high standard, most of it written in that same house. He was a hugely private man, but his life and mine intersected over the past few years, and I got to learn a lot about him in that brief time. INT028

But, actually, I was aware of Steve Moore’s work long before that. I had only ever been a desultory reader, at best, of 2000 AD, where he wrote a multitude of short sharp tales, but it’s probably not an exaggeration to say that Warrior, where he was a vital component both in…

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Will Hezbollah Be The Biggest Victor In The Syrian Civil War?

Deceased fighters of Al-Muqawama al-Islamiyya, the military wing of Hezbollah, arrive back in the Lebanon from service in Syria

Deceased fighters of Al-Muqawama al-Islamiyya, the military wing of Hezbollah, arrive back in the Lebanon from service in Syria

Just a quick post to highlight a recent report carried by the Brown Moses blog examining the ongoing civil war in Syria. What is noticeable about the report is the key role played by Al-Muqawama al-Islamiyya, the military wing of Hezbollah, on behalf of the besieged al-Assad regime. Without the presence of Hezbollah “volunteers” the Damascus dictatorship would still be locked into a stalemate with its opponents and facing the very real possibility of defeat (or usurpation from within its own ranks). Instead its Lebanese allies (following a “settling-in” period marked by poor battlefield performance and considerable confusion over chains of command) has slowly turned the tide of war, clawing back lost territory and widening fractures  in the already disparate Insurgency. However the emergence of Hezbollah’s military wing as an almost conventional army must be a cause of deep concern to those in power in Beirut, Jerusalem and Washington. Forget the brief Lebanese War of 2006. This is the conflict that will be the making (or breaking) of the Shiite guerilla movement. And so far it is all positive for them (that’s if one leaves aside the terrible cost in human life and suffering, of course).

Law And Order, Ireland

 

So the Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan has finally jumped ship after a catalogue of controversies involving allegations of systemic corruption within Irish law enforcement. However, lo an’ behold, hot on the heels of his splashdown comes news of another scandal-in-waiting. It seems that phone-calls to and from a significant number of Garda stations in Ireland have been recorded and filed as a matter of routine since the 1980s, including private communications between detained citizens and their legal representatives. With no regulatory, judicial or democratic oversight or even the knowledge of any recent governments (though one suspect the further back in time one goes the less tenable that particular claim will be) An Garda Síochána has taken it upon itself the right to act above the law, no doubt in its own best interests. Ironically the revelations have entered the public domain largely because of two court cases: one involving several Gardaí charged with (and convicted of) assault and another as yet unspecified investigation. Hoisted by their own petard! Just as interesting is the manner in which the slow drip of scandals has led to government in-fighting as minsters air their differences over the airwaves. Less edifying though is the hypocrisy of the Irish news media several of whose more prominent members have made ample use of their Garda connections to ensure that their own legal misdemeanours were wiped from the record. Quite literally. Though you won’t be reading about that here in Ireland. For that we need to rely on the international press.

Ah, the dear oul sod. As rotten as ever.

Ireland, The Dysfunctional Poster-Child Of Minority Rights

Fianna Fáil, back from the dead

Fianna Fáil, back from the dead ( (Photo: Séamas Ó Sionnaigh, Binn Éadair, Cúige Laighean, Éire, Meitheamh 2012)

The Hidden Ireland blog has a short post listing a number of motions on the Irish language from this year’s Fianna Fáil Ard-Fheis. Unsurprisingly these proposals are the very embodiment of the lip-service and tokenism that Irish-speaking communities have been complaining of for decades. Not one single concrete suggestion is offered up nor indeed does FF as a whole have any policy documents of its own beyond some fluffy sentiments in relation to the disingenuous 20-Year Strategy for the Irish Language 2010-2030 (already four years overdue any significant implementation beyond rolling back the civil rights of Irish-speaking citizens). Is it any wonder that academics and cultural activists around the globe hold up Ireland as the dysfunctional poster-child of minority rights and language restoration? Ireland, the country you go to in order to learn what not to do.

By the by, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin TD intoned the phrase “progressive republican” in his speech to describe his party. Sound familiar oh fellow progressive republican readers of An Sionnach Fionn?

Gaelic, The Pluralist Language

The Celtic Nations

The Celtic Nations

The people of Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man are united by one thing above all others: the indigenous languages they share in common. The Gaelic tongues, Irish, Scottish and Manx, are not just national, they are international. And so is the world-view of those who speak or support them. From the Irish Times the words of the new Language Commissioner, Rónán Ó Domhnaill:

“The thousands of Irish speakers who marched in Dublin last month for their rights weren’t looking for any special treatment.

The rights of Irish speakers are recognised in article eight of the Constitution and in the Official Languages Act 2003, while the rights of linguistic minorities are provided for in a number of important international documents including the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Unesco’s Universal Declaration of Linguistic Rights.

Increasingly, it is accepted that the rights of linguistic minorities are basic human rights.

The provision of language rights helps make the fight for the survival of a vulnerable or endangered language that little bit fairer, as languages often live or die depending on their perceived status and the level of prestige they are accorded.

These demands are being made by parents struggling against the odds to pass a 2,000-year-old language onto their children in order to preserve what is an important part of both our cultural identity and global linguistic diversity.

Is it too much to ask that children in the Gaeltacht should enjoy the right to basic services, such as healthcare, in their first language, which also happens to be the first official language of the State, according to the Constitution?

By indulging in empty rhetoric about the importance of Irish, while failing to grant it anything like the status promised by all the lip service, the Irish State, since its foundation, has sent out mixed messages about the value of the language.

In a review of Nicholas Ostler’s Empires of the Word: A Language History of the World a number of years ago, the author Jane Stevenson suggested it might be time to adapt the old joke that a language is a dialect with an army, when “the real key to survival is for a language to be a dialect with a civil service”.

Stevenson wrote: “A class of bureaucrats with the power to defend its monopoly can keep a language going for centuries, as can a set of scriptures, while conquerors come and go.”

Irish speakers are asking for the right to conduct their business with the State in Irish because the provision of such services is key to the survival of the language…”

And in the same newspaper, veteran journalist Pól Ó Muirí:

“Many Irish speakers, sooner or later, find themselves heading to Scotland’s Gaeltacht to find out more about their sister language. It is one of the ironies of the language debate that those ignorant of Irish seem to believe that Irish speakers are insular and anti-British. Far from it. The pull of language brings many to the Highlands and Islands and to Wales. (Go to Wales and marvel at the bilingual signage. You will be amazed and a little ashamed.)

Many Irish speakers know more about British culture than their monolingual English compatriots do. However, it is not the Britain of the Home Counties but another Britain, a Britain with voices that predate the political state and speak of an older Europe.

That language arc, fractured but just about functioning, that stretches from Munster to Connacht to Ulster to Scotland and down into Wales…”

From Canada’s east coast Chronicle Herald:

“I’m sure it’s easy to dismiss the current argument about adding “Royal” or “Rioghal” to the name of St. Anns’ Colaisde na Gàidhlig, also known as the Gaelic College.

The problem with this, though, it that it dismisses the very real and ultimately quite reasonable aspirations of a community of people important to Nova Scotia’s distinctiveness.

Gaelic was spoken here for centuries. Until the 1930s, it was in decent shape; not great shape like French in Quebec City, but decent shape like Cree in northern Quebec. The decline has been sharp, but as in Scotland, it’s not yet a done deal.

And as in Scotland, that decline has long been led by the tendency of central governments to try to get people to behave in ways that make them easier to manage.

Language has always been a big part of that; it’s easier for governments, easier for business people, easier for state-run education services, if an entire state speaks one, or at the outside, two languages.

Governments generally have to be dragged toward multilingualism; they don’t just accept it because it’s the easiest thing to do. It’s basically never the easiest thing to do.

There is a group of Nova Scotians who have been working for a long time to maintain one of the province’s smaller languages, and trying to get the Canadian state to recognize their right to live some part of their lives through that language.

The activists, educators and civil servants who have devoted themselves to Nova Scotia Gaelic see themselves, quite reasonably, as part of the rich mosaic of this province’s smaller cultures.

Like the African-Nova Scotians, the Acadians, and the Mi’kmaq, Nova Scotia Gaelic speakers and their descendants form a culture that exists nowhere outside of Atlantic Canada. And like all of those groups, they have a complicated and sometimes (not always, but sometimes) painful relationship with the central government.

There’s a long history, here as in Scotland, of Gaelic being informally or not-so-informally suppressed because monolingualism made things easier for that central government.

Nobody, then, should be at all surprised that words like “Rioghal” or “Royal” make many Nova Scotia Gaelic speakers and their descendants uneasy. Nobody is surprised to hear that words like “Royal” tend to make Acadians uneasy.

It doesn’t mean that either group is stuck in the 18th century. It means that like African-Nova Scotians or the Mi’kmaq (for whom these words mean something different again), Nova Scotia Gaelic speakers and their descendants want badly to move forward, and to forge a more current, more complicated and ultimately less dependent relationship with the state.

And that is something we should all take more seriously.”

However those who wish to supplant the indigenous languages of north-western Europe with their own take with far more seriousness that determination to subjugate and ultimately destroy. From the Belfast Telegraph, a tale of gerrymandered democracy – because in the anachronism that is the last stockade of the British colony in Ireland that is how they do things:

“Belfast City Council is facing a High Court challenge over its policy on Irish language street signs, it emerged today.

A resident in the west of the city has been granted leave to seek a judicial review over being denied dual-language name plates on her road.

Lawyers for Eileen Reid claim a method of surveying householders is irrational and unlawful.

Ms Reid was one of those canvassed about having supplementary Irish street signs erected on Ballymurphy Drive.

Under council criteria two-thirds of those questioned need to declare themselves in favour before the new plates can go up.

It is understood that out of 92 eligible residents 52 confirmed they wanted Irish signs, with only one opposed.

However, the remaining 39 did not respond to the survey.

According to Ms Reid’s legal team these non-returned votes were wrongly counted as being opposed to dual signage.

They contend that the two-thirds policy does not comply with a requirement in local government legislation for the views of residents to be taken into consideration.

Belfast City Council is also in breach of its obligation to promote Irish under the European Charter for Regional and Minority Languages, it is claimed.”

So who are the true multiculturalists in western Europe, and beyond?