Éire (Ireland)

Dublin Irish, 4000 Years And Counting

Baile Átha Cliath - Dubhlinn

Baile Átha Cliath – Dubhlinn

A few years ago a former passive-agressive manager in my job, who made a great point of mispronouncing my surname whenever the chance arose, confronted me with the following declaration: If you speak Irish why are you living in Dublin? Why don’t you go live somewhere down the country where it is spoken?

His pugnacious view probably reflects that of many other Dubliners (native or adopted) who choose to believe that the Irish language is somehow “foreign” to their city. No matter that Dublin is the capital of the island nation of Ireland, of which Irish is the national language. No, in their opinion the capital city is an English-speaking, English-reading, English-thinking place (and perhaps in more ways than those stated here). Some who hold this view do so out of simple ignorance. For others is it a badge of bigoted honour, Anglophone supremacists who insist that “they” and their “ancestors” in the capital never spoke “Gaelic” in the first place, that Dublin was always a non-Irish or English-speaking region – and always will be. I’m sure you’ve seen such things spouted online or heard them in person.

Of course this bigotry, like all bigotry, is based more upon myth and supposition than fact. It glosses over the very Irish origins of the city of Dublin or Baile Átha Cliath, beginning with the secular settlement of Áth Cliath “Hurdle Ford” (situated in what is now the vicinity of the present High Street and Cornmarket area) and the ecclesiastical settlement of Dubhlinn “Blackpool” (almost certainly on or near the site of what is now Dublin Castle). The former place was probably a small – and likely centuries-old – agricultural and fishing community on the southern banks of the river Liffey (An Life) near the main crossing-point. The latter settlement was also south of the tidal estuary, a large and once influential monastery of perhaps a hundred or so monks and servants situated on rising ground near the river mouth with several satellite churches dotted in the surrounding countryside. Both places derived their prosperity and importance from their location near the meeting point of Ireland’s pan-island network of slite or highways and their proximity to the ancient (and much disputed) boundary between the historic provinces of and Laighin just to the north of the river Liffey. The region itself was part of the territory of the Uí Fhearghasa, one the branches of the powerful Uí Dhúnlainge, and was populated with scattered communities many of which were later absorbed into the suburbs of the Medieval and early industrial conurbation.

When Scandinavian invaders and colonists – the Vikings – made their permanent presence felt in Ireland during the 9th century one of the first places they occupied was the monastic “town” of Dubhlinn, annexing the neighbouring hinterland and river crossing. While some point to this as the (non-Irish) foundation of the city of Dublin it was of course simply another phase in a pre-existing (Irish) complex of settlements. In any case over the next hundred years the inhabitants of Dublin became thoroughly assimilated or Irishified, emerging as a bilingual Scandinavian-Irish kingdom and mercantile centre vied over by the country’s major dynasties. Indeed from the late 10th century onwards the rulers of Baile Átha Cliath / Dubhlinn were invariably Irish or Scandinavian-Irish, notably Murchú son of Diarmaid mac Maoil na mBó, the formidable king of Laighin.

(It was to Diarmaid that the sons and possibly the wife of Harold Godwinson, the last native king of England, fled after the battle of Hastings in 1066. Their father and grandfather – Godwin the earl of Essex – had previously sought political refuge in Ireland and their aunt, Edith of Wessex, wife of king Edward the Confessor, was a fluent Irish speaker. Diarmaid sent three expeditions from Dublin led by the exiled princes – Godwin, Edmund and Magnus – to free the English from their Norman-French conquerors, unknowingly sowing one of the seeds that led to the later Norman-British invasion of Ireland. History abounds with such ironies).

So if that populist Anglophone understanding of Dublin’s origins is wrong what of the Irish language and its place in the life of the city and county? Would it shock you to know that the last native speakers of the Dublin dialect of Irish lived into the 20th century? From the new blog, “Dublin Gaelic”, which is dedicated to uncovering the evidence of the region’s once rich native identity and in particular the local manifestation of the Irish language we have this fascinating information:

“If you ask anyone the question, ‘When did native Irish die out in Dublin?’, the likelihood is that they will answer ‘very early on’…

This is a well-founded presumption given the general trend of Irish history, but it is incorrect.

First of all, Gaelic dialects from outside Dublin have been (and continue to be) spoken in the capital without interruption. There have always been Irish-speaking incomers in the city and once English became the predominant native language there there continued to be a partially Irish-speaking working class and underclass composed of rural migrants. Indeed, during the Famine, the populations of Dublin, Belfast and Cork all actually increased – many of these would have been Irish speakers. There almost certainly would have been small, poor Irish-speaking districts of the city well into the late nineteenth century, as people moved together to the metropolis from congested Gaelic-speaking areas throughout the country and encouraged others back home to join them.

Secondly, and more importantly for this blog, traditional local Gaelic receded far more slowly in Co. Dublin than generally realised. Anglicisation took hold most quickly along arterial transport routes, through which commerce and bureaucracy could push the English language ahead of them. But mountainous parts of south Co. Dublin remained relatively remote (and so self-sufficient) well into the twentieth century, providing conditions that helped the survival of a local Irish dialect – although it was, even in its lifetime, very difficult to find.

It is here – just 21km south of O’Connell Street – in the townlands of Bohernabreena (Bóthar na Bruíne) and Castlekelly (Caisleán Uí Cheallaigh) that local Gaelic persisted as a community language into the 1870s, with individual native speakers still to be found after 1900. These included one speaker, an elderly lady, who had – ironically – moved to town (Kimmage) by 1930 but who still spoke, with some difficulty, the Dublin Mountains dialect of her childhood.”

It is fact-based articles and posts like those featured on the Dublin Gaelic blog which provide an antidote to the poisonous anti-factual ravings of contemporary Anglophone supremacists in Ireland who wish to denigrate the modern Irish-speaking communities and citizens of our island nation. Knowledge is a weapon, a chairde. Arm yourselves.

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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.

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!

Between The Land And The Sea

Teach an Locháin, Bóthar an Choinicéir, Cill Fhionntain, Éire 2014

“Teach an Locháin”, Bóthar an Choinicéir, Cill Fhionntain, Éire 2014. A new build with an aggressively modern – and locally unsympathetic – design replacing an older more low-key dwelling (Íomhá: An Sionnach Fionn 2014)

Regular readers will know of my affection for Bóthar an Choinicéir, a leafy side-road in Fine Gall situated on a narrow strip of land between the sea and the main BÁC-Binn Éadair DART line. Generally considered to be part of Cill Fhionntain technically the area lies within the separate townland of An Coinicéar (though both lie in the barony of An Chúlóg. For administrative purposes Ireland is divided into townlands, parishes, baronies and counties, the first three often following indigenous Irish territorial divisions rather than later British colonial impositions). I spent a considerable part of my childhood here, both at school and at play, and remain a regular visitor. So I thought I’d post a couple of pictures of my favourite houses (of which there are many).

Cois Farraige, Bóthar an Choinicéir, Cill Fhionntain, Éire 2014 (3)

“Cois Farraige”, Bóthar an Choinicéir, Cill Fhionntain, Éire 2014 . The front view of “Seaside”, a listed house dating from the 1800s lying empty for some considerable time (Íomhá: An Sionnach Fionn 2014)

Cois Farraige, Bóthar an Choinicéir, Cill Fhionntain, Éire 2014 (2)

“Cois Farraige”, Bóthar an Choinicéir, Cill Fhionntain, Éire 2014. The rear view of the empty “Seaside”, a noted property dating from the late 1800s (Íomhá: An Sionnach Fionn 2014)

Trá an Choinicéir, Bóthar an Choinicéir, Cill Fhionntain, Éire 2014

Trá an Choinicéir, Bóthar an Choinicéir, Cill Fhionntain, Éire 2014. The view from the garden of “Cois Farraige” or “Seaside”. An enviable vista I think you’ll agree (Íomhá: An Sionnach Fionn 2014)

An Sean Teach, Bóthar an Choinicéir, Cill Fhionntain, Éire 2014

“An Sean Teach”, Bóthar an Choinicéir, Cill Fhionntain, Éire 2014. One of a number of properties lying empty on the road at Bóthar an Choinicéir – Bóthar Dhroim Chléire (Íomhá: An Sionnach Fionn 2014)

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.

 

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.

Oíche Sheanchais, The First Irish Language Sound Film

Oíche Sheanchais (Oidhe Sheanchais)

Oíche Sheanchais (Oidhe Sheanchais) “A Night of Storytelling”, 1935 (Íomhá; Harvard Film Archive)

From a report by the Galway Advertiser:

“The first Irish language ‘talkie’ ever made has premiered at a renowned Italian festival of rediscovered and restored film

Oidhche Sheanchais, an 11-minute film featuring Aran islanders from the Man of Aran cast listening to a story told by seanchaí Seáinín Tom Ó Dioráin, was the first ‘talkie’ to be filmed in Irish and was made in London in 1934 while the cast were recording post-synch sound for Man of Aran.

All copies of Oidhche Sheanchais were thought to have been destroyed in a fire in 1943, but a nitrate print of the film was discovered at Harvard University in 2012.

The Harvard Film Archive worked with the university’s Houghton Library and Celtic department and Harvard’s Office of the Provost, to preserve Oidhche Sheanchais on 35mm film and in digital formats, as well as translating the film and creating a subtitled version.

The film originally had a short cinema run in Ireland in 1935, and was never subtitled in English. It featured Colman ‘Tiger’ King, Maggie Dirrane, Michael Dirrane, and Patch Ruadh of the Man of Aran cast sitting around a hearth listening to Ó Dioráin’s story, interspersed with footage of seascapes shot while filming Man of Aran.

The restored film premiered at the Il Cinema Ritrovato festival in Bologna, Italy, last week…”

From the blog Antti Alanen: Film Diary:

“The short Oidhche sheanchais affirms Flaherty’s belief in cinema as a mythopoeic and folkloric art. Ireland’s first government-sponsored film, Oidhche Sheanchais was funded by a modest £200 budget assigned for the production of an Irish language talkie enshrining a vital element of the national heritage. Flaherty directed the film while in London recording the post-synch sound for Man of Aran using that film’s cast together with Seáinín Tom Ó Dioráin, a renowned Aran Island storyteller. Unlike Man of Aran, Oidhche Sheanchais was recorded entirely in Irish. Prior to the film’s release the Irish Press distributed a dialogue transcript to ensure that “children will… not miss any of the beauty and subtlety of the story it tells.”

More information can be found at TCD’s Irish Film and Research database with a full transcript of the script at Feasta.

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.

The Irish Government’s Anti-Irishness

Some of the now obsolete materials of the popular website "gaelport.ie" and CNnaG, yet another resource for the Irish-speaking communities of Ireland dumped because of the apathy and hostility of the Fine Gael-Labour government

Some of the now obsolete materials of the popular website “gaelport.ie” and GNnaG, yet another resource for the Irish-speaking communities of Ireland dumped because of the apathy and hostility of the Fine Gael-Labour government

The Irish-speaking citizens and communities of Ireland are under attack. They are under attack from a coalition government of two parties who seem determined to finish the ethnocide of the indigenous Irish language and culture begun eight centuries ago. For how else could one explain the events of the last three years? The rolling back of legislation giving minimal equality to Irish-speakers in relation to public services and the withdrawal of bilingual provisions? The lowering in status of those whose duty it is to uphold the law on behalf of Irish-speakers while neutralising that role through a lack of resources? The regulatory excision or debasement of traditional Irish-speaking communities? The reduction or termination of state support for voluntary organisations and charities operating through the Irish language? The arrest and detention of Irish-speaking citizens for speaking in Irish? The imposition of acceptable levels of inequality between Irish-speaking and English-speaking defendants before the courts, with juries and trials loaded in favour of the latter? It is a catalogue of institutionalised discrimination with the acquiescence of the highest echelons of the government itself.

Now Gaelport, the popular main community website for Irish-speakers at home and abroad, has finally ceased to function following the inexplicable withdrawal of state funding and with no replacement in sight. Or even likely. It is just the latest in a series of recent closures of Irish language media, print and electronic, in each case due to the movement of government resources to elsewhere (like the tens of millions of euros devoted over the last decade to Bord na gCon – the dog-racing authority!). From the Hidden Ireland blog:

“Comhdháil Náisiúnta na Gaeilge was established in 1943. Its role is to act as a coordinating body for voluntary Irish language organisations.

Gaelport.com was the leading Irish language news and information website listing Irish classes, Irish job vacancies and Irish language events. It was a project of the Comhdháil funded by Foras na Gaeilge. As such it was an award-winning news site for Irish-speakers and indeed those whose Irish was a little rusty as a lot of the material was in two languages.

In January of this year Foras na Gaeilge announced the six organisations chosen to partake in their new funding model. As Comhdháil Náisiúnta na Gaeilge, the organisation who runs Gaelport.com along with many other projects, was unsuccessful in its efforts to secure a place among the six lead organisations there remained no option for the board of An Chomhdháil but to cease the employment of its six staff members in light of its core-funding being completely cut.

It had been hoped to transfer the bulk of the work, including gaelport.com, carried out by the Comhdháil since 1943.  With their almost 71 years of experience they were hampered by the fact that successful organisations were unsure of the resources which would be allocated to them after 30 June 2014. This may still be the situation. (While writing this we understand that Foras na Gaeilge are also withdrawing funding from another website used extensively throughout the world, beo.ie, which will make it very difficult to continue! The unenviable record of Foras na Gaeilge is thus added to as they continue on this incomprehensible destruction, without replacement, of the Irish language media, at least three newspapers and some other periodicals).

The most alarming and disgraceful part of this is the lack of communication from Foras na Gaeilge with the Comhdháil and the other organisation whose employees work is so little appreciated that they have given no advice or shown any concern for the future of these dedicated people.

The board of Comhdháil Náisiúnta na Gaeilge had little choice but to wind down the operation and organisation in an orderly way until the funding was finally withdrawn from it at the end of June.

A metaphor for how the political establishment in Ireland views those who speak or identify with our indigenous language: materials from the forcibly closed website "galeport.ie" operated by CNnaG

A metaphor for how the political establishment in Ireland views those who speak or identify with our indigenous language: materials from the forcibly closed website “galeport.ie” operated by CNnaG

Today we have seen terribly sad pictures being tweeted of a skip being filled with the ruins of 71 years of voluntary and dedicated activity!

Nobody denies that the organisation of the voluntary sector in the language movement should be rationalised but the unthinking bureaucracy which so recklessly wielded the axe leaves an angry and untrusting public. This could be seen when up to 10,000 people marched through Dublin in February, a thousand marched in Conamara later in February, thousands also marched in Belfast in April and smaller gatherings took place in other venues. Part of the reason for these marches was the Government’s policy or lack of policy for the National Language.

The Irish people should be grateful to the staff of Comhdháil Náisiúnta na Gaeilge and their dedicated work over the past seventy years. That has now been lost because a lack of appreciation or indeed understanding of Foras na Gaeilge.

Foras na Gaeilge is the body responsible for the promotion of the Irish language throughout the whole island of Ireland. It is difficult to see how this slaughter may be called promotion. It is difficult to see any logic at all in their actions.”

From 2011 to 2013 the coalition government of Ireland, under Fine Gael and Labour, spent nearly two billion euros of Irish-taxpayers money on overseas aid. They did it to help communities abroad (not to mention the “pet charities” of politically influential friends and supporters domestically, as we have seen with the high-profile scandals of recent months). Meanwhile the politically-powerless Irish-speaking communities at home were being deliberately and knowingly starved of resources. There is a lesson to be learned there.

Power does not grow from the bottom of a begging bowl.

Foreign Teanga, New Radio Documentary

We'll have none of that Irish shite here! You're Irish! So speak English! (Íomha: An Timire)

We’ll have none of that Irish shite here! You’re Irish! So speak English! (Íomha: An Timire)

A quick post to highlight an upcoming radio documentary, “Foreign Teanga”, examining the positive and negative experiences of seven non-nationals living in Ireland who have chosen to learn the Irish language in Dublin over the course of ten weeks. One major source of the negativity? The Irish themselves.

“At the dinner table when they found out I was going to learn Irish they laughed at me. It wasn’t the best reaction I could have asked for, not the most inspiring”- Maggie, an American student who has decided to learn Irish.

“Irish are proud of their language but I have the impression that people are sad that their knowledge level is not high”- Oxana, Latvia.

“It drives me absolutely mad that I’m learning Irish to promote the language but I don’t know whether I have ever heard…. someone speaking Irish by choice on the streets of Dublin and I find that very confusing.”- David, Wales.

“People in the office looked at me like I was insane. They asked me why on earth would you take an Irish class”- Kerry, USA.

Foreign Teanga, produced by Simon Ó Gallchobhair, is due to be broadcast by Newstalk 106-108FM on Saturday 5th of July between 07:00-08:00 and repeated on Sunday July 6th at 18:00-19:00. I will definitely be listening.

[With thanks to Simon for the heads-up]

The Unionist Caliphate In Ireland

Peter Robinson with an automatic assault rifle

Peter Robinson, the leader of the DUP and power-sharing First Minister in the north-east of Ireland, is caught on camera in late 1984 during a visit to the Israel-Lebanon border with an AK47 automatic assault rifle

The mainstream British Unionist parties in the north-east of Ireland, the governing DUP and out-of-office UUP, have issued a statement condemning yet another ban on the controversial annual march by the anti-Catholic Orange Order in the Ardoyne district of Belfast, and have done so in conjunction with the fundamentalist TUV, and the PUP and UPRG, two political organisations closely associated with the British terror factions. The axis of militant British separatism on this island nation is writ large for the 21st century as it was for the 19th and 20th centuries. Hopefully I’ll never again have to listen to the utter, two-faced hypocrisy of “constitutional” politicos of Unionism when it comes to the use of “violence”.

If (Provisional) Sinn Féin was the political wing of the (Provisional) Irish Republican Army in days past then the DUP and UUP are now publicly functioning as the political wings of armed Unionism.