Na Ceiltigh (The Celts)

Ras Yr Iaith 2014

Ras yr Iaith 2014

Ras yr Iaith 2014

Another quick post, this time to highlight the success of June’s “Ras yr Iaith”, a symbolic relay race organised by Welsh-speakers to celebrate their community and publicise their demands for greater equality in Wales. Inspired by similar events held here in Ireland, Brittany and the Basque Country (the latter for many years) one thousand runners started in Machynlleth and moved through the towns of Aberystwyth, Tregaron, Lampeter,  Aberaeron, New Quay, Llandysul, Newcastle Emlyn and Cardigan greeted along the way by enthusiastic crowds. Judging by online publicity it had a major impact locally.

[With thanks to Siôn Jobbins]

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In Support Of A Reunited Brittany

Support the Reunification of Brittany

In 1941 the Vichy regime in France ordered the partition of the north-western Celtic nation of Brittany as part of administrative restructuring during its collaborationist rule with the Nazis. Nearly a fifth of the territory of the Bretons, including the historic capital city of Nantes, was incorporated into an artificial region called Pays de la Loire. Despite repeated promises that the changes imposed by the Vichy dictatorship would be undone the French state continues to uphold the divisions created during the mid-20th century and is now in the process of reinforcing them for the 21st century. The people of Brittany are fighting this policy of divide-and-rule from Paris with a major campaign of demonstrations across the country as highlighted in this recent post from the blog of the Wessex Regionalists. While we in Ireland have the Fearg le Dearg or “Red with Anger” movement fighting for the civil rights of those who identify with our indigenous language and culture in Brittany they have Bonnets Rouges or the “Red Caps”, a similar protesting force. The centuries of institutional discrimination by the French state towards the Breton people must be confronted head on and Brittany must be reunited.

Electronic Irish

A lot of people seem unaware of the two best online resources for historical texts relating to Ireland, both of which are entirely free to use. The first is “CELT, the Corpus of Electronic Texts”, a collection of hundreds of manuscripts and books in digitised form mainly written in Irish and English (of various periods) but also featuring works in Latin, Norman-French, German and several other languages. The 1300+ entries cover nearly one-and-a-half thousand years of literary and scholarly output on this island nation and are incredibly important, representing some 15 million words in total. The project is maintained and regularly updated with new materials by University College Cork (UCC) so you can be confident of its academic credentials. If you prefer the printed word to the electronic kind some of the texts are available through the Irish Texts Society and the School of Celtic Studies which is part of the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies. Fair warning, many of the published texts are quite expensive (though DIAS has a sale on at the moment with a few good discounts on offer).

CELT is continuously in need of funding so if you have a few euros, pounds or dollars to spare you can donate them here.

A second and a closely related site is Irish Script On Screen, a collection of digital images of Irish and Scottish manuscripts in various languages found in the collections of several universities and institutions in Ireland, Scotland and Australia. It is stored and maintained under the auspices of the School of Celtic Studies at DIAS and is growing every year with scanned images that span the centuries from the early Medieval period to the Industrial Age. I have to admit that I love this site and I’ve spent literally hours searching through it. It will make you ache that traditional Irish lettering is no longer in popular use, either in printed or written form. Like some Arabic texts there are manuscripts here, even relatively late ones, that are almost works of art so beautiful are they to the human eye (trying to link to specific images or pages is almost impossible due to the way the site is set up, so apologies if I can’t provide any ready examples. Take my word for it and explore for yourself).

I should also mention a useful addendum to both of the above which is eDIL: the Electronic Dictionary of the Irish Language, maintained by the Royal Irish Academy and Queen’s University Belfast. It is a digitised and much expanded version of the early 20th century “Dictionary of the Irish Language based mainly on Old and Middle Irish materials” originally published by the RIA in several parts. The latest revised online edition, again free to use, is fully searchable and is genuinely groundbreaking in terms of research into the earliest literary forms of the Irish language. In a similar vein is In Dúil Bélrai, a less comprehensive but again searchable English-Old Irish glossary from Sabhal Mòr Ostaig in Scotland. There is also a very useful list of other dictionaries and resources in general kept up-to-date by the excellent SMO. For comparisons or follow-ups on particular words you can use the Foclóir, the modern Irish-English/English-Irish digital dictionary maintained on behalf of the Government of Ireland along with Focal – Bunachar Náisiúnta Téarmaíochta don Ghaeilge, a more technical database of Irish terms (the former should eventually supersede the latter). Finally there is the now antiquated but still highly useful Foclóir Uí Dhuinnín from the University of Limerick which contains lots of old words and phrases no longer encountered in vernacular Irish (unfortunately).

Hope you might find one or two of those sites interesting over the weekend.

A Message To Scotland

Saorsa 2014

Saorsa 2014

When the children’s author JK Rowling announced her financial support for the anti-sovereignty side in Scotland’s forthcoming referendum on independence she lamented the alleged online campaign of abuse against British Unionist supporters by their Scottish Nationalist rivals. While using her own troll-like language to mischaracterise some of those who believe in a free and self-governing Scotland the English-born writer called upon more tolerance in the referendum debate and an end to the cyberwars between the competing nationalisms of Scotland and a Greater England (on one side a populist expression of dissent, on the other the muscle-flexing of the establishment group-think).

If that was truly her intention then it has failed and failed miserably as the worse elements of the Unionist news media and political elites over yonder have used her dramatic intervention to launch an unprecedented smear campaign against anyone who dares challenge the suzerainty of London over the island of Britain. The grotesque and one-sided nature of the struggle and the new depths that Rowling’s largesse have allowed Unionist propagandists to descend to is quite extraordinary. Several well-known figures on the sovereigntist side, politicians and citizen-journalists, have been subject to sustained attacks in the newspapers, on radio, television and above all on social media networks. Distortions and untruths have become the norm. Muck-raking hacks from the British nationalist press have trawled through people’s lives searching for dirt to dish. Where none has been found they have simply invented it. The utter hypocrisy of those involved has been nothing short of astounding.

As a nation which long ago freed the greater part of itself from the cold hand of English rule we know all too well the tactics being pursued by the “British” ruling classes and their acolytes. They are the same ones we faced during our own revolution: the same lies, the same grotesque distortions of the truth. We heard the now familiar objections to the reclaiming of our nationhood: we were too small, too poor, too stupid to govern ourselves. Yes, the free Irish state that we established was not what we had hoped for. Yet how could it be otherwise when the British refused to accept our repeated votes for independence at the start of the 20th century but instead waged a war upon our democracy? When our island nation was disfigured by a “border” imposed by London overlords thwarted by a defiant populace? When our industrial north-east and a fifth of our population were lost to us while punitive reparations and tariffs stunted our development? Our country was deliberately crippled from the get-go.

However would anyone in the modern nation-state of Ireland chose to be under British dominion again? Of course not. That is the lesson for the Scots. For no matter how great the challenges – or the faults – they are our own. We are the master and mistress of our own house, however lowly some may claim it to be, and we have no desire to be the serfs in the house of another, however great some may claim that to be. We ourselves are the risen people.

Come join us.

The Threat Of The Gaelic Ail-Caoíde

Three highly dangerous Ail-Caoíde militants about to stage an insurrection in Dublin to impose their Gaelic Sharara Law! Note the way their mouths are sealed with red tape as part of their evil customs. What next? Veils? Oh, the horror. Oh, the humanity. Won’t someone think of the children?

Talking of petty bigots whose anachronistic opinions are derived from centuries of colonial supremacism here comes another tirade against one of the indigenous languages of these Celtic Isles. Drew Cochrane, editor of the Largs & Millport Weekly News, spouting some ripe Daily Mail-style rhetoric for his Anglophone (and -centric) readership. Funny how people who complain about “political correctness” are the very ones the term is most applicable to?

“IT’S great to see democracy at work, or is it just plain daftness in the corridors of North Ayrshire Council?

So, more than 99 per cent of us don’t understand Gaelic, and have no desire to learn the language but, heh, that doesn’t matter. We’re getting it anyway.

The SNP-led council are so beholden to that well-known piece of legislation, the Gaelic Language (Scotland) Act that they, apparently, feel compelled to change their NAC brand logo to include the Gaelic for North Ayrshire Council.

Why would you go to such lengths to satisfy less than one per cent of the population?

They say they have a statutory duty to promote Gaelic alongside English as the language of Scotland. No they don’t. They chose to do it.

It’s a farce and I was going to say a waste of money. However, the Scottish government has set up a pot of gold for positive discrimination of Gaelic and they pay councils to go Gaelic.

However, today is another plank in the political correctness gone mad syndrome.

As this newspaper knows well, you are not allowed to say anything which is not favourable to Gaelic.

The most abuse the paper ever faced was when young journalist David Walker offered his personal opinion, in this column, that a disproportionate amount of money was spent on Gaelic broadcasting.

Gaelic fanatics issued a ‘fatwah’ and Gaelic messages were posted, swearing at him and accusing him of being a racist. They can be an intolerant lot.”

And that, a chairde, is what we call irony-free thinking.

I’m off now to hold a meeting with the other members of the Gaelic Ail-Caoíde as we strive to impose our Gaelic Sharara Law upon Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man.

[With thanks to our brother in Gaeldom, @MisneachNYC. May the Tuatha Dé Danann, the fíor-déithe, guide him and all of us in our great journey to martyrdom, and may we meet on the far golden shores of Eamhain Abhlach. Beir Bua!]

Support The Reunification Of Brittany!

Bretons demonstrate in Nantes on April 19 2014 in favour of the reunification of their nation

Bretons demonstrate in Nantes on April 19 2014 in favour of the reunification of their nation (Íomhá: AFP/GETTY)

Since the 1940s when the fascist government based in southern France partitioned Brittany into two separate administrative regions with the objective of countering Breton resistance to the Vichy regime the Celtic nation has been fighting to reunite its two halves. Now the crisis-ridden French president, François Hollande, has announced new plans which will further cement that division spawned by the Nazi-collaborators of l’État français. From France 24:

“Many Bretons, who dream of a reunified “Great Brittany”, are furious that a planned redrawing of France’s regional borders does not include the restoration of the Loire Atlantique department.

In 1941, the Loire Atlantique department (administrative sub-region) was separated from Brittany and attached to the neighbouring Loire region.

The decision to sever the department, approved by wartime collaborationist leader Philippe Pétain in 1941, is still seen by many as grossly unfair.

And now that a redrawing of France’s regional map is back on the table, some Bretons are rolling up their sleeves in their enthusiasm to get the territory back.

On Monday, President François Hollande outlined his plan to reduce the number of French regions to save costs and streamline regional government.

This will include merging Champagne and Ardenne, as well as Alsace and Lorraine. But Brittany and Pays de la Loire will not change their borders.

Brittany has a strong regional identity and a number of powerful movements battling for its linguistic and territorial integrity. Mainstream politicians and social movements alike have called for the restoration of the Loire Atlantique department.

Former Socialist Prime Minister Marc Ayrault, who was also a popular mayor of Nantes, historically Brittany’s most important port, tweeted that it was “in the interest of the people” to merge the department back into Brittany.

His successor at Nantes city hall, Johanna Rolland, also took to the social networking site: “For the future of our territories and the people living in them, let’s fight for a merger of Pays de la Loire and Bretagne” she tweeted.

Marc le Fur, a member of parliament for the opposition conservative UMP party, accused Hollande of “upholding Vichy [the wartime French state]” on his personal blog.

“He hasn’t listened to his Breton ministers, or the Breton members of parliament, or to local businesses, or to cultural leaders. He is deaf. He won’t listen to anyone.”

The organisation 44=BZH, which fights for “reunification” of Brittany, accused the government of only listening to the Loire Atlantique’s political leaders, who are desperate not to lose their jobs, while ignoring the wishes of the Breton masses.

Another group, the “Red Bonnets” protest movement which forced the government to backtrack on a planned new road tax in 2013, said the decision to ignore Brittany’s wish to restore Loire Atlantique and Nantes was “revolting”.

Protests calling for the return of the lost territory are expected to go ahead on Tuesday evening in the four departments that make up Brittany, as well as in Nantes.”

Demand For Scottish Medium Education Outstrips Supply

Archie Agnew's parents claim he has been denied a place at the Scottish medium (Gaelic) school in Glasgow

Archie Agnew’s parents claim he has been denied a place at the Scottish medium (Gaelic) school in Glasgow (Íomhá: Evening Times)

From Glasgow’s Evening Times newspaper:

“Christine and Iain Agnew are keen to support Scotland’s language and so sent son Archie to a Gaelic nursery school in Anniesland.

But the four-year-old has now been denied a place at Glasgow Gaelic School.

Christine, 39, said: “My son has been going to a Gaelic nursery for the past two years.

“To get into the Gaelic school they say you have to show commitment to the language.

“Well, I’m not sure how else I could have shown that commitment.

“We haven’t been given a straight answer as to why Archie has been refused a place and I would really like the council to reconsider.”

Christine, from Clydebank, said she has lodged an appeal, as have two other mums who are in a similar position.

But she believes there should be enough primary provision in the city to accommodate all children who are in the city’s Gaelic nurseries.

Currently, a second Gaelic primary school is planned for the South Side of Glasgow but Christine said that will open too late for Archie to attend.

She added: “I want Archie to learn Gaelic because he’s Scottish and that’s his language.

But a Glasgow City Council spokeswoman said people who live outside Glasgow must make a placing request and not all can be accommodated.

Glasgow Gaelic School -Sgoil Ghaidhlig Ghlaschu – was the first Scottish Gaelic school and caters for pupils from the ages of three to 18.

The 2011 census showed there was a slight fall in the number of Gaelic speakers in Scotland, from 59,000 in 2001 to 58,000 in 2011.

But more younger users of the language are expected as schooling options are expanded.

Last year only 6% of the six-year target for pupils entering Gaelic medium education had been achieved.

The Scottish Government spends £25 million every year on promoting Gaelic.”

And a follow-up opinion piece by Caroline Wilson in the same publication:

“I’M sorry for the family who are desperate for their son to go to Glasgow Gaelic School but have been turned down for a place.

Of course, it was a placing request, they live outwith the city limits and there are no guarantees but I sympathise. It’s obviously important for them to preserve a part of their heritage.

What’s even more disappointing though, is that cases such as this, highlighted in Tuesday’s Evening Times, invariably become less about the family’s plight and more a tirade on the relevance of Gaelic in today’s society.

I have to declare a personal interest now. I’m a Gaelic speaker (well, tha beagan Gaelic agam) it was my grandparents first language, passed on to my mother. I am by no means fluent but it’s important to me. It makes me who I am, it makes me different. That is something to be celebrated.

It’s hard for me not to wade in when I read comments online that question the relevance of Gaelic to Scotland’s history.

Until around the 12th century Gaelic was the majority language in Scotland. For a variety of reasons, it was pushed into the fringes of the highlands and islands, where it was the dominant language until the start of the 20th century. Just take a look at place names around the country for proof.

I UNDERSTAND that many people, particularly in lowland areas feel it has nothing to do with their own heritage but facts are facts.

If you don’t want to learn Gaelic that’s fine, that’s your right. I won’t question your right to learn another language that has little or no relevance to your own heritage but let’s be a bit more generous with those who would like to.

The school exists in Glasgow because of the demand for Gaelic medium education. It has an excellent reputation, the children learn other languages too, and all studies point towards the benefits of children learning another language.

When I travel elsewhere in Europe, Spain particularly, they are always positive about Gaelic, never questioning its relevance.”

The Great Irish Paradox

And one could say much the same for the language, a Shéamais

And one could say much the same for the language, a Shéamais

From the Daily Beast:

“Here in Odessa, the conflict has nothing to do with a linguistic divide. Everyone speaks Russian. As one pro-Maidan activist explained by analogy, “Irish terrorists speak English but fight for Ireland.”…”

That they do. And that, a chairde, is the problem in more ways than one.

Three Welsh Rights Activists Arrested

The three civil rights activists belonging to Cymdeithas yr Iaith arrested in Aberystwyth this morning

The three civil rights activists belonging to Cymdeithas yr Iaith arrested in Aberystwyth this morning (Íomhá: Walesonline)

Three activists fighting for Welsh language rights, two women and a man in their twenties, were arrested today by police in Wales after they painted slogans on a local government building demanding greater equality for Welsh-speaking citizens from the devolved government in Cardiff. From the Daily Post newspaper:

“Three campaigners have spray painted the Welsh Government offices in Aberystwyth this morning in a language protest about an alleged lack of support for the Welsh language.

Cymdeithas yr Iaith is blaming the First Minister’s “lack of action in response to the Census results”.

The activists’ organisation said that they painted slogans including pleas for “Addysg Gymraeg i Bawb” (Welsh-medium education for all) on the wall of the Welsh Government building in the town at 7:45am.

The society says that the protest is part of a general Cymdeithas campaign to put pressure on the Labour Government to act urgently in light of crisis facing the Welsh language.

Dyfed Powys Police said: “Police confirm that three people were arrested following an incident in the Welsh Assembly buildings in Aberystwyth this morning.”

On March 7, a dozen Welsh language campaigners chained themselves to a fence outside the same government offices in protest against an alleged lack of support for the Welsh language.

They struck in Aberystwyth in a four hour protest. Police were at the scene but said the event was peaceful.

It follows a similar protest in February at the Welsh Government’s offices in Llandudno Junction.”

Féile na Bealtaine

An Caorthann or the rowan tree (mountain-ash), one of several plants associated with Bealtaine traditions

An Caorthann or the rowan tree (mountain-ash), one of several plants associated with Bealtaine traditions

Some appropiate links for Lá Bealtaine, traditionally the first day of summer by the indigenous calendars of the Irish, Scots and Manx (and probably for the Celtic peoples as a whole). The Dos Bhealtaine or May Bush is up already, the branches and flowers cut from the caorthann or rowan tree in my garden. The ribbons are red and white, the colours of the Ó Sionnaigh heraldic crest and the mythical Aos Sí. And perhaps of revolutionary Gaels too? ;-)

Tuatha Dé Danann
Na Fomhóraigh
An Sí
Na Fathaigh
Na Bocánaigh, Na Bánánaigh
Na Púcaí
Na Péisteanna
Na Murúcha
Seanchas Agus Litríocht na nGael
Na Fianna

The Cornish Win Their Fight For Recognition

Penn an Wlas - Land's End, Cornwall

Congratulations to the people of Cornwall on the success of their long campaign to win official recognition from the British government for their status as a distinct national minority on the island of Britain. The announcement today means that the Cornish will see the granting of regulatory standing for their identity, language and culture by the British state. From the Guardian newspaper:

“The land to the west of the Tamar river was a jubilant place to be after the government announced that the Cornish are to be recognised as a national minority for the first time. Dancing was promised on the streets of Bodmin, poetry (in Cornish, of course) was being recited – and a fair few pints of good old Cornish being downed in celebration.

The announcement came from Whitehall, more than 200 miles away. The chief secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander, said it meant Cornish people would be classified under the European framework convention for the protection of national minorities in the same way as the UK’s other Celtic people, the Scots, the Welsh and the Irish [ASF: that would be the Irish in the British Occupied North of Ireland, of course].

Alexander said: “Cornish people have a proud history and a distinct identity. I am delighted that we have been able to officially recognise this and afford the Cornish people the same status as other minorities in the UK.”

The communities minister, Stephen Williams, said: “This is a great day for the people of Cornwall who have long campaigned for the distinctiveness and identity of the Cornish people to be recognised officially. The Cornish and Welsh are the oldest peoples on this island and as a proud Welshman I look forward to seeing Saint Piran’s flag flying with extra Celtic pride on 5 March next year.”

After the celebrations are over, the politicians – both in Cornwall and on a UK level – will work out the ramifications of the status.

The development may earn the Lib Dems some credit in Cornwall, one of their heartlands in recent years but a place where the Tories will hope to make gains at the next general election. Last month, Nick Clegg, the deputy prime minister, said the government would be investing a further £120,000 into the Cornish Language Partnership to promote and develop the language.

The North Cornwall Lib Dem MP Dan Rogerson was keen to make a political point out of it, saying: “Today’s announcement means that the Cornish will finally be recognised as one of the constituent peoples of the UK alongside the Welsh, Scottish and Irish.

The news does not mean that Cornwall is breaking away from Britain, but it was welcomed nevertheless by Mebyon Kernow, which is campaigning for a Cornish national assembly.

Its leader, Dick Cole, said: “This is a fantastic announcement for Cornwall. I am absolutely delighted that the government has recognised the Cornish people as a national minority and it is great to see that all the Celtic peoples of these islands – the Cornish, Irish, Scottish and Welsh – are now afforded equal protection under the framework convention.”

Cornwall council says the announcement means the Cornish will be afforded the same protections as the Welsh, Scottish and the Irish. [ASF: Again, that would be protection for the Irish who unfortunately continue to live under Britain’s colonial rule on our island nation. History and geography is never a strong point in Britain. And that “protection”? They are still waiting for it...]

Britain’s recognition of the Cornish people will take place under the European Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, an international treaty agreed to by some 39 nation-states of the Council of Europe. The campaign is now on to win recognition from France for the people of Brittany!

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?

Celtic Europe, Battling Bigotry From Left And Right

Oi Polloi

Oi Polloi

There is an influential theory held by an extremist minority on the Far Left of European politics which opposes a plurality of languages and cultures in Europe because it impedes (as they would claim) the development of a common group identity amongst the working classes on the continent, an identity that that would transcend historic national boundaries and borders. In this view anything that smacks of “ethnicity“, however benign or open, is a barrier to the establishment of a unified and cosmopolitan proletariat. In times past the German language was seen as the natural mechanism by which this could be achieved, the logical outgrowth of the nation’s industrial dominance and growing left-wing radicalism in the 19th century. After WWI and the establishment of the USSR the Russian language came to dominate, albeit with a degree of chauvinism perhaps not so readily apparent in its Teutonic predecessor. Now the English language is regarded as the new lexicon of the desired socialist utopia (though ironically anglophone supremacism finds just as welcome a home amongst ideologues on the Far Right in Britain, the United States and elsewhere).

One bizarre aspect of this dogmatic myopia in the heart of Mittleeuropa is the so-called Antideutsch or anti-German movement, a myriad outgrowth of the labyrinthine Marxist-Leninist politics of Germany and Austria. It shares the tenets of some on the Far Left in its suspicion of minority languages and cultures, particularly those that are believed to run counter to majority languages and their homogenising role in world society. This perhaps explains the decision by the organisers of a politically-orientated music festival in eastern Germany to ban the attendance of Oi Polloi, a well-known anarchist-punk group from Scotland that produces songs in the Scottish Gaelic and English languages. It was the former tongue that apparently spurred the decision to prevent their performance. Now we have an update from Oi Polloi on the controversy:

“”Banned for singing in Gaelic” UPDATE: Today we heard that the German “Kulturzentrum” that “banned” our March 1st concert there because we sing in Gaelic is standing by its refusal to let us play but still without a public explanation for this frankly sickening discrimination against minority language speakers. As an internationalist band who campaign in support of diversity, multiculturalism and the linguistic human rights of minority language speakers, we are determined not to let such bigotry and discrimination go unchallenged. As such we repeat our call for a boycott of the so-called “Kulturzentrum” Horte in Strausberg and would encourage others who disagree with the banning of artists on cultural/linguistic grounds to contact the venue via the e-mail address on the link below to let them know your views. There can be no place for racism or discrimination in the alternative/punk scene and we and other speakers of threatened minority indigenous languages will NOT be silenced.

We also hope to have good news very soon about an alternative concert for March 1st in a venue where speakers of all languages are welcome in an atmosphere free of prejudice or bigotry. GEGEN ALLE DISKRIMINIERUNG! “KULTURZENTRUM” HORTE BOYKOTTIEREN!”

Incredibly such prejudices can also be found amongst Far Left activists here in Ireland some of whom regard the Irish language, the indigenous language of this island nation, as an impediment to the development of a “pan-European class consciousness”. Indeed in the past I have heard a member of the Socialist Party argue vociferously that Irish-speakers through their “wilful rejection” of the English language are “reactionaries” and “tribalists”. Similar arcane views are to be found amongst some in the SWP-PBP grouping, as reflected in the complete indifference of elected TD Richard Boyd Barrett to Irish language rights when quizzed on RTÉ some years ago. Even in Scotland that migratory demagogue of the wayward left, George Galloway, has taken in recent times to attacking Scottish-speakers with the charge of “Obscurantism”.

George Chittick displaying the best of British and anglophone culture in Ireland. Lord be praised!

George Chittick displaying the best of British and anglophone culture in Ireland. Lord be praised!

However, as I pointed out above, such poisonous views are just as virulent on Europe’s Far Right and that is reflected in this story from the Irish Independent newspaper:

“A senior member of the Orange Order who claimed the Irish language was used by republicans for political purposes has been criticised.

An Irish language development officer in east Belfast said many people were upset by the remarks of George Chittick, the order’s Belfast County Grand Master.

Linda Ervine said: “I know a lot of people who have been angered and offended.”

Mr Chittick told a loyalist rally in north Belfast yesterday: “A word of warning to Protestants who go to learn Irish… it’s part of the republican agenda.”

He later said his remarks were aimed at those seeking funding for Irish language projects rather than financial aid for projects which would generate jobs.

Ms Ervine, a development officer at an Irish language centre in east Belfast and who is married to Brian Ervine, a former leader of the Progressive Unionist Party, said she was surprised by what Mr Chittick said.”

Ironically as a member of a fundamentalist Protestant and British nationalist organisation that promotes anti-Catholicism in the north-east of Ireland George Chittick might find some common ground with religiously-minded folk elsewhere in the country, albeit from a Roman Catholic background. Some lines from an article in the local Limerick Leader:

“Now if I may be allowed to make an even more irreligious proposal to that propounded by the Minister, let me suggest that if primary schoolteachers find that they haven’t enough hours in the day for extra classes in numeracy and literacy, maybe they should consider taking a few minutes from the four hours a week spent teaching the Irish language, which does little for our literacy or numeracy problems, and, as far as I’m concerned, nothing at all to enhance our chances of getting into Heaven. You won’t find Ruairi Quinn making a suggestion like that for fear he’d really be burned at the stake of nationalistic fervour.

On the other hand, if the Department of Education really wants to improve the literacy and literary skills of primary schoolchildren, I can’t think of a better way of doing it than by encouraging them to read the Bible.”

Even those who claim to be the greatest advocates of equality and pluralism in Western society cannot but help reveal themselves to be Anglophone illiberals in faux liberal dress once the issue of Ireland’s indigenous language is raised. For how else would you describe the views expressed in the otherwise oh-so correct publication “Other People’s Diasporas: Negotiating Race in Contemporary Irish and Irish-American Cultureas highlighted in it’s Irish Times review:

“…Moynihan questions in another chapter why Des Bishop’s embrace of the Irish language does not highlight the “historical baggage – of nationalism and separatism some would say borders on xenophobia – it brings with it”, but there is no reason why Irish speakers should be any more xenophobic than speakers of other languages.”

Unless of course the observer is a partisan for English. For only in Ireland (or Scotland and Wales) could a colonised people attempting to undue centuries of linguistic and cultural damage to their identity be presented as xenophobes for not wishing to speak the language of their former colonial masters. Obviously the free marketeer and neo-liberal view of multiculturalism only extends to the “right kinds” of culture. In that the New Left and the New Right find a common voice.

[With thanks to An Lorcánach, Daithí Mac Lochlainn, Club Leabhar NYC, Méabh and others]

German Music Festival Bans Gaelic-Punk Group?

Some surprising news from Scotland’s well-known anarcho-punk band Oi Polloi, a bilingual group who produce songs with both English and Scottish Gaelic lyrics. They have issued a statement on their Facebook Page claiming that the organisers of a music festival in Germany have objected to the band playing Scottish language songs and cancelled their planned gig.

“We’re very sorry to announce that our March 1st gig at the Horte social centre in Strausberg in eastern Germany is now cancelled after we were “banned” when organisers realised that – shock horror – we sometimes sing in Gaelic, one of the UK’s minority Celtic languages. Like many other minority language speakers we’re used to abuse from “Speak English or Die” British Nationalist types at home but it’s especially depressing to come across an attitude of such hostility to multiculturalism and diversity in what we thought would be a progressive social centre. We know that speakers of Sorbisch, the Slavic minority language in parts of eastern Germany, also suffer the same kind of ignorance and hostility from those who want them to all speak Hochdeutsch instead but we had hoped that a place like the Horte centre would be different. Needless to say this will only spur us on to continue to campaign for respect for minority cultures, diversity and linguistic human rights. We’d also call on all politically-aware touring bands to boycott the so-called “Kulturzentrum” Horte – there can be no place for racism or discrimination against minorities in our scene. For diversity, multiculturalism, respect for minorities and a punk scene free of discrimination!”

All very strange and uncharacteristic of most European music festivals I have heard of. I will update when I hear more.

03.02.2014 Updated news here.

[Thanks to Daithí Mac Lochlainn for the links]

Second-Class Service For Second-Class Citizens

A photo of the bilingual prescription that staff in a Welsh pharmacy refused to accept, clearly showing English and Welsh texts

A photo of the bilingual prescription that staff in a Welsh pharmacy refused to accept, clearly showing English and Welsh texts (Íomhá: MailOnline, Wales News Service)

Given the news yesterday about a group of young people from Ireland being subject to racial abuse by a taxi driver in the city of Glasgow for speaking in their native Irish instead of English here comes another disgraceful story about speakers of an indigenous Celtic tongue being subject to discrimination for not using the English language. A pharmacy in Wales refused to serve medicines to the father of a sick child because he presented a bilingual prescription, one written both in Welsh and English. From the Mail Online:

“A sick baby was rushed to hospital after a supermarket pharmacy refused to hand his medication to his father because part of the prescription had been written in Welsh.

Aled Mann, 34, took the prescription from the family doctors to his local Morrisons pharmacy counter after his one-year-old son Harley developed a chest infection.

But staff at the supermarket in Bangor, north Wales, refused to give him the steroid tablets because they could not read the note as not all of it was in English.

Mr Mann got the medication two hours later after driving back to the GP surgery and waiting for another prescription to be printed in English which he then took back to the pharmacy.

But baby Harley’s condition worsened and he had to be admitted to hospital for treatment the next morning.

Mr Mann and his wife Alys, 33, live in the 2,000-strong seaside village of Felinheli, near Bangor, north Wales.

Their GP Dr Ieuan Parry in the Welsh language stronghold printed the prescription for baby Harley’s steroid tablets in their native language.”

The incident has been condemned by several local politicians and Meri Huws, the Language Commissioner in Wales.

(With thanks to Seanán Ó Coistín, Welsh Not British and others for the heads-up).