The Irish Examiner has an editorial, presumably reflecting the newspaper’s official view, which yet again shows the extraordinarily warped reasoning of the anglophone media in Ireland. While justifiably decrying the lack of full equal rights before the law between all citizens regardless of sexual orientation, in particular the right to same-sex marriage, it manages to drag in a whole lot of frankly unrelated issues in an argument whose logic is beyond stupid.
The greatest irony of the piece is that the writer, while demanding proper legal entitlements for some men and women in this country, is quite happy to trample over the rights of others by attacking the Irish-speaking citizens and communities of Ireland. For be in no doubt: an attack on the Irish language is an attack on those who speak the Irish language. The two are inextricably linked.
“We pretend that Irish is our national language and lavish hundreds of millions a year on trying to revive what is a linguistic dodo. Wasting that money is bad enough, but the time spent in schools pushing an increasingly irrelevant language on disinterested pupils is almost criminal.”
Civil rights for gay men and women in Ireland: as long as they are English-speaking gay men and women? Pathetic petty-minded bigotry. Those who speak Irish as their language are citizens of this Republic. They are not a non-people however much some anglophone supremacists may wish it to be so. They are taxpayers too and have every right to access or receive the same resources of the state as their English-speaking peers.
The simple inconvenient truth is that they do not get the same access or receive the same resources. On the contrary they face a state whose anglophone intolerance is built into the very foundations of the state with anti-Irish discrimination fully institutionalised within the organs of government, from top to bottom.
Take the words of veteran journalist Pól Ó Muirí in the Irish Times:
“One of the more disturbing aspects of the language debate – or, more often, argument – is the way in which those who have no interest in Irish characterise those who do as “fanatics” or, almost as bad, “enthusiasts”. We speak English, goes the line, and have no need to spend time or money on a “dead” language. (It says much about contemporary Irish values that having two cars, two homes or two holidays abroad is good while having two languages is bad.)
Yet many countries use more than one language. Our nearest neighbours – who were kind enough to, ahem, gift us English – also have native communities of Welsh and Scots Gaelic speakers and other language communities from former colonial holdings. Continental Europe is awash with regional, lesser-used or minority languages – take your pick – and some of the same boast far more speakers than Irish. Those languages speak of a different and older Europe, one that predates the borders of many of the modern states drawn with such finality in the school atlas.
…the next generation of young native speakers could well be the last and that, once they die, Gaeltacht Irish will go with them.
…English is becoming more central to every aspect of Gaeltacht life and that Irish is being pushed out. As a consequence, the opportunities young native speakers have to engage fully with Irish is gravely lessened…”
The era when the LGBT community in Ireland was forced to hide behind closed doors has thankfully long passed. Adult citizens of this republic are legally entitled to live their lives as they wish and with whom they wish. We have a way to go in our society and culture before sexual orientation is no more noteworthy than one’s hair colour but in time it will happen.
The Irish people, as a nation, have moved beyond the influence of the Roman Catholic Church or of any other faith and increasingly see the separation between church and state as a necessary component of a modern Ireland. Indeed, as simple normality. However when will a sizeable section of the anglophone media in Ireland, and the public services of this state, move beyond the influence of 800 years of foreign colonial rule? When are they going to think as Irishmen and Irishwomen rather than insipid British clones? Or would they rather remain caricatures of Irishness aping a foreign language and culture, indeed an identity, because they believe it to be superior to their own?
For some the choice is simple. Speak Irish, read Irish, think Irish, be Irish. Or continue to follow the alternative path. Speak English, read English, think English, be English. But the choice is ours to make. All of us. And whether we choose to live in Éire or Ireland we should not be subject to abuse or ridicule for taking one path or the other. We should not by the choice of the language we use for our name or our address or simply how we communicate be reduced to the status of lesser citizens.
In that, at least, Ireland’s Gael community has much to learn from Ireland’s Gay community.