Current Affairs The Irish Language - An Ghaeilge

Irish, Irish, Irish – Out, Out, Out!

Ta An Reabhloid Ag Teacht The Revolution Is Coming
Tá An Réabhlóid Ag Teacht! The Revolution Is Coming!

The Committee on the Administration of Justice (CAJ) is a thirty year old independent human rights organisation based in Ireland whose reputation earned it the 1998 European Human Rights Prize from the forty-seven nation Council of Europe. Its long record of investigating and cataloguing human rights abuses in the British-administered North of Ireland has gained it respect and admiration from civil rights activists and jurists around the world. So when it expresses grave concerns about so-called equality legislation in the north-east of Ireland, especially as it relates to the work of the publicly-funded Equality Commission for Northern Ireland (ECNI), the global human rights community sits up and pays attention.

Of particular note is CAJ’s contention that the removal of institutional discrimination against Irish-speaking citizens and communities in the North of Ireland has been abandoned by the British state in order to assuage the racist attitudes of a militant anglophone minority within the region’s British Unionist community. Using evidence from a number of studies and reports by the Council of Europe’s Committee of Experts (COMEX), which monitors compliance with the Council’s Charter for Regional and Minority Languages, and the treaty body which administers the Framework Convention for National Minorities (FCNM) the investigators from CAJ have compiled a document tilted “Unequal Relations” which lays out in detail the proof of continued bigotry within local and regional public services and government in the north-east.

It also draws attention to the findings by several international bodies that the Irish-Scots or Ulster-Scots dialect of English is being cynically employed by Unionists in the north of the Ireland to block any progress in granting equal rights to Irish-speakers with their English-speaking peers (something long suspected by the Irish-speaking community after a research team from the EU was unable to find a single native “Ulster-Scots” speaker during a investigative trip to the region).

The Detail has a longer report on the new study by CAJ.

14 comments on “Irish, Irish, Irish – Out, Out, Out!

  1. Seán Mag Leannáin

    I’m all in favour of local accents and dialects but how was it ever agreed that the Ulster-Scots dialect of English equated in any way with the Irish language? Given their imperialist monolingual thought-world the Ulster Scots can be forgiven their ignorance of the difference between a language and a dialect, but how could the negotiators on the Irish side – and especially Sinn Féin – have given their imprimatur to such nonsense? The net effect has been to reinforce the deep-seated ignorance about Irish which is widespread north and south. Irish is a language – it should never have been used as a political token to be used and abused. It’s sad when one thinks of the great champions of the language who came from a Protestant background – people like Dúbhglas de hÍde, David Greene, Lil Nic Dhonncha, Risteard Ó Glaisne, to name but a few – that Irish has now been officially planted in this sectarian quagmire by negotiators who were supposed to represent the aspirations of nationalist Ireland.

    • Seán, I pretty much agree with everything in your Comment. I have no problem supporting the Irish-Scots/Ulster-Scots dialect per se, quite the contrary in fact, but it should never have been linked so directly to Irish language funding or equality or Irish-speaking citizens. A “sectarian quagmire” sums it up perfectly. It just shows how poor our political classes were and are that they could not see the inevitable or the trap that was being laid for them. Genuinely depressing…

  2. I approve of the redesign. Though if you are interested in my opinion, it might still need a wee bit of tweeking. Definitely better than the previous version.

    Something in the code of the previous theme was extremely CPU hungry in Firefox in OSX (I think it was the forest of blog roll feeds page bottom). It got to the stage on my machine where I used to open up your posts and quickly copy the text, close the page and paste to a text file to read the post.

    • Ah yes, I noted that too, slow to load due to all the RSS feeds. It still is but a lot of regular readers like them as a go-to-spot to read similar blogs. Had a couple of protests that they have been moved to a sidebar. Oh well, time maybe for that CSS upgrade 😉

  3. The original report is here (pp 40-47). ECNI appear to be several decades out of step with the rest of Europe and even the rest of the UK … to say the very least. They seem to be dragging their knuckles … sorry, I mean feet, such antics simply reinforce all the old stereotypes as seen from outside Ireland.,_the_Section_75_duties_and_Equality_Commission_advice_etc,_May_2013_.pdf

  4. I read with incredulity some years ago that some E.U. people had visited Northern Ireland and been unable to find a single native speaker of Broad Scots dialect : my reaction at that time was ; “where on earth did they go to? Belfast, Portadown, Newry, Enniskillen? Perhaps it might have been a good idea to go to those areas where there are native speakers, like North, East and Mid-Antrim, I could take to meet as many as they wanted in a few minutes. I suspect it says more about who was guiding them at the time.
    As a native speaker of this dialect myself, I can reassure Sean that I do not live in an “imperialist, monolingual, thought-world,” am fully aware of the difference between a language and a dialect, and , indeed, have always had an interest in Irish and Scottish Gaelic. However, I do agree with the general points he makes, the politicisation and sectarianisation of these issues has been disastrous.

    • I agree that there are genuine speakers of Irish-Scots and though up to recently quite sceptical about the whole thing I have come to favour a more nuanced approach. It that light I have no objection to protecting or indeed encouraging the dialect. I believe the radio station is a good start and hope that they can integrate a broader media presence in the north-east, online too. But again and again one runs up against the cynical use by the Unionist political establishment of Irish-Scots to block any progress on Irish language rights, even when it is at the expense of the dialect they supposedly support.

      All that aside, ff there was some means of fostering an Irish-speaking community within the Unionist community quite outside any links to the Irish government I would favour that. I actually could understand someone who is a convinced Unionist saying that he/she wishes to speak Irish but wants no involvement from Dublin in doing so and wishes it to be entirely within a British context, as they view it.

      Those people should be accommodated.

  5. I could understand if the support for so called ‘Ulster Scots’ was being used to promote it on a par with Irish, i.e. if it’s supporters themselves viewed it as a separate language. However when I looked at some of their websites recently I found they were all in standard English apart from the odd ‘dialect’ poem, such as you could find in any local English speaking district, Yorkshire or Devon or wherever. I could find no on-line courses in the ‘language’ and no reference to classes where someone could go to learn it. Conclusion, someone is taking the piss.

    As an aside, one spin-off of the acceptance of Ulster-Scots under the convention was that the UK government had really no choice other than to accept Cornish also. This of course, although little spoken and no longer a community language, was and is in every sense a language, with it’s own grammar, dictionaries, traditional and modern texts, numerous classes, support organisations and so on. I don’t see evidence for any of this for Ulster Scots though. How is it viewed by academics in Scotland btw?

    • As I understand it most linguists/academics in Scotland who favour or support Scots (Scots-English) are extremely reluctant to have anything to do with the Irish variety. Some fear very much a case of “guilty by association” when it comes to the crazier “Ullans” neologisms (ie. special needs children being rendered as “wee daftie ones” or the description for heavy rain becoming “pishing down”). Speakers in Scotland are understandably proud of their dialect/language and have far greater academic rigour when it comes to it. New or invented words/spelling are strongly disfavoured. In fact the official form of “Ulster-Scots” is increasingly so far from any Scots dialectal original that some Scots regard it all as just playing at Fantasy languages.

      Indeed in fairness many speakers of Irish-Scots feel the same. There is a complete disconnect between existing dialectal speakers and the Ulster-Scots Agency and the favoured few who who live by its largesse.

  6. It’s not a language in it’s own right, it’s a dialect of English, just as Scots is a dialect of English, though some would argue that Scots is a separate language. This is based on the logic that if Danish and Norwegian are viewed as separate languages, then so should English and Scots. It would be a complete waste of time to offer courses in Ulster-Scots, as it would be impossible for a non native speaker to learn to speak in a natural, idiomatic fashion, though local courses have been offered. Listening to the radio, etc, I can tell within a few seconds if someone is a native speaker, or a learner.
    Academics in Scotland regard the Ulster dialect as derived from West and South Central Scots, which is obviously the case : the only difference is that Scots spoken in Ulster has been influenced by Irish in its syntax and has absorbed a considerable number of loan words from Irish. See Billy Kay, Charles Jones, Mairi Robinson, etc.

    • So if it is a communal dialect, a patois, can or should it be codified? Is it possible to turn it into dictionary form or does that obstruct and destroy the fluid nature of the language in the first place?

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