Ireland in chains

America Has The Tea Party, Ireland Has The DUP Party

Gaeilgeoir - Irish Rights Are Civil Rights!
Gaeilgeoir – Irish Rights Are Civil Rights!

Gregory Campbell is one of the better known members of the DUP in Ireland, the once fringe British Unionist party which has dominated one half of the power-sharing regional administration in the north-east of the country since 2007. He currently serves as an MP in the Westminster parliament in London and an MLA in the Stormont assembly in Belfast. In the latter capacity he has led the local government departments for Regional Development and later Culture, Arts and Leisure. So he is no minor player, no isolated maverick. He is very much in the mainstream of Unionist politics. Yet below is an example of the respect he shows for the indigenous language and culture of the island nation he and his community inhabit, and in most cases call their own. This report from the Irish Times describes recent events in Stormont where a confrontational Campbell mocked the deputy-speaker or ceann comhairle of the legislature by addressing him in fake Irish:

“During a debate about the Irish and Ulster-Scots languages, Mr Campbell attempted to phonetically state “go raibh maith agat, Ceann Comhairle” but instead said “curry my yoghurt can coca coalyer”.

Sinn Féin’s culture minister Carál Ní Chuilín, a fluent Irish speaker, responded furiously to Mr Campbell’s effort, describing it as “pure ignorance”.

Afterwards, Ms Ní Chuilín tweeted: “Went to the Speakers Office to complain about Gregory Campbell’s mockery of the Irish Language. I feel he’s a racist…”

Sinn Féin MLA Rosie McCorley, who is the party’s Irish language spokeswoman, said: “Unfortunately this is nothing new from the DUP who have blocked the development on an Irish language act, and whose representatives have a long history of insults to the Irish speaking community.

“While this might be funny in Gregory’s little closed world, it is hugely insulting to all of those who promote the huge benefits of endorsing and enhancing bilingualism in our society especially in our children.””

Gregory has long been characterised by his critics as a promulgator of anti-Catholic sectarianism and anti-Irish racism, reflecting in part the militant prejudices of some working-class Unionist communities (not to mention the rather more discreet biases of their middle-class equivalents). So this latest publicity stunt comes as no surprise. He is no different than those on the extreme Right of the Republican Party in the United States, particularly politicians associated with the remnants of the Tea Party movement, who proudly promulgate petty hatreds and prejudices in state legislatures across the country, not to mention in Congress itself. Indeed if the DUP was a US party it would almost certainly be backed by the likes of the Koch brothers, billionaire puppet-masters behind several ultra-conservative organisations in the States. So in one way the controversy is little more than a storm in a teacup. Business as usual in the British Occupied North of Ireland.

However there are deeper forces at play here. Gregory Campbell and his DUP colleagues continually express a virulent form of anti-Irishness with old colonial roots on this island. It is a sort of “legacy racism” that manifests itself as an irrational hostility to anything that is perceived as being overtly “native”; language, literature, music, sports: even the very names of the landscape itself. It can be seen in this egregious commentary on the Stormont affair by Quincey Dougan, a British Unionist writer, published on the Irish news and current affairs blog Slugger O’Toole:

“Surely society has made its decision and we have moved on from the need for Irish to be any more than a hobby for amateur enthusiasts and promoters? Surely its ‘left’ the modern sphere of work and life and as such society has made its choice and has ‘evolved’? It isnt relevant to the modern working world.

Because it was once present (and of course embraced by a tiny section of Protestants/Unionists as we get bombarded with continually) surely does not give it an unalieable value that deserves reignition? No moreso than a thousand other lost ‘ways of the world’.

Why is it that many who campain for the evolution of society contradict their own philosphy and make an exception for Irish? Its gone. The world has moved on. Anyone who wants to practise or promote go for it- but dont expect public money and special favour. Irish is no different from latin (it has manufactured communities who speak it dotted over the place as well). Irish is a dead language. Let it rest in peace.”

Aside from the irony of an Anglophone supremacist attacking speakers of another language who can barely spell or string a grammatical sentence together in his own language (yes, that quote really is “as published“), the underlying sentiments here reveal the true nature of the argument being made. Thousands of people speak the Irish language across the island of Ireland as their native or adopted language. Many hundreds of thousands of others have some awareness of it, from a few words to partial fluency. It is – uniquely – both the national and the first official language of the nation state of Ireland. The Campbells and Dougans of this world do not hate or despise the Irish language for any other reason than it is the Irish language. In their anachronistic British colonial view that makes it dangerous – as dangerous as those who speak it.

That is the real argument here.

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5 comments

  1. excellent piece Seamas.

    First of all – what Sinn Féin MLA Rosie McCorley said is bang on the nail.
    Can you imagine the strength of character it takes to learn irish in that environment?
    To start an urban gaeltacht and irish language schools and see them prosper?
    Hats off to everyone who was involved.
    Here’s a film that’s worth viewing about their achievements
    http://eurofree3.wordpress.com/2014/05/17/saturday-night-film-the-belfast-gaeltacht/

    quincey dougan – last heard of as master of a loyalist blood and thunder band – no further comment

    Conclusion: ” The Campbells and Dougans of this world do not hate or despise the Irish language for any other reason than it is the Irish language. In their anachronistic British colonial view that makes it dangerous – as dangerous as those who speak it”.
    very true – irish language enthusiasts’ attempts to de-politicize the language (and the success of classes in East, East, East Belfast organized by the widow of a well-known UVF paramilitary) just reinforce the view!!
    PS – the people in East Belfast are literally the salt of the earth – they would do anything for you once you are recognized as one of their own – and they voted naomi long on an alliance ticket – they’ve got a bad press in many respects! and are by no means solid Gregory fans

    Finally one point which is worth picking up for nationalists/independistas in other parts of the UK.
    On the Nolan show
    http://audioboom.com/boos/2620006-curry-my-yoghurt-dup-s-gregory-campbell-in-irish-language-row-part-1
    To justify his attitude Fleggory Gregory went on and on about how Plaid Cymru and SNP MPs in Westminster never spoke in Welsh or Scots Gaelic .
    Maybe it’s time they started using native British languages at every intervention, just like Sinn fein in Stormont?

    1. Thanks, Ben. I should have perhaps made it clearer that Campbell and co. do not speak for all in the British Unionist community or for the pro-Union people as a whole. I always try to draw a line between ideology and community. Sometimes in the writing that important distinction gets lost. Which is my fault.

      Strange that when the issue of Irish in the assembly is raised up pops Dougan with his offensive views. A hit-and-run fact-free post that serves no good purpose but to antagonise people. SO’T is usually better than that and otherwise has a good record on highlighting Irish language issues.

      Plaid Cymru regularly uses Welsh in the Welsh Assembly (as do other parties) and Scottish (Gaelic) has been used in the Scottish Parliament. As usual Campbell is highly selective in his “facts”. He is the cultural equivalent of a Tea Party climate denier!

      1. Yes – the native british languages are indeed used in the welsh assembly and scots parliament – what i was suggesting is that the Welsh and Scottish MPs should start using them in westminster

        here’s another clip that shows just how obnoxious campbell is
        http://www.u.tv/news/Campbell-doesnt-regret-Irish-parody/91645f44-7b98-4204-b630-5c3d36dc8bdd

        just a hope – somebody, someday on some news programme, will surely say to campbell and his ilk
        “that’s just your perception, that’s not real life as we know it”

      2. I think Unionists should listen to the people on this YouTube Video.
        The farmer at the end At 9.10 minutes in at the end made the biggest impression on myself. When he talks about laughing Tories at Westminster.

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