Sinn Féin’s Bluff And Bluster On Irish Rights

Sinn Féin's Irish language policies
Sinn Féin’s Irish language policies

Sinn Féin, and to a lesser extent the SDLP, are still throwing all sorts of shapes in the regional assembly at Stormont protesting the sub-racist banter of the DUP’s Gregory Campbell, regressive Unionism’s long-standing agent provocateur for all things Irish, including our language. His bigotry towards Irish-speaking communities and citizens is nothing new. Like many British Unionist leaders Campbell’s political career is built upon decades of antipathy to the “other”. Those on this island nation who do not conform to the colonial litmus test of British and Unionist Protestant fundamentalism, c.1650.

However, in relation to Sinn Féin one is struck by the thought that the lady doth protest too much. For in the absence of a coherent and progressive policy on Irish language rights what else does the party have to offer but voluble umbrage at the slightest of slights. It certainly has done little else over the last decade for the north-east’s Irish-speaking population despite being one of the partners in the power-sharing executive in Belfast. Even nationally one can ask: where is SF’s vision for Irish both now and in the future? You can search if you wish though you might well die of old age before discovering even a modicum of an idea. Let alone a radical one.

So what does Sinn Féin offer Anglophones and Hibernophones alike as the way forward to support and revive the use of Irish as the vernacular language of a majority of our people (if that indeed is its goal. And note that I did not say the dreaded “preserve”)? Does it advocate changing the wording of the Constitution of Ireland to remove the ambiguities about the status of the national and first official language inherent in Article 8.3? Does it favour making RTÉ an Irish language public service broadcaster and legislating for English language broadcasting in private hands with genuine quality safeguards? Does it plan for Óglaigh na hÉireann (Defence Forces Ireland) to become an entirely Irish-speaking force and a pillar of the linguistic revival? Will it implement a 30% quota of Irish-speaking public servants and Gardaí? Does it support a preference for Irish medium education as a policy of the state with legislation to encourage a move to Irish-language schooling across the country?

Or does Sinn Féin – like every other political party on the issue of the Irish language  –  just talk the talk without ever intending to walk the walk…?

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12 comments

    1. By far more. This is why SF needs to be the champion they profess to be. Not bashing them, but holding them accountable.

    2. Cumidhe, as others have stated all the mainstream parties are culpable. However we have come to expect anti-Irish rhetoric and policies from Fine Gael and Labour. Fianna Fáil mostly just ignores the issue unless bashing FG and Lab. The Greens talked up their Irish credentials but in office gormless Gormley proved his true colours. The SP and SWP/PBP have showed even less interest in the matter (SP to a lesser extent though!).

      So Sinn Féin are the ones who parade themselves as the defenders of Irish rights. The onus is on them to prove that. And upon us to test that claim. At the moment SF’s Irish policies are risible. They have none.

  1. Most Irish people do not care about the Irish language – private sector is almost completely ignoring it.
    So why do you expect anything different from politicians?

    If they can get elected while ignoring Irish (by voters who do the same), then why bother?
    It seems more likely that they can actually lose voters by supporting Irish, because many people think that supporting it is a huge waste of money.
    (At least that opinion gets posted on the net very often)

    1. Here’s summat janis that should give you food for thought: if latvian was in the position that Irish was today would you advocate that people shouldn’t revive latvian? hmmm? Didn’t think so tool.

      1. That would depend on my family history and my own native language.
        If I and my family were Russian speakers then I would most likely not support Latvian revival.

        Just like I don’t currently care about Livonian. It’s indigenous to Latvia, but I have no interest in learning it or supporting it with my money.

        1. Even, if, in fact your ancestors were Latvian? You would betray your ancestors and heritage for the convenience to continue to or to only speak Russian? Even though they no longer hold the yoke over your country and after so many paid the ultimate price? Not so sure, you seem to be more rooted than that. Until now, I thought the Livs were different people than the Estonians,Latvians, and Finns – interesting. No native speakers of Livonian left, I hear.

          1. Unfortunately, your initial comment is an accurate assessment. Part of a government’s purpose is the preservation of the nation’s culture, however. It and its representatives need to be held accountable to accomplish that. Just because a sentiment or opinion is popular at a particular point in time, does not necessitate the state to act in line with it. Imagine if they did.

            1. No one else will care about a language other than its speakers.
              If you want politicians to care about Irish – you have to exert pressure on them and make them care.

              Just try saying that you support Russian as a second official language in Latvia and you’ll be downvoted to hell 😀

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