Some people claim that Ireland will never be reunited. That the British Unionist minority in the north-east of the country are incapable of accepting the end of Britain’s centuries-old occupation, and of partition itself. Whatever happens, whatever votes or referendums are held, they predict that a majority of Unionist leaders will once again resort to violence and the threat of violence to prevent peaceful reunification or force a second repartition of our island nation; a further reduction of the last remnant of the British colony. They point to separatist politicians like the DUP’s Gregory Campbell who for many observers embodies a hatred of any and all manifestations of Irishness that no amount of plebiscites will overcome. They argue that such folk will never never come to terms with the historical and geographical reality of their situation but will instead cling to an archaic sense of colonial supremacism. The superiority of British culture and nationality over all that is natively Irish, including our language. Certainly the words of DUP colleague Sammy Wilson in the Newsletter seem to give further credence to that view:
“Many a debate I livened up with the two things which I have found are easy to wind up Sinn Fein members: 1) any waggish remarks about republican prisoners, especially hunger strikers, and 2) gags about the Irish language.
The Shinners and some SDLP along with the humourless, dour and quite frankly boring left-wing columnists, who seem to dominate our press, have been jumping up and down like a troop of demented monkeys whilst most unionists have had a good side-splitting laugh at his audacity.
Unfortunately, in the furore which followed his 25-second attempt to portray how the repetitive use of the same phrase by poor Irish speakers, appears to those of us who don’t speak the language, have little interest in it and who are sick to the back teeth with the pointless political posturing of those who engage in it, the real issue was lost.
The question is what priority should be given to indulging those who want millions spent on promoting a language which few use, makes no contribution to promoting long term growth of the economy and is often politically divisive.
Currently tens of millions of pounds are spent on Irish Language schools, a north/south language body, translators, Gaelic events, etc.
They can prattle on in whatever tongue they choose until the cows come home. I couldn’t care less but what I object to is that they expect society to pay for their self-indulgence.”
Hating the Irish language and those who speak the Irish language is an intensely political act. To do so at an elected level, as Unionists do, is to excuse the historic ethnocide of the Irish-speaking people on the island of Ireland. It is, quite simply, a retroactive justification of genocide. Furthermore it promulgates racial attitudes that for centuries demoted men, women and children who spoke Irish to the level of second-class human beings – or citizens.
So, you ask, what has all this to do with reuniting Ireland? Well if there is one thing that can unite the political establishments north and south it is their antipathy to the Irish language. Proof? Well you can find some of it in this nasty little display of petty-mindedness from the county of Wexford, as reported by the Irish Independent:
“Conradh na Gaeilge Gorey have reacted angrily to Cllr Robbie Ireton’s dismissal of the need to put place names in Irish as well as English on rock markers that appear on the approach to various locations around North Wexford.
He also claimed that ’70 per cent of people don’t know the name of the place in Irish’.”
Which is an admission that 30% of the people in north Wicklow do know the Irish names of places in their locality. It’s just that the councillor doesn’t seem to be particularly interested in the rights of those people – or the language they speak or identify with.
And who, you may ask, is Robert “Robbie” Ireton? Why he is none other than the cricket-, soccer- and hockey-loving Labour Party councillor for Wicklow, a local businessman, a friend of the Irish Great War Society (a group dedicated to commemorating Irishmen who served in the British Forces during WWI) and most recently seen at last week’s so-called “Remembrance Sunday” ceremony outside the Anglican church in Gorey, an event attended by such eclectic organisations as the Royal British Legion, the Boys Brigade and the Grand Masonic Lodge of Ireland.
So perhaps uniting the country wouldn’t be as great a monumental task as some people believe. Once you have a common enemy to hate.