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The Common Enemy Unites Ireland North And South

Wexford Labour Party councillor Robert "Robbie" Ireton pictured in November 2011
Wexford Labour Party councillor Robert “Robbie” Ireton pictured in November 2011

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.

Wexford Labour Party councillor Robert Ireton pictured in November 2014
Wexford Labour Party councillor Robert Ireton pictured in November 2014

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.

At a recent meeting of Gorey Municipal District, Cllr Ireton suggested that if Irish names were to be put on rock markers, then perhaps they should be in European languages as well as Ireland is a member of the EU.

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.

26 comments on “The Common Enemy Unites Ireland North And South

  1. Graham Ennis

    people who object to the celtic languages and spending money on them are racists and genocidists. Strong language, yes, but realistic. They are like people who object to Jewish Culture on the grounds that “There are not many of them left, so why bother?”. Exactly the same could be said of the Celtic language speakers, in Ireland and elsewhere. . It is precisely because “There are not many left” that it has to be done. other wise you hand a victory of a “Final solution” of the problem, by extinction, of the language and culture of the Celtic countries. it is inexorably bound up in the survival of national and cultural identity and a thousand years of resistance to repression and occupation. We must deny these elements their “Final Solution” of the language question. They have to be confronted and exposed as breaking international law and UN conventions which ireland and the UK are signed up to, on language and cultural rights and ethnic rights. Somebody award this idiotic local councillor the Iron cross. (Third class).

  2. Which is an admission that 30% of the people in north Wicklow do know the Irish names of places in their locality.
    That does not mean that those 30% can actually speak Irish. I know my Irish address too.

    Place names on some rocks are not going to revive the language anyway – so it’s just nitpicking.

    If you want to revive the language there are far more serious problems to solve than just some road signs or some gardai refusing to answer questions in Irish.
    They’re all symptoms not the root cause.

    Like – Why can’t most people speak Irish after 12+ years of compulsory Irish lessons?
    (And some end up outright hating the language.)
    And why do we pay for those lessons if they’re so ineffective?
    The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
    Maybe it’s time to try something different?

    • ar an sliabh

      It is indeed time to try something different. The “underground elements,” such as this blog, are working on it. It is not about signage, it is about finding value in one’s heritage and ultimately one’s own existence as derived from that heritage.

      • Compulsory teaching seems to have the opposite effect – it makes people who don’t care about Irish hate it.

        And calling 90%+ of the population slaves will not help either.

        • Jānis, “compulsory” anything in school makes people hate it. Irish is not unique in that.

          We have compulsory history, geography and maths but we are not exactly producing legions of historians, geographers and mathematicians. Yet no one argues that these subjects should be voluntary.

          Simple fact: more people become fluent Irish-speakers through obligatory Irish by a factor of several hundred than become trained historians, geographers or mathematicians though obligatory history, geography and maths. So on a euro-by-euro basis Irish is a bigger returner for the money invested come qualification exams than those subjects and many others.

          Irish should be part of the school environment not a single class within that environment. That was the recommendation of the international panel of researchers the government hired to draw up a new Irish language strategy. A strategy the Fine Gael and Labour government has effectively REFUSED to implement.

          • Primary and secondary schools do not produce trained experts – that’s not their purpose.
            Their purpose is to produce people with average understanding of those subjects and give them a better idea of what to study next.

            Compulsory Irish seems to be a really bad investment, because most people have at least basic understanding of those subjects, but very few of them can actually speak Irish.

            English is a single class within the school environment in Latvia.
            And yet somehow almost everyone I know attained a reasonable level of fluency after 12 years of learning.

            An average Latvian speaks English a lot better than an average Irishman speaks Irish.
            That’s a fact. Why is it so?

  3. ar an sliabh

    Gotta love the poppy… Slave mindset at its best – How very eloquently put in the past few posts, ASF.

    • Ar An Sliabh, it is stereotypical that a person who questions to need for Irish language rights or services – or even its public visibility in this case – is the self-same type of Irish person that will sport the poppy and attend armistice day celebrations in November. It borders on a post-colonial cliché.

  4. Something else to consider: The reunification of Germany was seen as a longshot well into the 1980s. I took a History of Modern Germany course in college in 1987 and toward the end of the semester a student asked the professor, who had studied German history for decades, if he thought East and West Germany would be unified again. His response: “Not for a long time; certainly not in my lifetime and probably not in yours.” Of course, within three it happened.

    Granted, Ireland has a much longer and divisive history, but pivotal actions tend to happen quickly, even if the events that lead to them can take years or decades.

    • Reunification of Germany happened only because the USSR collapsed.
      And both populations wanted it – many people from the East risked their lives to get to the other side of the wall and West Germany did not even guard the internal border and considered all Easterners their fellow citizens. Only the ruling elite and the Soviets prevented it from happening.

      It’s different in the north. Most of the population over there wants to be part of the UK – there’s no wall on the border and no one wants to escape.

  5. I can’t understand what all the fuss is about : anybody on this island what wants to speak Irish, read Irish, write Irish, or learn Irish can do so, nothing to prevent them. The truth is, of course, that a few people are Irish enthusiasts, a few are hostile to it, while the vast majority of the population are simply indifferent and will remain so. Calling them slaves, or characterising them as racists/fascists certainly won’t change their minds.
    As to Remembrance events/poppies, if you want to go to these events, then go, if you don’t, don’t : if you want to wear a poppy, wear one, if you don’t, don’t. In any future all-Ireland Republic, I’m afraid you’re going to have to get used to a large number of your newly-acquired Northern citizens who want to do both, who like soccer, cricket and hockey and to the sight of outlandish organisations like the Boys’ brigade participating in such events. Could the new Republic survive such a trauma!?

    • ar an sliabh

      I actually like soccer. I do, however, personally prefer to honor those who made a choice out of misguided idealism separately from those who I despise, who fell while killing my ancestors. I cannot think of how otherwise to describe the mindset of someone who does not ,make that distinction. Indifference to one’s past has been the root of many a society’s demise and most of man’s most infamous moments. Indifference is the hallmark of the subject, whereas engagement is that of a citizen. Hate to say it, but what is a subject but a slave by another name. The water taxes are a brilliant modern example that shows who our citizens are and who our sheeple are, regardless of their preference in sports or language.

      • Does that mean that everyone else in the EU is a slave?
        Because there are water charges in other EU countries. Some cities even have private water providers – oh the horror.

        • Jānis, since when did the application of laws, taxes or customs across the EU or internationally become the yardstick by which Ireland must be measured? There are many things that are common in other nations – it does not mean we must perforce have them here, especially if they are inimical to our way of life or society. Water taxation is hated by a majority of the Irish people because they judge it to be an unfair and unnecessary form of taxation.

          Maybe Ireland will start a revolution in the democratic ownership of natural resources that the rest of the EU will take up?

          • Why should they introduce Ireland’s model if you yourself complained that it can’t provide quality service everywhere?

            And in many other countries that have water charges water providers usually belong to the state or local councils and the rates are regulated by independent regulators.
            (They do not belong to the big evil multinationals that can set the rates as they like – for some reason I hear that scare story a lot around here)

            And that’s not a tax but payment for a service that’s no different to electricity or any other utility.
            I do agree that the state should ensure that no one dies from thirst, but if you want to fill up a swimming pool, then you should pay up.

            And I agree that the way they’re introducing water charges seems to be rushed and not well thought out.
            I still haven’t received my application pack and they did not install a separate water meter for my apartment.

        • ar an sliabh

          Most of Europe’s (and the world’s, for that matter) citizens are slaves. They let anyone dictate their life. The examples are too many to count, the many forms of taxation are just an example. Free water was a legally granted right here. As everywhere else, the unopposed gradual erosion of citizen’s and civil rights makes it easier everywhere for the already rich to become richer. All most people do is sit idly by and let it happen. Like I said before, apathy and indifference is all that is needed for this to prevail. The consistent removal of educational services, and the lack of fervor in fighting substance abuse, the steadfast tolerance of corruption and fiscal abuse, are other incidental factors allowing the continued and increased exploitation of the motionless masses. Are they going to impose an air-use tax next? Should we let ourselves be run over like the rest of Europe? If the taxes imposed and their continued increase would show some benefit other than to contractors and administrators, I think even those on the engaged side would see some rationale behind them. Watching the money evaporate up the usual avenues of corruption and seeing no improvement in the delivery infrastructure along with the same level of waste and incompetence as before is, I think, the biggest problem with it.

    • Ginger, it is about far more than people simply speaking or learning Irish. It is about equal access to the resources of the state with English-speakers, recognition of the Irish language’s unique national and cultural importance, etc. It is about facilitating the existence, development and growth of Irish-speaking communities. It is about righting a great historical wrong. That is political as much as cultural.

      I have no objection to the British poppy or armistice ceremonies in Ireland. Not at all in fact. I just find it unsurprising that someone who supports the RBL poppy and RBL events is someone who also expresses scepticism about the position of the Irish language in our society. Not all who support the RBL are like that, by any means. It’s just depressing that so many who are hostile to Irish-speakers are so. When people fit a stereotype like it is a comfortable old slipper that they love it is hard to ignore it.

      From the RBL to the Masons is a fairly electric mix.

      • It is about equal access to the resources of the state with English-speakers
        It’s unreasonable to expect that because ability to speak Irish is not a requirement for civil servants any more.
        And you can’t magically train them (it takes years to become fluent) or sack them (there will be protests + good luck finding enough replacements).

        It is about righting a great historical wrong.
        Many people think that we’re better off with English anyway.
        And I’m not going to lie – a 100% English speaking environment suits me very well.

        It is about facilitating the existence, development and growth of Irish-speaking communities.
        But for some reason there are less Irish speakers now than during the British occupation period.

        • ar an sliabh

          There are a good portion of civil servants that do reasonably well and, if distributed and incentivised appropriately, could provide the needed services. It just needs to be supported by the powers to be. New posts could be filled by requiring appropriate credentials, actually giving even more of a purpose to learning the language. Many people also support, at minimum, a bi-lingual environment, as they love they their heritage. If I was an immigrant, I too would probably balk at having to learn Irish. It’s not easy. The Irish-speaking community has been very efficiently decimated during the British occupation mostly through targeted genocide of one type or another. That along with home-spun marginalization and mass-emigration, probably pushed it below the numbers required to allow it to recuperate from the losses. To the best of my knowledge, it hit that point somewhere before the turn of the previous century, and it has slowly been bleeding to death since. It can be saved, it just has to be an intelligent and dedicated effort (Like the one by Pádraig Anraí Mac Piarais in the early 1900’s). It is a choice that, along with others (such as the preservation of cultural and historical sites), has to be made consciously, conscientiously, and very soon, in order to preserve our heritage. It will decide if Ireland is to remain Ireland proper in the future, or if it is to simply be a label for another, nondescript English speaking loosely organised conglomerate without a consistent history or culture, like the U.S.

          • Many people also support, at minimum, a bi-lingual environment, as they love they their heritage.
            No they don’t. Otherwise we would see private companies using bilingual signage, offering customer service in Irish and it would be possible to hear at least some Irish spoken at workplaces.

            I haven’t seen any of that here in Dublin. The private sector is 100% English speaking.
            Only the government uses Irish around here.

            The people of Dublin have made the choice – they want to be an English speaking society and they want to live in an English speaking environment.
            And I fully respect their choice.

            • ar an sliabh

              I am glad you are so well-informed. Are you sure you are not German or English? They also have a tendency to know more than everyone else, even in places they have only spent very little time.

              • I’ve been living and working here in Dublin for almost 2 years now.
                Is that enough?

                I see how little the Irish care about the Irish language every day.
                That’s why I don’t believe that Irish will ever be the primary language of Ireland again.
                It might survive as a regional minority language and nothing more.

              • ar an sliabh

                Give it a little more time, and live in more than place, Dublin, like most big cities, is its own realm. Spend some time in Dingle, travel up the west coast to Galway to Belmullet or Geesala in Co. Mayo. and visit Inishmor (weird writing that in English) and Tullaghan (Bay and Bog) Natural Heritage Area. I am a little (very, actually) partial to the west coast, so I encourage you to ask your friends and just go places when you can. You may just find a place you really like and fall in love with outside the metropolis. Ireland is full of places like that.

      • I’ve never worn a poppy or attended a Remembrance ceremony, but I presume that in a liberal democracy those who wish to do so can without being vilified. My reluctance to wear the poppy is not because I have any objection to it per se, I’m quite happy to put money in a collection box, but because here in the North it is worn by some as a symbol of tribal identity and I am uncomfortable with that. I have no hostility to The Irish Language I am merely stating what the current position is, and that this position is unlikely to change, no matter how much additional state resources are thrown at it. Lets face it, in the current economic position in the Twenty Six Counties there is absolutely no chance of equal resources being allocated to Irish and English speakers.

        • ar an sliabh

          I don’t know if I would call questioning a mindset vilification. I am sure if Gaza were a liberal democracy, the Palestinians attending Yom Hazikaron ceremonies would receive similar questioning of their mindset. “The cries that shook the very heavens” have not subsided too long ago for some of us to forget them. In a liberal democracy, you should also be entitled to express a point of view that is critical of past (or present) practises and symbols representative of repression and destruction, even if that expression diverges from the status quo, without immediately being considered a threat to all that is good and holy.

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