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Decolonization Begins With One Word

Ireland in chains
Ireland in chains
Éire in chains

From Vice Magazine, the campaign by Native Australian communities to reassert their cultural, linguistic and territorial rights:

“On February 9, members of the National Freedom Movement gathered on the lawns at Parliament House in Canberra to present the Australian minister for Indigenous affairs, Nigel Scullion, with the Aboriginal Sovereign Manifesto of Demands. This document calls for negotiations between the Commonwealth government and Indigenous nations across the country to set out a framework for what’s known as “decolonization.”

The National Freedom Movement was born out of the Freedom Summit that took place in Alice Springs last November. The summit saw a delegation of Aboriginal leaders from around the nation meeting to declare the independence of Australia’s First Peoples and address the growing disparities they face. These include increasing levels of incarceration and suicide, the continuing forced removals of children from their families, and the Western Australian government’s intentions to close down up to 150 remote Indigenous communities.

So just what would the decolonization of Indigenous Australia entail?

…the manifesto calls for the Commonwealth of Australia to undertake a series of treaties with all Indigenous nations—a process that would require Australia to become an independent federated republic. These nations would then become self-governing territories within the republic. And a new constitution would be drafted, which would incorporate Aboriginal law as part of the legal system.

Included in the manifesto are demands for a share of all revenue raised from the exploitation of natural resources, a moratorium on the removal of Aboriginal children from their families, and reinstating classes taught in the original language of each nation.”

Meanwhile in Ireland is seems that our indigenous language must be both silent and invisible lest it eclipse that which has been imposed by the coloniser, even in the minds of those who come from the communities of the colonised. The journalist Maoileachlainn Ó Dochartaigh Malachi O’Doherty, writing in the Unionist-supporting Belfast Telegraph newspaper, rails against any moves towards cultural “decolonisation” in the north-eastern corner of our island nation:

“The Irish and English languages are not equal in Northern Ireland and can’t be, at least not until everyone speaks both. That happy day may be fondly yearned for by Sinn Fein and the SDLP but the chances are against it ever arriving. Everyone here, bar a few new arrivals, speaks English. Very few speak Irish.”

Which is like arguing that heterosexual and homosexual couples cannot be equal unless everyone is bisexual! It is upon such poor logic that straw-houses are built and O’Doherty’s construction strains under the weight of its fallacies.

“As a consequence of the depleted state of the language today, Irish serves more as a badge of identity than a means of communication.

So the big new councils elevating Irish over English are making a big new statement.

The statement is: “We are Irish here, in case you haven’t noticed.”

The Irish words serve the function of a brand logo. They declare, in effect, that the council prefers to think of itself as more representative of those who live in its area who call themselves Irish.

The same celebration of Britishness is not achieved by speaking or flaunting English, because everybody speaks English, even the Irish speakers.”

Unless you actually do speak Irish or otherwise identify with the language as your own, in which case the English language – coupled with a refusal to even acknowledge the existence of a native vernacular – is very much a “celebration” of Britishness; and one implicitly denying your own existence.

“Parity with the assertion of Irishness in council signage would be the use of the Union flag in council signage in predominantly British areas.”

Which of course is a nonsense. All national flags  – even the Tricolour – are just pieces of coloured cloth, lacking in any sentient life of their own. A language and culture, and the men, women and children who embody it, are a living entity. A family of families. By censoring the Irish language from the landscape of the north-east of Ireland, as Unionist leaders insist and O’Doherty acquiesces to, a process of colonisation started centuries ago continues unchallenged. With every passing year it grows deeper, more pernicious, and more irreversible. For that is the intention of those who align with the objectives of past invaders.

Furthermore Malachi O’Doherty simply perpetuates the propagandist arguments made by British Unionists in relation to the Irish language by labelling it as “political”. Or perhaps in his case, “territorial”. Just as the militantly conservative Tea Party movement in the United States can flaunt the sympathetic arguments of wayward African-American and Hispanic-American columnists to give cover to its baser nature, so to can Unionists flaunt the arguments of “Nominal Nationalists” to cover up their racist, sectarian and supremacists beliefs. Not least on the Irish language.

2 comments on “Decolonization Begins With One Word

  1. The state can make sure that homo and hetero couples have the same rights to marry , etc…, but it can’t enforce equal dating pools for all sexual orientations – I support gay rights but I will NOT date a man.

    That’s why he’s right – Irish and English can’t be equal languages unless everyone speaks both 100% fluently.
    Otherwise the Irish speakers have only 2 choices – to communicate only with other Irish speakers (they have that right already) or learn English and communicate with English speakers in English (that’s what they’re doing now – and that’s definitely not equality).

    So this “language equality” means that the majority must be coerced into learning a language of a small minority.
    Good luck with that.

    In the Baltics, for example there’s NO language equality. There are national languages (Latvian, Estonian and Lithuanian) and then there’s Russian which is treated as a foreign language and its speakers have NO right to be served in their native language.
    Only speakers of the national languages have that right.
    That’s the only approach to defend small languages. A side effect of our language laws was that the public sector was “ethnically cleansed” of Russian speakers many of which had to find a new job or emigrate back to Russia.
    Again – good luck with that in Ireland.

    Unidirectional bilingualism is bullshit and does not work – we had enough of it in the USSR.

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