Slut-Shaming Irish-Speakers

Je Suis Gael
Je Suis Gael

The so-called “politicised nature” of the Irish language is one of the rhetorical weapons brandished by English language diatribists in Ireland every time our indigenous tongue achieves some modicum of success in growth or societal acceptance. It is a well-bloodied hammer used to bludgeon Irish-speaking communities with a familiar message: Gaels know thy place! With language equality making the headlines both nationally and regionally the grey-haired war nags of the Pale-mentality are once again galloping over the horizon to defend the ramparts of West Britain. Last week we had Malachi O’Doherty in the Belfast Telegraph asserting the primacy of the Lingua Anglica, now we have fellow Anglophone supremacist Ruth Dudley Edwards in that same publication. Here are some choice excerpts:

“When all else fails, have the tribal drums beat out the well-known cultural battle hymn of the Irish language.”

In other words I’m attacking the Irish language by using a stale old sleight of hand to suggest that the object of my attack actually offended first. Good one, Ruthie!

“I always resent seeing this innocent language hijacked by politicians as it used to be for years in the south until the country grew up.”

Yes, that’s right. In reality RDE is a defender of the language, not its enemy, so anything she says must be seen in that light; however harsh or derogatory. That’s some classic polemic obsfucation there, a chairde.

“Compulsory Irish is virtually a thing of the past and there are only a tiny handful of language zealots left…”

See, we can obviously agree that anyone who disagrees with Ruth must be some wide-eyed, froth-mouthed, fáinne-wearing fanatic: and probably in a Geansaí Árann to boot!

“There is plenty of resentment at the waste of money (roughly £2m a year) unnecessarily translating official documents written in English into Irish. The reason, however, is that the courts ruled it was a constitutional requirement and government already has to deal with more referenda than it can handle.”

Oops, I think you may have gone too far this time, RDE. Sorry but none of those claims are really tenable. Irish language translations for the entire government of Ireland now run at less than €500,000 per annum. That’s £367,000 a year not £2 million (however roughly!). In fact the combined costs of non-Irish translations by the state into European and global languages now exceed those for our native one. Oh, and on that court ruling? It never happened. The Official Languages Act has been in place since 2003, which naturally includes the requirement for Irish and English editions of public documents. So no, there was no need for any referendums under the present Irish-hostile Fine Oibre coalition.

Newspaper bloggers columnists who espouse the Neo-Unionist line of Irish politics are like some amoral defence lawyer sitting in a courtroom who points his finger at the victim of a sexual assault cowering in the stand while repeating over and over: slut, slut, slut! Sure, it doesn’t have to be true, and in some cases it maybe counter-productive, but say it long enough and loud enough and maybe, just maybe, the more gullible might take it for the truth. Which is the greatest shame of all.

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27 comments

  1. If you’d had a proper education system these past 4(?) generations it would have turned out citizens literate in both languages. Then anyone competent to author a document in English would also be able to write the Irish version. Indeed bilingual drafting is said to lead to better texts in both languages, since it focuses attention on the underlying meaning and avoids the temptation to churn out chunks of largely incomprehensible ‘officialese’. The question for me therefore is why the need for professional translators in the first place. After 90-odd years as a state what excuse can there be for your officials not being competent in the First Official State Language? Only in Ireland …

    1. But if all citizens were literate in both languages then no one would need the English version in the first place.

      1. You would (I think)! 🙂

        In fact almost all foreigners would be likely to know English either as a first or second language. But of course then from a purely pragmatic POV there’d be no need for the Irish. A most interesting puzzle. It begs the question “why use the native language in any small country where most people have a good practical knowledge of English” (Holland, Denmark …) Welsh language activists believe the ideal would be to be able to live your life entirely through Welsh if you wanted, but even then almost everyone would still probably acquire English, if only from the media, contact with visitors etc. Or do we just have a completely different mindset in the Celtic countries compared to all other small European states?

        1. It begs the question “why use the native language in any small country where most people have a good practical knowledge of English”
          ————
          For the same reason why I speak Latvian with my brothers despite the fact that we have a good practical knowledge of English.

        1. Tha mi a’ creidsinn gur e sin, “As I said long ago, one thing wrong with just leaving everything in Irish”. Or perhaps that should be “something wrong”? Có dhiù, chan eil mi cinnteach gu dé tha thu a’ ciallach. Ach gum biodh a chuile rud “as Gaeilge” cha bhiodh an sluagh fada gun a tuigsinn 🙂

      1. What has shocked me, now that I’ve looked at other posts on that blog, is that the author is otherwise supportive of minorities, the disadvantaged etc. Anti-austerity, pro-devolution, generally progressive. Not simply an ignorant bigot. Such people, and I’ve met a few, seem to have a solid mental block when it comes to local native languages and cultures. They seem unable to comprehend the concept or take it at all seriously.

        1. Some of the biggest PC, right-on, Save the Whale liberals in Ireland are also the biggest language-haters. Sometimes to irrational degrees. Though, as I have suggested before, the Irish language is now being seen as more of a counter-cultural or anti-establishment thing, very much associated with Left-wing and dissenting politics. Opposition to Irish is now the preserve of the political Right. Which brings us full-circle to the pre-revolutionary period when the conservative Irish Parliamentary Party was hostile to Irish while embryonic Sinn Féin was very much identified with the language movement and the Gaelic Renaissance.

  2. It seems to me, the prospect of an Irish-speaking Ireland is profoundly political and rather terrifying for the Pale-minded. I fully agree with your argument, and at the same time, historically, women and people of color have not forced their own rights into existence by “depoliticizing’ their very nature. Quite the opposite, in fact. It’s a frustrating balance, but is “dípholaitiú” not a greater risk than consistently standing on 800 years of struggle?

      1. why don’t you just accept british rule in the 26 counties is gone John? Or does moving on apply to the ‘pesky’ natives?

        1. The British rule might be gone, but their language policies are here to stay.
          The natives just love the language of the invader and they want others to use it as well.
          Why else would they create 100% English speaking environments for themselves?

          And that also raises a question – why should I respect a language that is not respected by the nation that it’s supposed to belong to?

          1. your respect isn’t wanted. you tolerance of someone else’s culture i expected, or is intolerance more your thing?

              1. I’m not quite sure what this is supposed to demonstrate. A piece of English ‘culture’ has been dubbed into Irish, surely no great feat, and is to be released nationally in cinemas. FIne. How has this been financed? Will anyone pay to watch it? If there is a choice of Irish and English language versions it would certainly be an interesting survey of support for the two languages.

              2. Hi Marconatrix. Our friend Jānis insists that he has never heard a single word of Irish anywhere in Ireland. Since a TV station, several radio stations, and several news and current affairs websites have passed him by I thought I’d give him a chance to hear some. Nothing more than that 😉

              3. Fair enough, although there are Irish language films and TV programs, vlogs etc available online at the click of a mouse. (Just put “sgannán Gaeilge” into a Google ‘videos’ search).

                What would prove your case though would be to direct our Friend from the East to some event or place where he could hear people spontaneously speaking Irish to one another. Maybe we have a potential challenge here. Would it be easier, setting out one fine night in the city, to find a place where people are speaking Irish or one where Latvian can be heard 🙂

            1. I think it’s more a question of incomprehension. The Celtic Cringe is incomprehensible to Jānis, just as the insane cheerfulness of the Baltic peoples is incomprehensible to us. The famine, the mass emigrations, even the war of independence and civil war were decades, generations, centuries ago. Even “the troubles” in the North are mostly now history, yet you’re still depressed and withdrawn. The Baltics had all the horrors of Nazi genocide, Stalinist purges and all the rest much more recently, and yet they are happy and confident peoples who rejoice in their native history, myths, culture and language, and celebrate them apparently cringe-free. It fair does yer heid in!

    1. A people with a history, language and culture is not conquered – that’s why some/more Irish speakers in Ireland, standing up for their rights, is profoundly political and rather terrifying.

  3. Brillant observations on the outpourings of Ruth Ditchwater dull Edwards..Or Enoch Powell as I prefer to call her.

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