One More Anglophone, One Less Gaelophone

The results of an Irish Times poll on the question of restoring Irish language placenames in Ireland
The results of an Irish Times poll on the question of restoring Irish language placenames in Ireland. Yes 78%, No 16%.

If it’s good enough for native America why not for native Ireland? From an article in the Irish Times:

“President Barack Obama on Monday will officially restore Denali as the name of North America’s tallest mountain, siding with the state of Alaska in ending a 40-year battle over what to call a peak that has been known as Mount McKinley.

The peak was named Mount McKinley in 1896 after a gold prospector exploring the region heard that Ohioan William McKinley, a champion of the gold standard, had won the Republican nomination for president.

But Alaska natives had long before called the mountain Denali, meaning “the High One.” In 1975, the state of Alaska officially designated the mountain as Denali, and has since been pressing the federal government to do the same.

Alaskans had been blocked in Congress by Ohio politicians, who wanted to stick with McKinley as a lasting tribute to the 25th US president, who served from 1897 until his assassination in 1901.

Under Mr Obama’s action, interior secretary Sally Jewell will use her legal authority to end the long debate and rename the mountain.”

Judging by the newspaper’s online poll a majority of the participants want to see similar acts of linguistic restoration carried out by the government in this country. Of course there will always be the naysayers, the paranoid post-colonials who wrap their inferiority complex around them like a tired old battle-flag, unable to move beyond the necrophiliac legacy of a dead empire. From a report by the Irish Independent:

“Glasnevin Cemetery and Museum has been criticised for not using the Irish language in its signs and information points.

The historic, 124-acre landmark and final resting place of national heroes and more than 1.5 million Dubliners, has become a major tourist attraction.

However, signage installed as part of a revamp is in the English language only.

The matter is to be raised with Dublin City Council by local Independent councillor Nial Ring, who has forwarded a motion to the Central Area Committee asking the city manager to write to Glasnevin Trust.

A spokesman for the cemetery museum said that while there is no formal requirement for the Glasnevin Trust to provide bilingual signage in its buildings, it is “something we are actively considering and intend to implement in the coming months”.”

An Irish Independent poll on the need for Irish language signs at Glasnevin
An Irish Independent poll on the need for Irish language signs at Glasnevin. Yes 63%, No 37%

Which begs the question: why not simply order the bilingual signs in the first place? Why does it require political action and media interest for Hibernophones to be held in the same regard as Anglophones? Why is that respect and equality for the indigenous language of this island nation must be constantly fought for, never granted as an automatic right? Oh yes. Perhaps this is why…

MThompson 19 hours ago

I know this is a little off-topic but as an english man living in ireland the gaelic language has always annoyed me, its like the people living in Ireland are somehow trying to be different from the english when in fact we are but one. These gaelic signs need to stop in the english part of ireland.  Irish gaelic signs should only be used by the real irish people  in the gealteach areas which are thankfully dying off. Having been in the gaelteach before i find the people , the culture so foreign to me whereas in dublin i feel like im amongst my own people. so i agree fully with you what a waste of money. Keep ireland english 🙂

TheWayItIs 1 day ago

The Gaelic language would be in a better place today if it wasn’t for the Gaelic Taliban and their attempts over many years to force it on everyone, everywhere.

It’s to be noted that even Irish passengers are asking each other where the trains are going, while the Gaelic language version of the destinations slowly scroll on the carriage signs.

The language has been used as a torture device on generations of school kids and a nuisance to the public. A bit more imagination is needed if it is ever to be resurrected to be anything else.

mesopelagic 1 day ago

The language should be ‘Gaelic’ and not ‘Irish’ as most Irish folk North or South do not choose to use it. During the summer at Howth one could hear many languages being spoken, French, Polish, Chinese, Russian, Slovak, German, and others. The only language I never heard spoken was ‘Irish’  I noticed recently at Glasnevin cemetery that Roger Casement’s tombstone is written in ‘Irish’, I wonder if the man himself would have understood it?

peatmoss2 1 day ago

Still more guff from the fundamentalist gaelgori mafia. Why do people vote for these amadan”s.

Thracian 1 day ago

The Irish language Taliban on the rampage.

An ever increasing of money being spent on a failing policy of pushing the language down people’s throats.”

If only there were a way we could visibly identify those cunning Gaels beyond their use of Irish? Perhaps a sign of some sort? A mandatory yellow shamrock or harp sewn onto their clothes? Or a numbered tattoo on their wrist so they could be kept track of?

Meanwhile our fellow Gaels o’er the sea have their own problems with bigotry, as featured in a whining article by that definition of right-wing British intolerance, the Daily Mail:

“Police Scotland have been ridiculed for spending taxpayers’ cash re-branding their helicopter in Gaelic.

Nationalist MP Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh tweeted a photo of herself sitting in the helicopter which bears the name of Police Scotland in the ancient Scots language.

The smiling SNP politician wrote: ‘Huge thanks to @PolScotPSYV & @policescotland for the opportunity to sit in a Poileas Alba helicopter!’

But the Gaelic rebranding brought staunch criticism of the force, with disgruntled taxpayers slamming at the decision to opt for the Gaelic ‘Poileas Alba’ over ‘Police Scotland’ on the side of the helicopter as a waste of money by the united constabulary.”

It seems that those who hate Irish-speaking men, women and children in Ireland – or their Gaelic peers in Scotland – have a ready-made home in the journalist champion of Greater England. Is anyone surprised?

Update: Several Scottish readers have drawn my attention to this dreadful article from Wings Over Scotland, a supposedly progressive nationalist website with a heretofore laudable record of campaigning for the independence of our northern Gaelic neighbour. In the piece, defending government spending on Gaelic language services in Scotland, the well-known activist Stuart Campbell (“the Rev. Stu”) engages in some gratuitously insulting rhetoric against Scottish-speaking citizens, their families and communities. It illustrates another side to the contempt we see above, that from left-leaning anglophone supremacists who are as every bit as problematic in their beliefs as those who defend the political and cultural dominance of Greater England over the island of Britain.

“Let’s start off by losing some more friends. This site has no time for the Gaelic lobby. The obsolete language spoken by just 0.9% of Scotland’s population might be part of the nation’s “cultural heritage”, but so were burning witches and replacing Highlanders with sheep and we don’t do those any more either.

Being multilingual is an excellent thing, but the significant amount of time and effort taken to learn a literally-pointless second language (because everyone you can talk to in Gaelic already understood English) would be vastly better directed to picking up one that was actually of some use, and every extra fraction of a second spent scanning a road sign trying to find the bit you can read is a fraction of a second spent with your eyes off the road.

Non-primary native languages are a tool whose main utility in practice is at best the exclusion of outsiders, and at worst an expression of dodgy blood-and-soil ethnic nationalism. They’re a barrier to communication and an irritation to the vast majority of the population, who are made to feel like uncultured aliens in their own land.

But we’d still rather put up with Gaelic than complete idiots making our laws.

…is a far more serious problem for Scotland than spending a couple of quid on a small (and actually self-financing) cultural indulgence for a minority.”

The only indulgence here is that of a writer who should know better, someone wallowing in the promulgation of lazy, prejudice-driven stereotypes that are simply “racial profiling” by another name.

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31 comments

    1. Thanks for the link, Arfon. The language of discrimination is universal across the Celtic nations (and beyond). The same bigoted jibes, falsehoods and accusations are encountered again and again. Define those being subject to hate-speech by skin colour or religion and their would be uproar, but when they are defined by the language they speak or associate with anything is permissible, no matter how vile.

      1. Are you saying that those who don’t speak Irish are racists?

        If someone stopped me on the street and asked me something in Irish. I would tell him that I don’t understand anything and would ask him to speak English.

        Would I discriminate against him in that situation?
        Would my action be racist?

        1. Of course not, Jānis. But ask yourself how it is that you speak English so that it’s reasonable for someone to deal with you in English if they don’t speak Latvian.

          And the answer is that you were taught English at school, like most people across Northern Europe at least. Now almost everyone in Ireland has similarly had years and years of Irish at school. If you can speak good English, even though it’s not your ‘mother tongue’, why can’t most people educated in Ireland speak Irish? And therefore why is it unreasonable for a native Irish speaker to think it perfectly reasonable to expect to communicate with them in Irish, in Ireland FFS!

          Imagine you’re back in the Baltic and another Latvian insists you speak English (or Russian?) to them, and indeed gets annoyed and offended at you for using Latvian, in Latvia FFS!

          1. For some people it’s “the Celtic cringe”, for others it might be laziness or plain ignorance and yeah – some people might actually hate Irish speakers.

            But the end result is the same. The absolute majority doesn’t speak the language and requires Irish speakers to speak English with them – they make Irish speakers to feel like foreigners in their own country.

            That’s why I’m wondering what Séamas actually means by “racism, bigotry and discrimination against Irish speakers”. Aren’t most of the inhabitants of Ireland discriminating against Irish speakers then?

  1. We’ve been experiencing the same thing in Wales for the last 800 years, Most of the English place names given to Welsh places bear no resemblance to the orignal Welsh, It’s just been about “Englishing” the native languages out of these islands. They even went as far as to make it law that Cymraeg could not be spoken in public or taught in schools to our own children. It was so successful that the vast majority of us no longer have the ability to speak our OWN languages.

    The truth is Y Sais don’t trust us as far as they could throw us, They know the truth, We were here before them, These islands are ours and whether they like it or not as the song says, “Ry’n ni yma o hyd” We are still here…

    1. When many anglicised names bear close similarity to the Celtic originals, whether Irish or Welsh, I cannot understand why some insist on sticking with the bastardised version. Instead of saying the town of Naas we would say the town of Nás. How is that in anyway difficult to comprehend. Logic doesn’t enter into these discussions. Then discrimination isn’t logical, is it? 😦

  2. Here’s what’s still going on in NI over the use of Irish.

    To be honest practically all the commentators on Wings over Scotland disagree with Stuart Campbell, with some calling for a apology, some saying they won’t be back and and others reminding him who is crowd-funding his site.
    Here’s how the situation stands in NI.
    Despite promises in the various peace agreement treaties there is still no Irish Language Act.
    Legislation from the 18th century is being used to prevent irish-speakers from having court cases held in their native language
    https://eurofree3.wordpress.com/2013/12/11/acht-na-gaeilge-the-non-appearance-of-the-irish-language-act/

    1. Hi Ben, I was shocked by WoS article. It was so wilfully insulting, so gratuitously unfair, that I had to wonder if the site had been hacked or someone else was the author. It shows a complete lack of comprehension on the part of Campbell that now makes me question much else of his writing – or his anglosupremacist agenda full stop.

  3. When you choose the title for this post, were you aware of the historical significance in French Canada, les nègres blancs d’Amérique? Suffice it to say, our history of oppression is parallel to the Irish at the hands of the English but our response has been more effective. In Québec the passage of Bill 101 assures a zealous protection of the French language in all aspects of public life. The Irish nation will not walk quietly towards equal treatment for its indigenous language… It must be dragged there.

    1. French is not an endangered language and France’s minority languages get far worse treatment than French in Canada.

        1. French is spoken in Canada because of colonialism. And as I said – the French don’t treat their minorities very well back in France.

          1. English is spoken in ireland because of colonialism, and gaeilge is a minority language for the same reason. Are you going to extend you defense of linguist minorities to include the gaelic speaking minority in ireland? ;o)

          2. “the French don’t treat their minorities very well back in France….”
            The treatment of minorities in Latvia is barbaric.

          3. How is it barbaric TurboFurbo?
            Can you enlighten us?
            Is it barbaric because we require them to learn Latvian?
            Should we throw away our language and culture and become a Russian speaking nation to make migrants from the USSR feel better? You know – just like Ireland has done.

            You really sound like a Putinbot.

    2. I wasn’t, unfortunately. The phrase sprang from the Elvis Costello song and the old slang-word used in the British army and elsewhere in popular UK culture for Irish people: “white niggers”. I’ve followed the situation in Québec for many years now unfortunately it is hard to keep up with events there.

  4. Each of the two Scottish political blogs I follow has surprised me recently. First pleasantly, the Wee Ginger Dug turned out not only to be pro-Gaelic but actually a native speaker … I never would have guessed.

    https://weegingerdug.wordpress.com/2015/08/06/signs-of-repayment-of-a-debt-to-gaelic-and-scots/

    But now we have this shocker from Wings. I can’t imagine what could have possessed the Rev Stu. Most of his post is devoted to slapping down the misinformation meme that’s been going the rounds for a while now, that vast sums of public money are being ‘wasted’ on Gaelic. A factoid that he thoroughly debunks.

    But for some unknown reason he can’t do this without the ‘obligatory’ (for whom?) initial put-down of the language and culture. WTF!? I fear that unless an apology is forthcoming he will lose a lot of support (see comments). However I worry that this is a symptom of how deeply ‘The Celtic Cringe’ is embedded, when even your ‘best friends’ turn out to be carriers of the plague.

    Or did some wicked Gael steal his sweeties when he was a bairn?

    1. That’s not surprising.

      SNP and others don’t really want true independence. They want to be an English speaking North England. Not something like Belgium or Switzerland. SNP’s website doesn’t even have a Scottish Gaelic version.

      1. Fuck off janis. Why do you hate us so much? Did some irish bird sting you badly and you’ve decided to lash out in order to get revenge?

        1. Jānis is a very bitter individual. Has a huge chip on both shoulders.
          A real loser. With losers like Jānis it’s clear to see how the Soviets only had to walk in and take the place over – the Latvians did not even so much as even fire a bullet in anger.
          Losers.

          1. Whereas the Irish were constantly rebelling, generally leading to ever more vicious crack-downs by the Brits, and when they did finally win the day, when the Empire was crumbling anyway, they immediately threw away their language and much of their distinctive culture to ape Anglo-American mediocrity. Who’s to say which approach was most appropriate in the circumstances each nation faced? You can’t really second-guess the other person’s options.

            Anyway I appreciate Jānis’ perspective on matters, coming as he does from another small country long dominated by its bigger neighbour. For them peaceful resistance and demos worked. But if the Soviets had gone for a “Chinese solution” or a Bloody Sunday, then who knows how things would have turned out? OTOH if the Irish hadn’t risen in 1916, had simply waited for the Home Rule Bill to be implemented once the war was over, then perhaps they could have made relatively peaceful progress to independence, as part of worldwide British decolonisation. They may even have avoided partition, although I admit that’s rather a big ‘if’.

            1. The great irony of course was the support for home rule, limited autonomy for Ireland within the UK less than that presently enjoyed by Scotland, by many future cultural radicals like Patrick Pearse. He himself indicated that he’d rather an Irish-speaking home rule Ireland than an English-speaking independent Ireland. Otherwise what use was it for Ireland to regain its nationhood? To be simply a sovereign West Britain? His progress from home ruler to republican was partly based on the promise he saw in Fenianism to achieve an Irish Ireland.

              How disappointed would he be with what we have become.

              1. I’m not sure of his detailed reasoning, but IIRC Saunders Lewis is supposed to have said that if the Welsh language wasn’t restored before independence, it would never be restored afterwards. Maybe he had Ireland in mind?

          2. By your logic – the whole former Warsaw pact is a bunch of losers then. Latvia was not the only country they occupied – they occupied half of the continent – Latvia wasn’t anything special. The border was in the middle of Germany.
            And if you research it further then you’ll find out that a lot of bullets were in fact fired in anger – but that didn’t lead to anything.
            Unfortunately we had to wait until that leftist monstrosity collapsed under its own weight and the whole Warsaw pact got freedom from the Russians..

            1. It’s not as if the ‘free West’ would have helped, look how they sat on their hands and watched when rebellions/oppositions arose in Hungary (1950’s), Czechoslovakia (1960’s), Poland (80’s?), not to mention all those shot crossing the Berlin wall, some left to die in full view of Western troops who just stood and watched. With friends like these …

          3. It’s understandable – no one wanted to start a nuclear war over Czechoslovakia, Hungary or Poland.
            And the “free west” actually fought the USSR in various proxy wars – Vietnam, Korea, Afghanistan, Arab-Israeli Conflict, etc…

    2. The Ginger Dug article was excellent (and so much better written and presented than my unfortunately more confrontational or preachy style. I need to exercise more self-restraint on my rhetorical muscles).

      The WoS was unforgivable. Just this bit alone was stomach-turning:

      “Non-primary native languages are a tool whose main utility in practice is at best the exclusion of outsiders, and at worst an expression of dodgy blood-and-soil ethnic nationalism…”

      Not just untrue but knowingly untrue. Only the most myopic, 1970s era polytechnic-educated Trotskyite dickhead could come up with crap like that. The kind of sectarian nonsense one would expect from the Galloways of this world.

      1. Language can and does work as an exclusion tool. For example if some people at my company’s social events band together and start speaking their native language – they’re excluding the rest of us. I can’t just join in a conversation of my Polish or Italian colleagues. I have to hang out with mixed or Irish-only groups, because they speak a language that I can understand – the English language – and they don’t make me feel excluded.

  5. Wnile contemplating a trip to Glasnevin earlier this year I found myself looking at many museum and gallery websites and “virtual tours” on YouTube mainly from the perspective of acessability but iwas also noting huge variation in the use of Irish even within the group of The NATIONAL MUSEUM.
    One homepage didn’t have Irish English option though it did have a facility for translating into many languages using GOOGLE which included Iriish that was appallingl Eventually more by trial and error I found the correct one but notice was concealed
    I assumed that Glasnevin would have a policy on the use of Irish that would go beyond the basic use of Irish Signage
    Whether it’s commercial tokenism or not shops like B&Q and Tesco have signs indicating products in different aisles
    Couldn’t find any Irish language posing on YouTube re museum info .There was one or two items with a promotional agenda but the most surprising thing was The National Museum seemed to have totally ignored a great opportunity of including some excellent promotional videos by their new sponser VOLKSWAGEN in Irish I don’t believe VOLKSWAGEN would have objected It was a little annoying to hear the present er alluding to our culture and no acknowledgement of language

    1. Those shops just put “Failte” sign at the front door and that’s it. Unlike in Latvia – there are no signs in the national language in the shop. There are no labels in Irish on any products either. Not even on the ones that may contain allergens.

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