Over the last two decades the linguistic denigration of hibernophone sports teams and their fans by anglophone opponents has become one of the odder aspects of life in modern Ireland. Perhaps such animosities were always present at sporting events around the country. Maybe the use of social media has simply exposed incidences of verbal abuse to greater public scrutiny. Alternatively one could blame the modest increase in the numbers of Irish-speakers in areas that had become almost wholly English-speaking in recent centuries. It could be that archaic prejudices have been given renewed impetuous now that Irish rubs shoulders with English in some suburbs of Dublin, however minuscule the cultural challenge the former might offer. It is certainly a strange phenomenon, though one perhaps not unfamiliar to historians of other colonial and post-colonial societies. The Irish Times reports on the latest incident of Gael versus Gall in the sporting arena:
“A Gaeltacht GAA club in Galway has lodged a complaint with their county board after they claim they were told to stop talking Irish by a referee during a championship match.
Na Piarsaigh, based in Rosmuc in Connemara claim that the incident happened during the Junior A Football Championship West match between their club and Salthill Knocknacarra in Ros an Mhíl on Saturday last.
The Galway County Board confirmed to RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta news on Tuesday that they had received an official complaint from Na Piarsaigh/Ros Muc GAA Club in relation to comments allegedly made by a referee during a match at the weekend.
It’s believed that the referee was unhappy with both players on the field, and officials coaching from the sideline, speaking in Irish. With some of these officials having volunteered to assist him after he arrived to officiate alone.
County Board Secretary John Hynes confirmed that a complaint has been made by the club itself, and by one of the club officials, alleging that the referee at the match told them not to speak Irish to the team.”
Coincidentally one of the earliest stories of racial or ethnic discrimination that I featured on ASF examined the case of a basketball-playing pupil from the Menominee Nation in the United States who was suspended from a match for speaking in her native tongue. And before someone points it out. Yes, Irish-speakers do not constitute a racial minority separate from the English-speaking majority in Ireland. But where the fuck do you think anti-Irish prejudice comes from? For a clue, look to the island to our east and then consider the last eight hundred years of this island’s tortured history of foreign invasion, occupation, annexation and colonisation.
For anyone familiar with the history of linguistic colonisation in Ireland, Vicente
Rafael’s assertion that “translation [is] a kind of conquest” seems uncontroversial.
For Irish speakers [this] entailed the wholesale translation
of a hibernophone country into an anglophone one.
A process set in motion by Tudor, Jacobean and Cromwellian plantations and culminating in the Great Famine (1845–52) left the Irish, in the words of the nineteenth-century nationalist and translator, Thomas Davis, “adrift among the accidents of translation”…
As indicated above, contemporary anti-Irish sentiment in Ireland is no accident but the end result of an exterminist strategy began centuries ago. The radio show, Newstalk Breakfast, during a brief look at the disgraceful events in Galway illustrated this goal perfectly. The opinions of presenter Colette Fitzpatrick and guest Paul Williams, the controversial crime correspondent with the Independent News and Media group, say it all:
Colette Fitzpatrick: I guess the point, I guess the point is, what the two players were talking about? Did it pertain to the game or were they chatting about something else? And if it pertained to the game, surely the referee had to be able to understand them?
Paul Williams: Look. Obviously the referee was allocated the game to referee. He was the invigilator on the pitch. He couldn’t understand what the guys were saying. He said, look guys would you go and speak English, because everybody we do know, on this island does speak English. Not everybody on this island speaks Irish. I’m sorry if I came across arrogant about that and an insufferable ignoramus. I’ve been called an awful lot worse. But, you know, this is fundamentalism. [Adopts dramatic “Nazi” accent] You vill learn the Irish and you will do it right, ja?!
A colonised nation is one where a newspaper journalist can go on air to argue that men, women and children who converse in the indigenous language of their nation are driven by “fundamentalism“. A colonised nation is one where a newspaper journalist can wilfully imply that their wish to do so makes them akin to Nazis. A colonised nation is one where such views are greeted with nothing more than gentle, mirthful chastisement.
Bigotry without consequence will never be eradicated. The time for talking about Irish rights is over. The time to take Irish rights is now. Whether the majority wish to cede them or not!