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.
In the words of the historian Patricia Palmer of King’s College London:
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!
“You vill learn the Irish and you will do it right, ja?”
But they’re being forced to speak English, His whole point is that everyone should speak English, then he retreats to the old gem of us all being forced to speak Irish. It makes no sense. Is he trying to be ironic. In the match no one was being forced to speak Irish. They choose to speak Irish themselves; there was no forcing involved. They were being compelled to speak English. This is the point Janis makes (correctly) all the time, and get vilified for.
Is it the case that The Irish Independent employs Journalists that can’t present a coherent argument. No wonder they are held in such low esteem. i stopped buying Irish newspapers years ago because they are obviously just printing worthless opinion/propaganda.
“And if it pertained to the game, surely the referee had to be able to understand them?”
Absolutely not. The referee does not need to know what a team is saying. In rugby, calls and codes are used specifically so that nobody other than team mates know what move is coming next. if they listened to ‘off the ball’ on the same station they would know that. The referee should be understandable by both sides though. If it was necessary for the referee to understand the players then international soccer games couldn’t be played, or most international sport for that matter.
In this case the referee objected to Irish being spoken, just as Colette Fitzpatrick and Paul Williams appear to be objecting to Irish being spoken. There is the intolerance. The Irish speakers are blameless.
‘But they’re being forced to speak English, His whole point is that everyone should speak English, then he retreats to the old gem of us all being forced to speak Irish. It makes no sense. Is he trying to be ironic.’
He’s trying to characterise supporters of the language and any remark about upholding language rights as ‘extremist’? It’s sad that this kind of comment is still acceptable in mainstream media.
Very good points, Martin. When soccer teams play internationally the referees don’t require them to speak in any other languages than their own. Flemish and Walloon teams speak their own languages in matches, as do Swiss teams from different linguistic cantons. The whole thing is clearly discriminatory.
The first President of Ireland said the following almost a century and a quarter ago. Is it not a tragedy that it is still relevent still even on the playing fields of the Gaelic Athletic Association (which sacked him it’s Patron in 1939).
“I have no hesitation at all in saying that every Irish-feeling Irishman, who hates the reproach of West-Britonism, should set himself to encourage the efforts, which are being made to keep alive our once great national tongue.
The losing of it is our greatest blow, and the sorest stroke that the rapid Anglicisation of Ireland has inflicted upon us. In order to de-Anglicise ourselves we must at once arrest the decay of the language. We must bring pressure upon our politicians not to snuff it out by their tacit discouragement merely because they do not happen themselves to understand it. We must arouse some spark of patriotic inspiration among those who still use the language, and put an end to the shameful state of feeling – a thousand-tongued reproach to our leaders and statesmen – which makes young men and women blush and hang their heads when overheard speaking their own language.” (1892)
And Michael Collins, no less, said after the inauguration of the Free State: ”
“We have now won the first victory. We have secured the departure of the enemy who imposed upon us that by which we were debased, and by means of which he kept us in subjection. We only succeeded after we had begun to get back our Irish ways, after we had made a serious effort to speak our own language, after we had striven again to govern ourselves. We can only keep out the enemy, and all other enemies, by completing that task….
“…the biggest task will be the restoration of the language. How can we express our most subtle thoughts and finest feelings in a foreign tongue? Irish will scarcely be our language in this generation, not even perhaps in the next. But until we have it again on our tongues and in our minds we are not free….” (1922)
Is it not a further tragedy that the party which so reveres his memory is the party which has so damaged the nation by ignoring these principles? Mind you few of the other parties, when in power, have been to the fore in defending the National Language, have they?
that’s all fine and dandy, but speaking as a non-nationalist i’m more concerned about living in a tolerant and inclusive Ireland in 2016. The ‘speak fucking English’ attitude that is so pervasive is not a position that is either inclusive or tolerant.
Absolutely right, Martin! Those of us who believe in basic civil rights are being characterised as bigots by fools who fondly imagine they’re liberals. The same civil rights should be enjoyed by speakers of Irish, Welsh, Basque, Sorbian, minority languages in Taiwan, Native American languages, Maori, Australian aboriginal languages. And bigots like Paul Williams should realise what they are and not try to misrepresent the rest of us as fascists. I’m not trying to force Paul Williams to speak Irish or any other language. I don’t imagine he’d have anything very interesting to say anyway … 🙂
On the last point, absolutely not. And NO political party has yet to produce a comprehensive policy on Irish rights beyond throwing a few more quid at TG4. That seems to Sinn Féin’s grand plan. Though at least we are not alone in our psychosis:
Honestly, i’ll leave it after this, but, in a Godwinesque way, has Williams not conceded defeat by resorting to the Nazi reference.
also, is it not racist/xenophobic to affect a German accent every time a dim-witted resort to Nazism is require to ‘clinch’ the argument by a dim-witted Journo or other talking head. How do Germans living here feel? Pretty excluded and ridiculed i’d expect.
I suppose that’s what you get for genocide. Exclusion and ridicule.
For now they can take their scolding. The world might forgive them in a generation or two.
Yes, Irish should only be spoken in private among consenting adults. Nice one, Paul. What a pompous, dim-witted twat!
But that’s what happens in practice. You can’t speak Irish to someone who doesn’t understand it.
Janus, I am not quite sure what point you are trying to make here. The fact is that it is a mark of ignorance and stupidity to start smearing people with Nazism simply because an Irish speaker in a Gaeltacht tries to speak their own language in a game under the aegis of an organisation which has as rule 4 of its official guide a sentence which begins: The Association shall actively support the Irish language … In other words, it is entirely reasonable for a bilingual speaker to expect a bilingual referee or an interpreter in a game involving Gaeltacht clubs.
And as for the association with minority language speakers being compared to Nazis, just consider how the Polish language was treated in territories annexed by the Third Reich:
A ban on the use of the Polish language was implemented in all institutions and offices in annexed territories, as well in certain public places like public transport in the cities. A particular form of oppression was a law ordering the Poles to use German in all contacts with officials under penalty of imprisonment …
Sounds to me like Paul would have felt perfectly at home in the Third Reich. Perhaps he’s projecting his own faults onto other people…?
But if someone tries to speak Irish to me and I ask them to switch to English, because I don’t understand – am I a Nazi?
No only Irish Speakers who choose to speak it with other people who speak it in their own area where Irish is the vernacular are according to the philosophy outlined by Paul! Ja!
Mise Astrálach agus labhraím gaeilge le duine ar bith in Astráil nuair a níl gaeilge acu (I’m Australian and I speak Irish to anyone in Australia when they don’t have Irish) … I just translate it for them after each sentence and they’re happy
Which is an entirely fair thing to do.
Tá ceart agat, mar is gnáth. Níl sé éifeachtach a bheith ag caoineadh i gcónaí ceann is nach bhfuil siad measúil ar teanga dúchais Éirinn. Thogadh tír agus stád saor nach mbeadh duine ar bith ag cur cosc ar dóigheanna na hÉireannaigh. Mura bhfuil cuid de na daoine sásta le sin, is féidir leo a dhul go Sasann – is féidir leo sin a dhéanamh buíochas le na daoine a throid ar son na hÉireann agus ar son na Gaeilge. Is é ceart gach saoránach Gaeilge a labhairt, agus sin sin. Tá ar gach saoránach an ceart seo a ghabháil – seo é raison d’être na tíre-seo.
I have actually seen that very attitude in a restaurant where I worked years ago in the West. French, Spanish, Basque, Italian and English were languages being spoken amongst staff sharing the same tongue. When two lads spoke to each other in Irish, the manager told them to refrain from doing so. I looked at the whole thing baffled! Let’s say it didn’t go down well.
I came across that very same discrimination some years ago in Dublin city-centre but with guests. A group of friends, conversing in Irish, were told by first the staff and then the manager that other customers had complained about their use of Irish. They were asked to speak English or leave. Initially they thought people were complaining that they were being too loud but it wasn’t that, just the language they were speaking. I know a complaint was made but it never went anywhere and the restaurant never apologised.
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Madness! I drives me mad when I hear that; Breton was actually not allowed to be taught in national schools! I actually always exchange a few words with my customers in Irish and I am a big defender of the culture. There is an element in Irish society still uncomfortable with Irish speaking, probably out of guilt. Frustrating! Anyhow, looking forward to your next posts! Slán Tamall, Ádh mor, Franck
You always blab about Irish, why do you never post in Irish? Are you unable to?
Thinking out loud really being asked to leave a restaurant for speaking Irish the options would appear to be refusing to leave manager calls Gardaí how would that work out? Or flood the business with Irish speakers each day frustrating the owner or pickets which may last a day or two
Unfortunately social embarrassment is a greater determining factor, especially when the easiest course is simply to speak English and gain readmittance to polite society.