Ursula Ní Shabhaois, writing on her blog “Ag Smaoineamh Os Ard“, reiterates a point that many choose to overlook: the linguistic and cultural rights of the Irish-speaking minority in Ireland should not be wholly contingent on the approval of the English-speaking majority. This is particularly true when it is evident that even the most limited – and limiting – of minority rights are subject to the animosity of influential individuals who display an anachronistic form of anti-Irish prejudice, the perverse legacy of colonial rule on this island nation. It is a small cadre of English language supremacists in the fields of journalism, politics and business who are wedded to a dead culture, one that prevailed when a foreign flag flew over Dublin Castle, and when our indigenous tongue signified active resistance not passive compliance.
Certain well-known newspaper columnists and politicians do not hate Irish – and by implication, Irish-speakers – because of supposed concerns about budgetary restraints, individual freedoms or, risibly, road safety. They do so because they are trapped in a “settlerist” mindset which makes them hear Irish and think of barbarous natives pouring down from the Wicklow mountains to disturb their mental “Pale“. These men and women are not so much “Castle Catholics” as “Castle Anglophones“. Not content with the ghettoising of the Irish language in the education system, where their equally partisan antecedents confined it in the 1920s, they now insist that it is expunged from even that small corner of our national life.
“Over the past few months it seems as though every week there is another negative article being published about the Irish language and/or those who speak it.
…all of these articles have one common theme: The author doesn’t speak the language and they don’t want anyone else to either.
I could write here about the importance of the Irish language to national identity, I could write about the proven benefits of bilingualism, or I could discuss how minority language initiatives encourage community cohesion. I could provide facts and statistics on this too, if they were interested. That said, this shouldn’t be necessary. The protection of minority rights should not be contingent on preferences or opinions.
It makes me angry to think that the Irish language community must continually justify its right to exist in this way. No other minority group would be treated in such a way without being properly challenged to back up their arguments. I can’t imagine it ever being acceptable for individuals to focus on any other minority group and to use their position of influence in the media to belittle and insult that group and to then call it ‘debate’ or ‘discussion.’ Put simply, these articles are attacks on a vulnerable community, under a poor guise of journalism.”
The Irish language is not dead but there are those who are absolutely determined that it should be, men and women seeking to finish an ethnocide began on this island several centuries ago. Christ knows they have plenty of allies. From a report by the Irish News:
“IT cost almost £7,000 for a DUP-headed Stormont department to change the name of a fisheries patrol boat from Irish into English.
Nationalists reacted angrily last month after new agriculture minister Michelle McIlveen revealed the name of the Irish Sea vessel had been translated from ‘Banríon Uladh’ to ‘Queen of Ulster’.
The DUP minister said the decision was taken because the department has a “single language policy”.”
Which is the logic – and aspiration – of the anti-Irish lobby in this country taken to its ultimate form.