An Orange Hall, A Grant, A Mysterious Address And The DUP

Talking of Irish political scandals, it seems that ideological unionism simply cannot help itself. Put to one side the involvement of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and, to a lesser extent, the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) in the RHI or cash-for-ash controversy. Instead let us focus for a moment on the mysterious Randalstown Ulster-Scots Cultural Society, which operates from number 10 Portglenone Road, Randalstown, an address that may – or may not – exist. Certainly there is some confusion about exactly where the group is based after it was offered a £25,000 grant from the Community Halls Pilot Programme, a front for the DUP to dump large wads of tax-payers’ cash into various unionist neighbourhoods (the initial budget of £500,000 has quadrupled to £1.9m and rising). The majority of the money seems to be destined for bodies across the north-east of the country seeking funds to repair and restore community halls in their localities. By “community halls” I of course mainly mean Orange Halls, the local headquarters of the controversial Grand Orange Lodge
of Ireland. While most Orangemen (and -women) may be perfectly decent law abiding members of the general public, the organisation itself is an avowedly sectarian and ethno-nationalist one. It has been mired in communal trouble of one sort or another for the last two hundred years and little has changed over the last twenty years of the Irish-British peace process. Indeed, it has been Orange Order followers who have spearheaded some of the worse rioting seen in recent years.

Randalstown’s mystery Ulster-Scots building, which may actually exist according to pro-union media (Image: Irish News)

As for the Ulster-Scots culture, like the supposed language of the same name, it is more of an invention than a tradition. Much of it is associated with the same circle of “alternative” historians and linguists who argue that the British unionist minority in Ireland is descended in the main from the 2000 year old Pictish peoples of northern Britain. Or the 3000 year old Ten Lost Tribes of Israel. Or both.

Meanwhile, John Ó Néill has made this interesting point on DUP electoral spending from 2010 to 2016 in a comment under an Irish News column by Brian Feeney:

  • 2010 General Election: £59,086
  • 2011 Assembly Election: £84,514
  • 2014 European Parliamentary Election: £200,061
  • 2015 General Election: £58,000
  • 2016 Assembly Election: £89,000
  • 2016 Brexit referendum campaign: £250,000+ (estimated)

Now, where did the supposedly cash-strapped Dupes get over £250,000 to splurge on the anti-EU plebiscite in the UK?

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11 comments

  1. Ah, the old “10 lost tribes of Israel” canard raises its head here, too. The lost tribes were, apparently, an amazingly ambulatory bunch, ending up all around the globe, depending on what sort of legitimacy modern people were looking for to bolster their own standing.

    I suppose claiming descent from the Picts for political gain is a UK thing.

    1. Oh, there is a whole kitchen industry dedicated to the Lost Tribes of Israel and the Pictish thing among the unionist political fringe in Ireland. Websites books, magazines and societies. Some of it is just amateur historians and the likes imbibing the Dan Brown stuff, other bits are rather more sinister. It derives from the British Israelite movement in the 1800s. The Victorian English with their global empire were obviously god’s chosen people therefore they must have some noble Biblical stock to look back at. Unionists here have taken that up, seeing themselves in parallel with their Scots-Irish cousins in the United States, wresting land and civilization from savage natives, just as the Jews took Israel as their ordained promised land. It gets all very mystical with notions of racial purity and superiority and so on.

      The Pictish connection makes it more local. Though it annoys some advocates that historians now insist that the Picts were a Celtic-speaking people.

      Then you have the made-up language of Ulster-Scots where its (tax-paid) creators add accents for no other reason beyond them thinking that it “looks nice”. And less like badly spelled English 😉

      The classic example is the title for the head of the power-sharing executive in the north of Ireland, the First Minister. The Ulster-Scots’ authors originally wrote this as “First Meenister”. But it looked too much like English (which it is) so they changed it some years later to “First Meinister”. However that was still very English-like so they came up with a brand new spelling a while ago, one that went the whole JRR Tolkien route. It is now “Heid Männystèr”…

      1. I should have known – nothing like a little financial incentive to create a language where there was none before. For a bunch that, good or bad, accomplished so much, the English and their accomplices certaintly do have an evident inferiority complex.

  2. I speak this dialect, which doesn’t exist, every day in my Co. Antrim fastness, as do many other people from both religious traditions in my area, but I agree that it is a dialect not a separate language from English, though it would be largely incomphrensible to speakers of Standard English : it certainly wasn’t “invented” as its current survival and historical sources would attest. Listen, there are rackets operating on both sides of our community. Around the early 1990s some unionist politicians said to themselves, ” there are these funny rural people, mostly in Co Antrim, who speak this strange patois, lets exploit this for funding purposes, not because we have any intrinsic interest in this dialect, or the people who speak it, but because we can use them as an excuse to get agencies set up, which will then channel funds into the wider unionist community, for purposes which have nothing to do with language.” Thus purely notional “Ulster-Scots” Societies were set up, mostly in locations outside areas where the dialect was spoken, and money was pumped into them from the “Ulster-Scots” Agency, which, of course, has nothing to do with the real dialect. An unfortunate side-effect of this political project has been that a real linguistic culture, through no fault of its own, has become the subject of derision, even of claims that it doesn’t, or never has existed.
    The site of the Randalstown “Ulster-Scots” Society is probably the unnumbered Orange Hall, Randalstown is in the south of Co. Antrim, outside the part of the County where the dialect is still spoken, i.e. the north and east. Such scams are, of course, not limited to the unionist side, e.g. various “research” groups set up under the auspices of Sinn Fein, which were found not to exist, or do any research, despite funds being pumped into them.
    Pictish, as far as I can gather, was a P-Celtic language, similar to Cumbric/Welsh, as attested to by the presence of place-names beginning with Aber in both Wales and the formerly Pictish-speaking parts of Scotland, Aber being cognate with the Gaelic Inbhear.

    1. Thanks for the comment, Ginger. To be clear, I have no issue with Ulster-Scots/Scots-Irish tongue being recognised as a distinct dialect of Hiberno-English deserving of recognition and promotion. The more diversity the better. My irritation is with the advocates of the dialect who go down the myth-making route, transforming it from a branch of English into some esoteric Middle-earth tongue complete with eldritch spelling. Admittedly, that is mostly the enthusiasts in the publicly-funded “Tha Boord o Ulstèr-Scotch”. Previously known as “The Boord of Ulster-Scotch”

      Oh yes, SF are at it as well. The SPADs are not confined to the DUP and UUP, nor special interests in the wider nationalist community. I think I hinted at that in my last post on the cash-for-ash scandal where there is more waiting to come out.

      I linked to the Belfast Telegraph article challenging the claims in the Irish News report about the non-existent hall, just to make sure that there was some balance.

      Yep, Pictish is very likely a P-Celtic language, with Q-Celtic influences, possibly both early and late (Q-Celtic speakers became P-Celtic speakers in late antiquity, before coming under heavy Q-Celtic influence again in the late Medieval period. There are other theories about which linguistic group influenced which).

      If I came across in an offensive manner viz. the unionist community I apologise. Typing in haste I sometimes forgot that people see only my words not the thoughts behind them.

  3. Ulster Scots is a dialect going back to 17th Century, it is preposterous to claim it as a language. Because there are no universally accepted criteria for distinguishing languages from dialects, scholars and other interested parties often disagree about the linguistic, historical and social status of a particular language. as for example Luxembourgish
    only in the last few regarded as a distinct language and not a German dialect.

    1. Max Weinreich supplied the basic distinction between a language and a dialect:
      “A language is a dialect with an army and navy”.

  4. Ulster Scots used to be a dialect no upwardly mobile Protestant would ever admit to knowing, let alone speaking.
    Back in the day parents spent fortunes sending their children to classes to “larn” them speak the Queen’s English while they prepared to make friends and get jobs as they marched along the Queen’s Highway!

    1. The parents who sent their children to elocution classes to smooth out any suggestion of a “broad” accent would certainly have viewed it as a means of aiding upward mobility and by the same token would have looked down their noses at those members of the lower “orders” who wished to walk the Queen’s highway. As the Orange Order’s numbers have tumbled to around the 30,000 mark it has become very much a working class phenomenon : that so many D.U.P. politicians are members is an anomaly linked to conviction and their need to keep in touch with their core voters.

  5. Ulster Scots, or Scotch Irish is an American invention from the late 18th century. If immigrants come from Scotland to Ireland, they are Scottish by heritage. Many English came to Ireland during the plantation of Ulster we do not hear English-Irish, Welsh-Irish or indeed Dutch or French-Irish as some migrants were from these three countries.As for the Pict alliance, it is pure myth, it is fantasy as the Dalriada return theory is. The migrants that arrived during the plantation of Ulster who arrived on these Irish shores from the early 17th century were British as are their descendants now. They live on the Ireland of Ireland, immigrants should respect the country they emigrate to, not make up stupid myths about how they belong to this land, it has been tried for centuries now, it is embarrassing and is totally unfounded upon common sense. I wonder if the British would feel OK about the the Pakistani or Arab race taken over a part of their country? After all, it has been proved by historic fact that Arabs have been in Britain since Roman times which is far longer than King James I Ulster plantation, or pretend mythical return of the Cruthaine!

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