Thursday, 24 May 2012

Share the Grá

The BBC reports on an SDLP motion in the Assembly on the samhail nua mhaoinithe or new funding model for Irish-language groups currently being touted — not very successfully, it might be added — by Foras na Gaeilge.

The motion, tabled by Dominic Bradley, asked that the Assembly note "with concern the effects that the new funding model proposed by Foras na Gaeilge will have on Irish language organisations; [express] concern about the nature of the consultation process; and [call] on the Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure to review these proposals in view of her Department's emerging Irish language strategy."

Sinn Féin's Carál Ní Chuilín, who has had to hit the ground running to deal with a model clearly unsuited to the different conditions of the North, appeared riled at both Mr. Bradley and the SDLP, refusing an intervention from him and calling the motion "premature". From this, it appears likely that the funding model will be greatly modified to save West Belfast-based groups such as Pobal.

Comments from other Members were more enlightening about them and their parties than about any funding issues per se, with Gregory Campbell complaining about Mr. Bradley's use of Irish in the Chamber. In response, "Mr Bradley said he had translated everything in accordance with the standing orders of the house." Wrong, Dominic, the Standing Orders say nothing about having to provide a translation, a practice based on Speakers' rulings.

Trevor Lunn of the Alliance Party decided to play the taxpayer card, saying that "As an outsider, I like the look of the new structure proposed by Foras na Gaeilge." However, just as with the question of Irish on signs, Alliance appears sadly out of its depth in dealing with a subject in which few of its members will have much interest. While Sinn Féin may exert itself to save Pobal or Forbairt Feirste, Alliance should be making the case for Ultach Trust, a small, unique and already underfunded organisation with a remit to promote Irish on a cross-community basis, i.e. to Protestants.

As with recent speculation surrounding the future of the Community Relations Council and deals done behind the scenes on housing at Girdwood Barracks, the real danger for Alliance is that its integration agenda will be sidelined — and although Irish may not be much of a theme at dinner parties in the leafier parts of East Belfast, that applies to it too.

Friday, 18 May 2012

Scotching the Myths

The Londonderry Sentinel and Belfast Telegraph have two articles based on the results of an Internet survey of second-level pupils in Derry. The big news, it seems, is that Ulster Scots is not being transmitted intergenerationally. That may hardly be surprising, since Derry City, despite its dialect being noticeably more Scottish (and Irish!) than that of Belfast, is not in a Scots-speaking area as defined by the pioneering Robert Gregg. Indeed, only a small corner of even the county of the same name — in the extreme north-east — can be classed as Ulster-Scots linguistically. What the survey does confirm, however, albeit by implication, is that Scots is a community vernacular that fares badly away from its native soil, while Irish, a very different speech variety with a different relationship to English, fares rather better.

The conclusion to be drawn from such structural and deep-seated sociolinguistic differences is of course that Scots and Irish have different needs and should be promoted on the basis of what is likely to work rather than what appears even-handed financially. Hearteningly, the survey confirms that most ordinary pupils understand that rather better than the policy-makers, since "Only 45 per cent per cent of the people who took the survey thought the two languages should be treated the same." The Sentinel regards this as controversial, implying that the pupils are in need of (re-) education, yet it is simple common sense.

The article also scotches the very myth of linguistic property or special communal interest on which the equality nonsense is based, since "no-one from a Protestant background said they could read or speak Ulster-Scots".