Friday, 25 March 2016

A Cold House for Sensitive Bigots

Over the past few days residents of Northern Ireland have been both horrified and amused by a "report" issued by the Orange Order detailing the chilling effects of Catholic crack on its shrinking violet civil servant members, including such shocking subjects of conversation as the weekend GAA match, church attendance and children's confirmations — all against a freakish backdrop of mass cards and ash crosses.

The Order's "Grand Secretary" (we're sure he's good), Drew Nelson,
"also claimed the circulation of an Irish language magazine in the civil service was 'a major breach' of the civil service's own dignity at work policy.
'That is material that should not be circulated and our members do not want it,' he said."
But "resolute action to promote the language" has been an accepted part of UK Government policy since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement. Moreover, in an era of devolution, it clearly falls upon the individual Northern Ireland Departments to fulfil it.

Nor is there any contradiction with "dignity at work", since there is nothing inherently offensive about Irish. A very similar language is spoken in Scotland, after all. Or are we to believe that Irish annoys Orangemen because it differentiates between the habitual and the future?

Of course not, it annoys them because they cannot differentiate between the present and the past.

Monday, 14 March 2016

"Out of Perspective"

It seems that the Blether Region may have spoken too soon when it contended that removing the Irish word uisce from two Ballymena water-mains covers would necessitate melting them down. After the blaze of publicity surrounding TUV councillor Timothy Gaston's demand that the covers be replaced with monolingual ones, some enterprising individual has gone ahead and scraped the Irish from one of them, apparently with an angle-grinder.

It has not been reported whether the action was carried out by the contractor or illegally by another party.

However, it does appear that Mr. Gaston — the Deputy Mayor of the borough, no less — may be rowing back somewhat on his call to arms, stating on his Facebook page that the issue had been "blown out of perspective" and reminding constituents, or perhaps himself, that "There are many pressing issues relating to North Antrim and particularly the town of Ballymena which has suffered appalling job losses in recent months."

Some years ago Mr. Gaston's father Sam successfully campaigned to have Irish give-way signs bearing the word "Yield" replaced with their British equivalents at a McDonald's in the town. But that was absolutely justified, since confusion might have led to an accident, whereas the current brouhaha revolves around infantile prejudice.

Mr. Gaston is of course neither the first nor the last son of a DUP politician to be the equal of his father in his bad points but not in his good.

Meanwhile, journalists at the Belfast Telegraph may be congratulating themselves on showing up a bigot. I say "may" because, taken against the backdrop of several recent scare stories that it has published about Irish, it might just as well be the case that they have themselves contributed to whipping up the febrile atmosphere that encourages the kind of vigilante public works seen in the city of the seven towers.

Do we really want to go there, Bel-Tel?

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

They Prefer This One

Many moons ago when the Blether Region was but a baby Gaeilgeoir, a group of language activists in Belfast took the law into their own hands and affixed the Irish word "bruscar" to some of the public rubbish bins in the city. Some residents were pleased, while others assumed that the smart new badge merely bore the name of the company that made the bins. Unionist councillors, however, demanded that the council pay for someone to go around removing the addition. Well, I suppose it was during the Troubles.

Now, almost a generation later, however, a councillor in Ballymena has made a similar complaint about — wait for it — bilingual manhole covers, and insisted that they be replaced (presumably they are bilingual because their supplier is based in the South and bid for the work). The Blether Region thinks this is silly, since a) they are manhole covers and, in the absence of merde de chien, commonly walked over and ignored, b) it would be difficult to remove the offending word without melting down and replacing the cover, and c) only a loopy colonial racist could possibly be offended at the presence of an additional language in an area to which it is native.

While a supposed concern for cost has been an integral part of the anti-Gaelic narrative purveyed by some politicians, the present case should surely dispel any doubt in that regard: whatever this nonsense is about, it is not about saving money.

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

More, Not Less

David Leask has a refreshing and long overdue article over at the Herald drawing attention to the constitutionally inspired bile now being directed at Scotland's autochthonous languages, self-hating invective of a kind that would have made the (Galician) Franco proud. Closer to home, it's curiously reminiscent of the rhetoric of Ulster Unionists (and, on occasion, the Alliance Party), who do their best to keep Northern Ireland looking like England lest a bilingual sign somehow offend a bigoted monoglot (although one English county, Cornwall, seems to be beating Northern Ireland too).

While these — obviously co-ordinated — attempts by Unionists with privileged media access to create a virtual Partido Popular in Scotland are most likely on a hiding to nothing, it is important that friends of linguistic diversity not be locked into defensive mode when discussing vital spending.

The obvious danger, were that to happen, is that existing provision for Scots and Gaelic, which is not yet sufficient to save either, will cease to grow.

For that reason, let's be up-front about the need for money, and the work necessary at Government level: Scotland's languages need more, not less.