Thursday, 20 November 2008

Ranting about Irish language only diminishes impact of legitimate arguments

Although I implied previously on Three Thousand Versts that the UUP is the unionist party most likely to constructively address Irish language issues, without presenting itself in intractable opposition to the language, I certainly did not mean to suggest that universally the party had begun taking this approach as yet. Fair Deal was quick to accuse me of partisan bias on that thread, so to be fair I should address new comments by an Ulster Unionist who frequently falls into the trap, which it is my contention unionists must avoid.

David McNarry is regularly and vocally to be heard putting himself in ostentatious opposition to anything pertaining to the Irish language. I have criticised him before in this regard, suggesting that, whilst I could understand his frustration at the political use of Irish in parliament buildings, he had better curb his irritation, as it was becoming counter productive. Whilst I appreciate that McNarry might be more interested in the hard-line kudos such outbursts lend him, I would reiterate my previous criticisms after his latest remarks.

Attacking the manner in which the DUP reached its behind-closed-doors accommodation with Sinn Féin, McNarry raised the spectre of the Irish language as regards policing and justice.

“My understanding is that Sinn Fein will, once policing and justice is secured, insist upon the Irish language being an equal language to English and spoken by all PSNI officers, used for cautions, arrests, charging procedures and all processes leading to and including court appearances. Sinn Fein will deny this, plead ignorance and try to make policing and justice and an Irish Language Act each separate issues. They are and should be treated, quite correctly, as separate issues but that is not the sinisterism behind republican thinking. With policing and justice in the bag Sinn Fein will move to link it to the full utilization of Irish language usage as a rights issue in the administration of law and order – this cannot be allowed to go by default.”

Sinn Féin might well try to conflate these two issues and if they do unionists will be within their rights to point out that such a conflation is both wrong and discriminatory. Why chose this juncture to start howling about a strategy which Sinn Féin may or may not employ in the future? McNarry is simply succeeding in making himself sound paranoid. Rather than describing worst case scenarios which are totally unacceptable, why doesn’t McNarry try thinking about what is appropriate and acceptable?

If, when unionism does need to make the argument against expensive, impractical and discriminatory imposition of the Irish language, its case will be heard much more sympathetically, if it hasn't conspicuously been propounding the threat which the language comprises, repeatedly, where that threat has not yet manifested itself, and if it hasn’t been seen to celebrate each reverse in funding which the language suffers.


Gael gan Náire said...


I admire you intellectual efforts on this issue.

But I think the evidence points to anti-Gaelic feelings and policies being one of the foundation stones of Unionism.

You will have a hard job convincing the likes of David otherwise.

His very name betrays at least a partial Gaelic past and this is one of the reasons for his anti-Gaelic language stance.

David and his like are why an Irish Language Act is necessary.

Gael gan Náire said...

The game is afoot.

It is amazing how the SDLP have taken this bold action and being ignored by all an sundry, not what people what to hear.

Chekov said...


Anti-Gaelic feelings aren't a foundation stone of unionism I would recognise. I'll reserve judgment on the SDLP bill until more detail becomes available.

Gael gan Náire said...

Your task is considerable.

You would have to convince Irish speakers that unionist have legitmate concerns that would have to be taken into account in any ILA situation.

In the absence of a proposed legislative context few Irish speakers see any reason why the concerns of unionist are important as throughout are lives all we have heard are 'Irish is offensive to unionists' etc. etc.

Therefore, being based on irrational prejudice and ignorance, irrelevant.

On the plart of Gaels, we have to convince unionists of our sincerity, earnestness and that the reason we seek to continue speaking our own language is for the simple reason that is is ours and we have a deep affection for it.

However, some one agrue that much unionist opposition to Irish is based on the belief of insincerity on the part of Irish speakers.

(Let us not forget that every sign, every school, every penny, every program, has been opposed by all shades of political unionism).

If unionists could be convinced of the sincerity and strength of Irish speakers it could actually let to unionism redoubling its efforts againist Irish.

Imagine what the DUP would do if they had the Education post!

Anonymous said...

Im keen for everybody to pick up new skills mastery of a language is one of them,however if i want to learn a new skill i pay for it i dont expect the govt. to contribute!