The Loyalist/Unionist Community are in opposition to everything Irish including our language, culture and our heritage, but they argue they want us to respect theirs? It’s not a one-way street!!
I was disappointed to read Dr Dingley’s article (‘Republicans use the Irish language as a weapon in their long war strategy’, December 17) on the subject of the Irish language.
In it, he employs a number of tired (and disproven) clichés and tropes to marginalise Irish as a ‘Republican language’.
Dr Dingley weaves a narrative of the Irish language of today being the same as that idealised by Padraig Pearse and elements of the 19th century Gaelic Revival: a vision of a Catholic, pastoral, regressive and illiberal ‘better’ past.
Irish language activists are a subset of republicanism, acting as a form of cultural gloss.
Dr Dingley goes on to use the name of Sinn Féin, which he incorrectly translates as ‘Ourselves Alone’ (a better translation is ‘We Ourselves’), as evidence of the insularity of this ideology. What he calls ‘Modern Nationalism’ bears little resemblance to the platforms of any modern Irish political party, north or south.
Dr Dingley contrasts this with what he calls ‘Modern Unionism’, which he classes as enlightened, liberal, industrious, reasoned and cosmopolitan. This, I admit, gave me a good laugh, as modern mainstream political unionism is sadly lacking in all of these traits, much to the detriment of all in Northern Ireland.
Irish does not belong to republicanism. It is the language of the land, in placenames irrespective of their sectarian or political makeup (Kilkeel, Ballymena, Omagh, Enniskillen, Crossmaglen, Larne…).
It is the language of Pearse, yes, but also the language that the Presbyterian General Assembly referred to in the 1830s as ‘Our sweet and memorable mother tongue’.
It is also the language of Linda Irvine and TURAS at the East Belfast Mission, who have made great strides in breaking down political and sectarian barriers. To call Irish a republican language is akin to calling English Cromwellian, or Russian as a Communist tongue.
Dr Dingley goes on to suggest that Irish (or Gaelic as he calls it) has been dropped in the Republic at anything but a symbolic level, and cites a report from 1958 (61 years ago!) as evidence. This is not true.
While the language faces its own struggles in the Republic, it is very much alive and well, and is indeed currently undergoing a renaissance of sorts through the proliferation of Pop Up Gaeltacht (informal gatherings conducted in Irish), the success of broadcaster TG4, and the spread of Irish through the new media of the internet and podcasts (the popular, and excellent, podcast Motherfoclóir being a prime example).
Irish language activists have been at the forefront of the liberal reform agenda of the Republic in recent years.
Furthermore, Dr Dingley’s assessment of an Irish language act being prohibitively expensive has been debunked.
The proposed act is estimated to cost approximately £2m a year, with a one-off setup cost of £9m. Compare this with the Scottish government’s 2018 budget of £27.4m for Scottish Gaelic schemes, or the Welsh Government’s spending of c. £65m a year on the Welsh language. Indeed, Edwin Poots of the DUP declared the proposed costings of the Irish language act as reasonable in 2017.
Dr Dingley describes the language as economically useless; does he apply the same assessment to other elements of culture? Perhaps all arts funding should be cut.
To conflate Irish with republicanism and Catholicism is to do it a great disservice. It is an ancient language, rooted in this place and it has shaped our mythology, our names, our placenames, and even the way we speak in English (‘I’m only after doing that’, ‘They were giving off’, etc.).
The Irish language belongs to everyone in Northern Ireland, irrespective of religion or politics. Promoting it would strengthen Unionism, not weaken it.
Unionism lacks a positive, inclusive vision. Reaching out to the Irish language could help change this by making Northern Ireland less of a cold house to Irish speakers, and rather a more diverse, inclusive and open-minded place.
The Union cannot, and does not deserve to, survive if it continues to be defined by exclusion rather than inclusion.
Is mise le meas/yours sincerely,
With many thanks to the: Belfast News Letter and Dr Rónán Davison-Kernan, Edenderry for the original letter posted to the Belfast News Letter