THE uncompromising attitude recently shown by Unionist leaders towards the Irish language shocked those of us who once sort of believed that the Good Friday Agreement had transformed dyed in the wool hardliners into folk who encouraged the existence of opinions they did not agree with.
So, fair dues to the Indo/Sindo, which in a unique way recently gave an insight into the latest phase of Unionist pig-headedness. To do so, it sought the assistance of a former turf accountant and one time Fine Gael minister, Ivan Yates.
Using to-the-point language, Mr Yates informed dumbbells down South that the current crisis should be seen within the context of a football match, ‘Blue Glasgow Rangers versus green Celtic. Protestant versus Catholic.’ His wonderfully deft analogy explained in a jiff a highly complex political crisis!
Oh yes! Mr Yates was very much on the ball!
The Indo/Sindo man went on: the DUP and Sinn Féin had seized on Brexit to drive their individual tribal agendas; Sinn Féin seized upon a harder border to leverage a border poll for a united Ireland, while all the time driving home the core message that ‘Northern Ireland was a failed state, tribal rivalry trumping what is best for the community.’
Yes, that’s what it’s all about: tribal rivalry!
Was it any wonder then, he asked, that tribal rivalry people had turned people off, or made them tone deaf to the ‘incessant circular argument.’ (Hopefully, in such a sweeping assertion Mr Yates was not including his own TV3 discussion show. Scathing critics describe it is as boring as going to the toilet despite ‘its unique take on the big stories of the day’).
As for the ‘united Ireland’ canard, correct us if we’re wrong but is it not a fact that during the recent negotiations between Sinn Féin, Vardakar, Theresa May and the DUP, the incorporation of the North into a unitary state was not a feature of the talks?
If it had been, Unionists gleefully would have seized upon it as an issue of serious disagreement.
But for reasons best known to themselves, the Indo/Sindo and Mr Yates lazily threw ‘Irish unity’ into the debate like an old bone before coming to the earth-shattering conclusion that ‘tiresome tribal baggage was hindering progress’ in the North.
Now, the word ‘tribe’ has a very distinct definition and to suggest that Northerners were akin to a socio-political organisation consisting of a number of clans that had a natural tendency for violence – rather like the legendary man-eating natives of the Spice Islands – was … well … not nice.
On the other hand, perhaps Mr Yates did not have cannibals in mind but the mysterious Bedouins of the Euphrates who, according to ancient texts, were so chock-full of narrow-mindedness that travellers who encountered them ran the risk of being bored literally to death. Much in the same way that reports on the Six Counties bored the pants off Mr Yates and his readers in the Indo-Sindo!
All of which emphasises the failure of distinguished media commentators to make a coherent analysis of Unionism’s poisonous and deep-rooted antagonism towards the Irish language. Or is it that preconceived opinions are preferable to facts?
For instance, last year the DUP callously withdrew a £50,000 grant for underprivileged children to attend holiday courses in the Gaeltacht districts. No mention of this by Mr Yates.
Nor was there any reference to the comment from former Stormont culture minister, Gregory Campbell, who disgustingly warned nationalists in this fashion: ‘On behalf of our party, let me say clearly and slowly so that Catriona Ruane and Gerry Adams understand, we will never agree to an Irish Language Act and we will treat their entire wish list as no more than toilet paper. They better get used to it.’
Ignored too was the DUP’s manic readiness to believe the rumour that if an Irish Language Act were passed, Sinn Féin would replace Edward Carson’s statue at Stormont with one of Peig Sayers!
On another occasion, Sammy Wilson, now one of the ten ‘Honourable Friends’ who keep Theresa May’s minority government in power, said Irish was ‘a leprechaun language’ (Last month, he dismissed Our Taoiseach as a ‘nut case’).
And let’s not forget Sammy’s sidekick, Gregory Campbell who seems to debate according to the principle that a sneer is irrefutable. While discussing minority language policy, he infamously commented, ‘Curry my yoghurt can coca coalyer.’ It mockingly was meant to sound in Irish like ‘thank you, Speaker.’
Even the dogs in the street can see that the DUP lacks any sort of political philosophy, other than a collection of prejudices.
For instance, the official promotion of Welsh and Scots Gallic hasn’t undermined the character and culture of Wales and Scotland. Yet, according to the DUP, a Language Act would allow ‘Sinn Féin put a gun to the unionist head and say “move forward or else”.’
Putrid little statelet
Incredibly, an elite at Queen’s University shares the loony-toon ideology. Staff and students of the college’s Orange Order warned that an Irish Language Act had sinister ‘far-ranging ramifications’ that would impact negatively on what they quaintly called ‘the nation.’
Against such a background, Alex Maskey had a point when he referred to the Six Counties as a ‘putrid little statelet.’ For good measure, we also might throw onto the compost heap Mr Yates’ extraordinary depiction of Northern politics.
Not literally, surely?
And now for a wry smile, courtesy of The Times, which is an integral part of the British Establishment and an affectionate observer of the Royal Family. The following was spotted by a sharp-eyed reader from Clonakilty: ‘A heron has been feasting on the koi carp at Kensington Palace … As children, princes William and Harry fed the carp with their mother, Diana, Princess of Wales.’