Tuesday, February 13, 2018

No impinging on English speakers? At what cost?

The Right Honourable Arlene Isabel Foster MLA has said: "There won't be a stand-alone Irish Language Act ... What we are trying to find is an accommodation and a way forward that values those people who are Irish speakers but doesn't impinge on the lives of those who aren't Irish speakers and I think that's important." (See Video)

It would appear that a long long history of impinging those who are Irish speakers is to be defended by the Right Honourable Lady.

This is a list shared on social media. It will indeed be interesting to see how the new Sinn Féin leadership plan to remove the centuries of impingment on the lives of Irish speakers. The fact that the party has elected a leader who is not an Irish speaker (A first for this party?) hardly fills one with hope.

"People who support the call for an Irish Language Act have been asked to copy and paste these facts on their Facebook page, given that some sort of compromise deal looks likely to happen in the coming days. It is well worth looking at these facts to remind ourselves how the state has dealt with the Irish language historically and to realise why the Irish language community are wary, to say the least, of trusting the Unionist establishment to do the right thing about anything that concerns the language.

1893: Thomas Lea, Unionist MP, South Derry – Proposes that Irish should be banned in National Schools and in Courts.

1899: Dr John Mahaffy, Unionist based in Trinity College – Discourages teaching of Irish in Palles Report, suggesting it a mischievous waste of time and that Irish language literature had no academic or education value

1900: James Rentoul, Unionist MP for South Down – Expresses Irish has no value, opposes bilingual signage, and expresses a desire for Irish to die out.

1906: John Lonsdale, Unionist MP for Mid-Armagh, describes Conradh na Gaeilge as ‘inspired by hatred and all things English.’

1912: Unionist politicians bring forward a proposal that only English be used in any new parliament, in the courts, and in the Civil Service.

1922: New Unionist Government post partition states: “What do we want with the Irish Language here? There is no need for it at all.”

1922: Department of Education removes post of Irish Language Organiser: “There is no such thing as an organiser of Irish Language.”

1922/23: Grants paid to the Irish Teacher Training Colleges in Belfast removed; bilingual programme ceased in the Tyrone Gaeltacht.

1923: Lyn Report: Irish restricted to 90 minutes per week teaching in Primary School: “Irish occupies a preferential position for which, in our judgement, there is no justification.”

1923: New Education Act for Northern Ireland: Irish banned as an optional subject in 5th Standard. Numbers studying Irish decline by 50% within two years.

1926: Irish banned as an optional extra in Standards 3 and 4, 70% of students studying Irish have to cease their study of the language.

1927: Comhaltas Uladh told: “Lord Charlemount is a Minister of firmness and backbone and the members of the Gaelic League have found he is neither to be cajoled nor threatened into doing something which would be subversive of the true educational interests of the Province”.

1933: All payment towards the teaching of Irish in Primary Schools ceased. Would remain so for over 80 years.

1936: Lord Craigavon:What use is it here in this progressive busy part of the Empire to teach our children the Irish Language? What use would it be to them? Is it not leading them along a road which has no practical value? We have not stopped such teaching; we have stopped the grants – simply because we do not see that these boys being taught Irish would be any better citizens”

1942: Grand Lodge of Ireland (Orange Order): “That the Government of Northern Ireland be asked to remove from the Curriculum of the Ministry of Education the Irish language, and that no facilities be given in public, secondary or elementary schools for the teaching of such.”

In 1965 Irish speaking parents asked Dept of Education for a meeting to discuss opening the 1st Gaelscoil in Belfast. They were threatened with prison. Here is their request and the response:

"A deputation from the Gaelic speaking families in Belfast would appreciate a meeting with you (Dept. of Education, Dundonald House), to discuss the possibility of founding a primary school for their children."

Reply from John Benn, permanent secretary: "The Ministry would regard the fact that instruction was given entirely through the medium of "Gaelic" to constitute a ground for "complaint". I can now let you know that instruction given entirely through Gaelic would not constitute efficient and suitable instruction for the pupils". A complaint would therefore be served by the Ministry. If the proprietors do not remove the deficiency complained of, the ministry will formerly strike the school off the register. It is an OFFENCE against the law to conduct an unregistered school."

2016: A fisheries protection vessel had its Irish name replaced with its English translation because the executive department which owns it has a "single language policy".

2017: Arlene Foster:  'If you feed a crocodile it will keep coming back for more'

2018:  Queens LOL 1845 - "There is no price at which the Irish Language Act can be allowed into law."

The crocodiles are anxiously waiting.

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