Thursday, 22 April 2010

Three Thousand Versts of Loneliness

Owen Polley, alias Chekov, has reiterated a more positive Conservative attitude to the Irish language in his strangely titled blog, Three Thousand Versts of Loneliness.

It provides a further indication of fresh thinking in Tory circles and, perhaps, the beginnings of a more equitable approach to the issue. After all, at a community level Irish has more and stronger support than Scottish Gaelic. The difference in Scotland is that supporters and detractors are randomly distributed throughout the population. The language can claim many Scots Unionist enthusiasts, while it is not difficult to find Nationalists who place their emphasis on social or political issues, or who view Scots as the national and Gaelic as a regional tongue. The only logical conclusion as to why Irish is not similarly protected is the Catholicity of its devotees and the prejudiced application of a Unionist veto.

Chekov also finds time to remind us why so many people dislike the Tories:

"Unionists from both mainstream parties have adopted the questionable cause of 'Ulster Scots' in order to compete for a share of minority language funding. Even the Ulster Scots Agency has admitted, in a leaked document, that this guttural patois is 'wrongly [promoted] as a language distinct from Scots'."

As The Blether Region understands matters, the document in question was a submission to a consultation on the proposed Ulster-Scots Academy and was thus always going to be freely available at some point. Regardless of how it first appeared, the Agency must have known that when Jim Millar wrote it. Nor does the fact that Ulster Scots is a dialect of Scots make any difference when it comes to whether — rather than how — it should be promoted, since it is its relationship with English that is at issue. As for the reference to a "guttural patois", we take it that Mr. Polley is referring to the retention of fricatives in traditional Scots. Fricatives are of course also present, and rather more common, in Irish and Russian, which may explain why he has excised that found in what is more properly spelt "Chekhov".

Odd that even an enlightened Conservative has to introduce a note of class prejudice into a debate on culture.

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