Friday, 22 October 2010

Language Borders and Barriers

Wednesday's News Letter carries a piece headlined "You can speak Irish and support union". The article itself is not about language, but it is interesting that the sub-editor has seen fit to extract the issue from a longer sentence: "You can speak Irish, play gaelic football, be a Catholic and support the Union." Might it be that speaking Irish is considered the most artificially political of the three, perhaps even Republican? If so, that says a good deal about people's prejudices, as well as the fact that they don't know their neighbours. One (ostensibly liberal) Unionist pundit, Newton Emerson, even went as far as to make the bizarre claim in a BBC documentary broadcast on 17 March 2010 that no one in Northern Ireland habitually spoke the language. Not many Catholic friends there, then.

Of course one can speak Irish and support the Union, and there are Protestant and Unionist Irish-speakers to prove it. What neither the article nor the headline addresses (why would they?) is the question of whether, based on the sole criterion of the best deal for Irish, a voter would place his or her cross for the union. The Blether Region believes not. That said, given the way that things have panned out since 2007, it is equally possible that, offered the choice of self-government in the form of power-sharing devolution, that hypothetical voter might still opt for direct rule.

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