Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Gaoltacht Irish?

In the classic 1961 POW comedy Very Important Person, Scots soldier "Jock" Everett (Stanley Baxter) is contemptuously referred to as an "englisches Schwein" by a bullying Nazi prison guard. The unfortunate German could hardly have predicted the response: Jock angrily retorts that he is a "schottisches Schwein".

Almost exactly 50 years later, controversy has broken out about Northern Ireland Justice Minister David Ford's plans to remove Prison Service emblems. Sole TUV MLA Jim Allister has stated, no doubt correctly, that many Unionists would be "appalled", while First Minister Peter Robinson has even threatened to resign.

The Blether Region is slightly in favour of Mr. Ford's moves towards neutral political symbolism. Why only slightly? Because, as we have seen, its flip side is the Alliance Party's doctrinaire and paternalistic refusal — decades after Wales and Scotland bit the bullet — to countenance bilingual signage, either everywhere, in line with derivation, or, as a compromise, only in those areas where a substantial majority of people have shown themselves to be in favour.

Indeed, the Blether Region is perplexed at the ritualised nonsense surrounding Derry/Londonderry. Surely for cultural nationalists the choice should be between "Doire" and "Doire Cholm Cille".

In that spirit, here's to the inclusion of Irish-langugage signs in the prisons of A Soilse Banríon Ríocht Aontaithe na Breataine Móire agus Thuaisceart Éireann — a compromise that should (in an ideal world) please Unionists and Nationalists alike, even if it displeases Mr. Ford.

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