Thursday, 17 July 2014

Farewell, farewell

Slugger O'Toole has some interesting quotes from former Fianna Fáil Senator and TD Martin Mansergh. Much discussion has been taking place in Northern Ireland about the possible knock-on effects of Scots independence. Comments on Slugger tend not to be particularly informed, with undue weight accorded to the scare stories and biased poll analysis of the mainstream media and an unwarranted focus on the Orange Order, which, although clearly able to embarrass the "no" campaign, is fairly marginal to party politics at a national level in Scotland.

The Blether Region's interest had previously focussed on the effect on Catholic voting patterns, its assumption being that Protestants will continue to vote solidly for the Union but that Catholics' Unionism will be nipped in the bud — at a time when they are on the verge of forming a majority.

More recently friends have pointed out that Unionists are likely to be disconcerted by Scots independence and as a result move to the right — which will of course do even more to alienate Catholics from the UK.

Now, however, Martin Mansergh has made a very interesting point, and one that the Blether Region has to admit didn't occur to it.
"First Minister Peter Robinson has made it clear that if Scotland voted Yes, Northern Ireland would remain in the UK with England and Wales. While it might lead to some rethinking of Ulster-Scots as a pillar of unionist identity, it is unlikely republicanism would gain new traction, despite any initial flurry of excitement."
Given the fact that Ulster Scots remains an extremely problematic emblem of Unionism, with many ordinary Protestants opposed either reflexively or on the basis of the movement's clear lack of linguistic professionalism, there could be pressure for the Ulster-Scots Agency and similar bodies to be scrapped. Were that to happen, though Ulster Scots would be diminished, it wouldn't disappear as a phenomenon. Even the more extreme activists in a linguistic sense, regardless of what inspired them in the first place, are likely to have internalised their aims and probably don't know how mad they are — umlauts and graves can seem very normal after a while if you're writing them every day — and there are of course also Catholics and non-political enthusiasts interested in Scots.

Against disestablishment, one would also have to consider the economic benefit to the many non-linguist Unionist politicians with both a large and small "p" who have inveigled themselves into publicly funded posts and expenses regimes on the basis of Ulster-Scots "culture".

What we could see, therefore, is the linguistic aims of the Ulster-Scots movement being scaled back. However, an equally plausible result might be a re-alignment of less ideological Unionists behind the more extreme elements that aim to make Ulster Scots into a distinct language — an angry farewell to Scotland and to moderation.

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