Thursday, 18 December 2014

Madness in Omagh

The Ulster Herald reports on the language policy of the new Fermanagh and Omagh District Council, which "will see the new supercouncil embrace both Irish and English on letterheads, signage and on vehicles such as bin lorries".

The Blether Region thinks that the new council got it right. Unionists on the shadow body had backed a trilingual arrangement including Ulster Scots, but there have never been any Scots-speaking communities in Fermanagh — and few enough in Tyrone — and in any case some of the versions of the local dialect used in Omagh before have been ludicrously offensive to native speakers. Their intervention seems, as so often with the leid on this side of the Sheuch, to have been a calculated water-muddying exercise.

That wasn't the only daftness, however. One section of the article caught the Blether Region's eye and can't be left without comment.
"During the meeting, Sinn Féin stated that the party's preferred position was using the Irish language only on signage [...] agreeing to the inclusion of English as a compromise."
While that may have been said mid-flyte, arguing that signs should be Irish-only is every bit as bad as arguing that the language should be excluded. English-speakers have human rights too, after all. Not only that, but doing so confirms every cliché about Irish being symbolic and used mainly as a territorial marker (in this case, marking ownership of the council), as well as making it far less likely that progress will be made by language activists in areas farther east in which those with Irish-speaking relatives form a distinct minority. Indeed, since most Nationalists are monoglot English-speakers, one sure result of an Irish-only policy would be to make many of them line up behind its Unionist opposite.

People who use the language in such a way are addicted to conflict and need to have a long, hard think.

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