Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Acht na Gaeilge

The Blether Region has been browsing the collated responses to last year's consultation on an Irish language Act. Overall, readers will be pleased to know, some 94.7% of the almost 13,000 responses were in favour of bringing Northern Ireland into line with everywhere else. Indeed, when it came to the question of using the language in place-names, the figure was 95.9%.

Given the high number of responses received, evidence of a few duplicates here and there was perhaps to be expected. Overall, however, one is struck by just how much individual thought went into the submissions, and that's unsurprising too — if you go to the trouble of spending years learning a difficult language such as Irish, sending off a well-argued e-mail to DCAL on its behalf is the least you can do. Those few opposing the move, on the other hand — many of them from Loyal Orange Lodges — tend to be somewhat wortkarg. A high number also include the same mistaken use of "proscriptive" for "prescriptive" (although that could, of course, be the fault of DCAL transcribers).

And what result will this groundswell of public sentiment have? In the short term, precisely none, since the Unionist parties will vote against it. The Alliance Party will presumably support an Act — since it quite likes the idea of Irish, if not the reality — as might Basil McCrea. However, the Unionists can always use a petition of concern. Perhaps ironically, the best thing that could happen for the language is a breakdown of devolved government of sufficient length and permanence that the English Conservatives would feel compelled to legislate (they would no doubt introduce gay marriage and allow the abortion of headless foetuses while they were at it).

On the subject of English Conservatives, some years ago the Blether Region read extracts from Alan Clark's political diaries. In one memorable entry, he fantasised about employing torture and murder to keep Margaret Thatcher in power when she was ousted by her party. "Real blood, in other words. Fun, but a bit Angolan." was his judgment (wrong on so many levels, of course).

So how would the Blether Region describe the interaction of the Northern Ireland state with the native language of the province?

No fun, and a bit Turkish.

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