Mind Our Language


This afternoon.

Parliament Buildings, Stormont, Belfast.

Taoiseach Leo Vardkar and UK Prime Minister Theresa May meet to try and restore the power sharing government in Northern Ireland.

The main sticking point preventing the restoration of an Executive is the Irish language.

Sinn Féin wants a stand-alone piece of legislation to protect speakers – an Irish Language Act – but the DUP has long insisted it would only countenance new laws if they also incorporate other cultures, such as Ulster Scots.

Finding a compromise resolution to the thorny language dispute that will satisfy both parties is key to breaking the Stormont deadlock…


Varadkar and May at Stormont for power-sharing talks (RTÉ)

Top pic: Rollingnews

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56 thoughts on “Mind Our Language

  1. Zaccone

    Agreeing with the DUP on anything makes me feel slightly ill but from the little I know of the above they seem to be in the right here. Scots-Gaelic is about as relevant as Gaelige, it makes sense to include both of them in any language act.

    1. Tony

      But it’s not Scots Gaelic is it? It’s the makey uppy Ulster Scots slanguage which is basically just speaking English with a Scottish accent and hating Catholics

        1. Tony

          But only for a laugh or if they’re ignorant or bigoted, or both. I guess if you said it it would be for a laugh, eh, David?

    2. edalicious

      Scots-Gaelic, yes, but Ulster Scots is a dialect at best. It’s basically just English with a strong accent.

    3. Zaccone

      Google tells me “Ulster Scots or Ulster-Scots (Ulstèr-Scotch), also known as Ullans, is the Scots language as spoken in parts of Ulster in Ireland”. And that the Scots language is Scots-Gaelic.

      That sounds pretty reasonable?

      1. Tony

        Nah. You’re just being obtuse. Do more of your google research or maybe look at some YouTube videos. Ulster Scots is not a language. It’s a dialect.

        1. Zaccone

          Well on the one hand every major website seems to define Ulster-Scots as being a dialect of Scots-Gaelic. Then on the other theres angry broadsheet comment writer Tony.

          Which to believe…

          1. Tony

            Ah Zaccy sweetheart, sure I’m not angry at all. I was just trying to tell you that Ulster Scots is a dialect, not a language. Languages and dialects aren’t the same but they are often confused.

            English, Irish, Scots Gaelic – these are languages

            Geordie, Scouse, Hiberno-English Ulster Scots – these are dialects.

            Do you see the difference?

          2. Alastair

            Ulster Scots is nothing to do with Scots-Gaelic. If you’ve any doubt, just listen to examples of both. Ulster Scots is essentially English, and while it undoubtedly qualifies as a dialect, it’s rather hampered by the reality that no-one who hears it would distinguish it from common or garden English. I’ve heard Donegal English dialects that were more challenging that Ulster Scots.

  2. Truth in the News

    The best solution is for the Shinners to negotiate in Irish and conduct their business in
    Irish…..it would not take long for Arlene “Kelly” to use her mother tongue.

      1. Janet, I ate my Avatar

        God dam predict…drop the auld H sure I have Hindus on the brain…

        The three Gaelic languages still spoken today, Irish, Scottish and Manx, all descend ultimately from primitive Irish. Gaelic is thought to be part of the Indo-European family of languages, believed by some to be derived from a single Indo-European parent language, though this has never been satisfactorily identified. Most scholars have argued to place the origins of the language some time around the third millenium BC, I would however propose a much earlier date, tying the languages to the megalithic culture of the Atlantic seaboard…

        1. Rob_G

          This is all quite interesting, but I still think it an awful waste:

          (i) the money and time spent (down south) teaching Irish that could be spent on more useful subjects

          (ii) the light and heat (up north) generated by Irish as a political football, in inverse proportion to the number of people who speak it/who have any interest in speaking it

          1. Gearóid

            I was in Belfast in November. In every shop and pub I was in that weekend, I heard the language spoken.

            Given the persecution speakers of the language were put under in that state since its inception, and the preceding centuries, I am impressed and heartened.

          2. Rob_G

            That’s funny; I’ve never heard it spoken once any time I was in the North (and seldom in the rest of Ireland either).

            I guess we move in different circles…

          3. kellma

            Irish is a “useful” subject. It is a beautiful language. We are lucky that we live in a country that affords us this wonderful asset. At the very least it gives us an amazing opportunity to understand language and language structure providing a fantastic base for learning other languages and also understanding more about how we communicate and the consequences of our way of communicating. You just don’t get this insight when you are only exposed to one language that you “know” as opposed to “understand”. And I can say that from when I was a child, the practice of using Irish is growing. It’s great!

          4. Rob_G

            @ Kellma

            – actually, I went to a Gaeilscoil and speak Irish fluently. But since leaving school I have had cause to use the language a handful of times.

            I have not found Irish useful in learning other languages, as it isn’t closely-related to any major languages. Learning French, on the other hand, has had many practical applications, and allows me to get by in Spanish.

            I think pupils would be better off learning French or German, which have many native speakers and are related to other major languages; the only practical application for learning Irish is to become an Irish language or a primary teacher.

            I agree that it is a beautiful language, but am not convinced that this justifies every pupil in the country spending 14 years learning it.

          5. ReproBertie

            Not only is Irish a beautiful language, and easier to learn than English, but the language of the people is the history of the people. We all know about the 50 words for snow but Irish has dozens of words for seaweed, rain and land because that was what mattered to the people. Obviously this isn’t critical to learning the language but it would be a terrible thing to lose just because someone thinks that 7 year old children need to learn something “more useful”.

          6. Rob_G

            “Not only is Irish a beautiful language, and easier to learn than English

            – this is demonstrably untrue. Though I think the reluctance of pupils to learn the language is based on the knowledge that the will no longer need the language upon leaving school.

          7. Cian

            I suspect that the only way to revive the Irish language is to make all primary schools Gaeilscoileanna. Don’t “teach” the kids how to speak Irish, immerse them in it and they will absorb it – it will be second nature.

          8. ReproBertie

            Actually Rob English is one of the hardest languages to learn. We’re just lucky to have been born into an English speaking country so we don’t realise how tough it is. Explain to a non-English speaker the difference pronunciation between book and moon for example or read and read.

            Irish, on the other hand, has easier grammar and is pronounced exactly as it is written making it easier to learn.

          9. kellma

            Personally, I don’t find Irish easier than English (ignoring the fact that English is still my first language). I speak moderate level French and fluent German (as well as fluent Irish) and whilst German is “famous” for its difficult grammar structure, I would be of the opinion that Irish grammar is more difficult. Anyway, that is a side point… And I agree that immersion is the way to go. My two smallies are in the Gaelscoil and they chatter away not a bother. It’s wonderful :) And somethings are priceless.

          10. Rob_G

            @Repro – I would have thought the declensions would have made Irish difficult (fear/fir/leithreas na bhfear)

            What English really has going for it is the benefits that learning the language brings. It allows you many opportunities for employment, you can access much more media and popular culture, it is the default language people use when you don’t speak the same language (such as on holidays and whatnot). It’s difficult to convince kids to learn their tuiseal ginideach if they are never going to to use it the minute they finish Irish Paper II of their leaving.

            @Cian – I agree that changing all schools to Gaeilscoileanna would be the way to improve standards, but at what cost, both opportunity and financial? Teachers unions almost busted a nut when it was suggested that primary teachers would need to have higher level maths; I am sure they would have a lot to say if all of their members were required to have fluent Irish. How much money would teachers (with some justification) want to be paid for this new responsibility?

          11. ReproBertie

            The declensions can be confusing at first but once you grasp the rules they are simple enough. More importantly, most people won’t pull others up on mistakes like fear or fir as most Irish speakers are happy to encourage its use. Immersion and use will help people hear when they are using the right word or version of the word so speaking the language and listening to it spoken is key.

          12. Cian

            @Rob, primary school teachers already need an honour in LC Irish to become a teacher. So there shouldn’t be any issues there (haha[1]).

            I think the bigger problem is that there are a lot of schools now with children of non-national, non-English speaking parents. So the kids are coming to schools with little/no English. To push both Irish and English on them may be problematic. Now I’m not sure how big a problem this really is – and possibly it is irrelevant.

            [1] haha haha haha ha

  3. david

    Do you actually think power sharing is what the DUP want when they have direct rule from Westminster and have the power of the orange card
    Sinn feinn need to cop on and take their seats in Westminster where they can play the green card
    As for Leo
    He is just the mouth piece of the Reich and boy as brexit heats up little Leo verruca will be shafted by the Reich
    Make no mistake Ireland needs to cop on for ate all downhill

      1. david

        No sign of power sharing?
        Wake up and smell the coffee
        The DUP have no intention of power sharing with a bunch of politicians who refuse to take their seats in Westminster

  4. some old queen

    I wonder if their salaries were cut would it ‘encourage’ an agreement? Wouldn’t it be nice if we all could take a year off as a matter of principle… on full pay?

  5. ReproBertie

    Sinn Féín are not the only party calling for the Irish Language Act. It suits the DUP narrative to pretend they are.


    The Irish language umbrella group, Pobal, has been focusing on the question of an Irish Language Act since 2003 and its chief executive, Janet Muller, said: “The Irish Language Act was promised in the St Andrews’ Agreement in 2006.

    Other Irish language groups have also lobbied for legislation which has the political support of both the SDLP and Sinn Féin.

    The Alliance Party supports the creation of a comprehensive languages act covering “indigenous languages and other spoken languages used within Northern Ireland, as well as various sign languages.

    But both main unionist parties oppose the proposed legislation.

    Irish language activists point out that the Gaelic Language Act protects Scottish Gaelic in Scotland, despite the fact that, according census figures, there are fewer speakers of Gaelic in Scotland than Irish in Northern Ireland.

  6. Iwerzon

    An Irish Language Act in the North might seem trivial to people and politicians in the Rep of Ireland, less important than other social issues affecting our society and not a priority. However, if a former colonial power was to forbid Dial Éireann from passing an Ácht Gaeilge, this issue would be top of every political agenda in the South.

    1. Rob_G

      “An Irish Language Act in the North might seem trivial to people and politicians in the Rep of Ireland”

      It certainly does – particularly when NI has some of the worst poverty levels in the UK.

      1. Iwerzon

        So when does something become relevant, do you draw a line at gerrymandering, housing inequality, suffrage discrimination, Civil Rights?

        1. some old queen

          Fair point and maybe it is the media representations but it just seems like everything in the north is about petty nationalistic point scoring, and by nationalism I mean both sides.

          The biggest employer by far is the British government and if you total all of those not working (unemployed, disability benefits etc) the figures are frightening. And yet, the two main parties keep propping each other up by squabbling about something that means very little, if anything, to most of the general public.

          Why couldn’t they have reached this agreement 15 months ago?

        2. Rob_G

          If there were more jobs in the north, there would be fewer people sitting around twiddling their thumbs waiting to be outraged by

          – ‘flegs’
          – real minority languages
          – made-up minority languages
          – people marching around playing tin whistles
          – the route that school girls walk to school along

          Employment should be SF’s and the DUP’s first priority, and none of the sideshows above.

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