Readers’ Blog: Will a dead language kill off hopes of devolution?

Sinn Féin will have to drastically relax their position on an Irish language Act, if devolution is to stand any chance in the North.

They might be able to get leeway on gay rights with unionists, but an Irish language Act would be divisive. Sinn Féin have recently confined themselves to selected rights, ignoring housing and worker rights, and also political rights, such as physical representation and accountability.

Much of the early republican campaign in the late ‘60s and ‘70s focused on housing and on worker rights.

Of course, as long as Sinn Féin renounce power-sharing, they do not have to represent anyone or be accountable. It is up to them to decide the agenda.

Gay issues are pervasive in modern popular culture; Irish language issues are not.

There is little discussion from Northern Ireland on a bill of rights: No big push from Sinn Féin on the right to housing, the right to a job, the right to medical care, the right to political reply, the right to electoral recall, if elected representatives do not take their seats or fail to perform.

In the Republic, the Irish language has been problematic: Its use in court cases for evidence and on official forms is troublesome; it is used on planning notices, when only a fraction of people understand it; English street signs are removed for Gaelic ones, though they bother no-one but fanatics; School children are mandated to learn Irish, against their wishes and that of their parents — all for the sake of a seldom-used or spoken tongue.

There is a great irony here. Sinn Féin are pushing for rights, while exercising no mandate, because they refuse to take their seats, either in Stormont or Westminster.

Sinn Féin are pushing for selected rights, while denying the right of their electorate to representation. The hypocrisy is crass.

Have Sinn Féin noticed the irony? It is arrogant of Sinn Féin to want a standalone Irish language Act, without areciprocal one being brought in for Ulster-Scots.

They are in cuckoo land, if they think unionists are going to agree on special treatment for one language and not for another.

We have seen the sour fruit of Irish on our statute books in the Republic and the bureaucracy is costing the taxpayer a fortune.

Irish/ Gaelic is everywhere, including in ATMs, where it is now necessary to select either Gaelic or English, by pressing an extra button to get to your account.

There may be wiggle room on gay rights, at some stage, but an Irish language Act is not going to fly with unionists, deadline or no deadline.

Will a moribund tongue put an end to devolutionary hopes?

Maurice Fitzgerald,


Co Cork

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