Jude Collins

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

My Country, 'Tis of Thee...

Language is the cement that holds our thoughts together, which is why I get twitchy when I hear it being misused, especially for political purposes. When Peter Robinson talks about ‘across the Province’ when he means ‘across Northern Ireland’ or when Sammy Wilson talks about the Mainland when he means the other island, it’s obvious what they’re trying to do. It flies in the face of the geographical facts but you kind of expect it from them. It’s a bit harder to take when you go to other sources and find the same thing. Wendy Austin of BBC Radio Ulster ( see what I mean? NI =Ulster) is still remembered with much mirth for her statement about the occasion on which she ‘drove into Ireland’. If you listen to RTE or read any of the 26-counties papers, you’ll get lots of references, often from southern politicians, to ‘the country’ or ‘the nation’, when in fact they mean the southern state (assuming that they recognize those of us living north of the border as Irish). But when I listened to a six-minute interview on RTE radio last week, I felt like giving up. It was with Gerry Adams, and he more than once referred to the economic problems of the 26 counties as those of ‘the country’. And no, he didn’t mean the entire country/island – he was definitely referring to the state south of the border. At a time when commentators are lining up to try to put the boot into Sinn Fein and in particular into Gerry Adams, I’m reluctant to be negative; but language moulds and makes thought, and Gerry should know that better than most.

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