Jude Collins

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Unionists, the Irish language and all that

I'm looking forward to a talk near the end of the month by Robert McMillen. He's the guy who writes the weekly cupla focal column in the VO and he's going to be talking about the politicization of the Irish language. Wonderful. Because the last time I tried talking to a prominent Gaeilgeoir about this, he responded as though I had said something particularly tasteless  about his mother.  I was using my newly-bought Flip video-recorder at the time - giving  it a trial run, as it were. Everything went swimmingly until, about thirty seconds into the conversation, I mentioned that the resurgence in Irish -speaking in these parts was 95%+ Catholics/nationalists/republicans and tended not to include Protestants/unionists. Why, I wondered aloud, was that? At which point what had been a cheerful conversation became a suddenly-ended conversation. Remember the Robin Day interview with your man the British Minister for War or whatever he was called, during the Malvinas/Falklands conflict of the 1980s? The bit where the Minister  stood up, disentangled himself from the microphone on his lapel and stormed from the studio, muttering? It was a bit like that, only my interviewee told me I'd have to delete what I'd recorded, and do so NOW. I was so taken aback, I had to explain I'd forgotten how to delete, but promised I wouldn't use what I had recorded. He stormed away, lips moving inaudibly.

I suppose it comes down to which school of thought you belong to. There are those who look at uncomfortable facts and decide that the best way of making them more comfortable is to leave them alone, not pick at the scab. And there are those who believe that if you don't attack a problem, it'll get  bigger and nastier.

I'm convinced that we're living in a time when the Irish people of the north, nationalist/republican and unionist, are moving towards each other in a unique way. This, mind you, despite the fact that not twenty-four hours ago, I passed a group of thick-set young men putting up Apprentice Boy flags ('No Surrender'), union flags and 'Ulster' flags on lamp-post after lamp-post, extending for nearly a mile. Despite such knuckle-draggers, more thoughtful unionists are becoming increasingly aware of the cultural riches  all around them: Irish music, Irish dance,  the Irish language. What difference that increased awareness will make remains to be seen. Changed circumstances - independence in the south - led to some Protestants/unionists fleeing the place while others stayed and found they   they had an honoured part to play in the new southern state. Could it be that a parallel is occurring in the north today? That some unionists are marching to the same dreary old drum, while others are freeing themselves from the shackles of bunkerism,  climbing from the trenches to greet their fellow-countrymen?
Or is that just the post-Lent drink talking?


  1. Silim go mbeidh an freagra sin agat ag an leacht (ón méid aontachtóiri a bheas i láthair no nach mbheas i láthair)

  2. Just a quick question. What color is the sky in your world, Jude? Never mind the flip phone, get yourself a coffee grinder.