Wednesday 16 October 2019

Political spiel is a vastly different language to the one we all know and love

'Amazingly, not even one pupil in the whole of the North of Ireland is studying Ulster Scots in
the classroom.' (Stock picture)
'Amazingly, not even one pupil in the whole of the North of Ireland is studying Ulster Scots in the classroom.' (Stock picture)
Billy Keane

Billy Keane

The DUP is back up on the high horse looking down like King Billy at the Boyne.

We all have our troubles. The talks about the reopening of the Assembly in Stormont are going on in the North again this weekend and deadlines have been missed. If I missed as many deadlines as the northern politicians, I would have been fired years ago. The row is over civil rights. The Irish language is our native tongue, yet our people in the North are being victimised, while just over the Border, Irish is an official language with Gaeltachts in Donegal. Freedom of expression is taken for granted here in the south. For many in the North, the lack of respect shown to our beloved language is akin to banning people from playing Gaelic football and hurling.

Irish is the richest of languages. Some of the most wonderfully vivid literature ever penned anywhere has been written in the Irish language. Spoken Irish is expressive and mellifluous. The DUP has never really tried to understand why it is our people in the North are so passionate about our native language. There is a serious and worrying lack of respect and intellect.

The SDLP and the Alliance Party support the passing of an Irish Language Act. So this is not some sort of publicity stunt by Sinn Féin. Gerry Adams speaks Irish at every opportunity. He is sincere in his love of the language. The DUP had better be careful. Sinn Féin will pull from government if Irish is not given equal status.

There's a twist. The DUP wants recognition for Ulster 'Gallic', which may or may not be a language. Ulster 'Gallic' reads a little like Robbie Burns and his lines "the best-laid schemes o' mice an 'men, Gang aft agley, An'lea'e us nought but grief an' pain" were never more relevant. There are mice and men in the North, and right now the time-trapped mice are winning.

Picture the scene. Arlene breaks in to Ulster Scots. "Whit's wrang with yie?" she asks the nationalists. "The talkin' is langer and langer."

This faking-it love of Ulster Scots is only all put on, and for show, like the Fianna Fáil politicians of 30 years ago who always started off the rousing speech with two sentences of all the Irish they knew. We had better translate. "Langer" means longer, and has no connection to the Cork word of the same name. In Cork, langer describes the male appendage, or a not so nice person, known as a bollix in the vernacular. In the plural, "langers" means drunkenness.

"Whit's wrang with yie?" means "what's wrong with you?" And whit's wrang with that langer Gregory Campbell?

Gregory of the DUP pronounced "go raibh maith agat Ceann Comhairle" (thank you Mr Speaker) as "curry my yoghurt can coca colayer".

Gregory has stumbled on a particularly fine recipe. Yoghurt is often used in curries and coke goes with everything. Well done Gregory. Some achievement for a man who acts likes he failed mala in kindergarten. Mala is the Irish word for play dough, and Greg, it's pronounced maw-laah.

And so Gregory proved he's morally bereft and intellectually illiterate in both Irish and English.

Amazingly, not even one pupil in the whole of the North of Ireland is studying Ulster Scots in the classroom. There are 6,000 attending Gael scoils (Irish language schools). If you were looking for a soft touch in the A levels, Ulster Scots is your man, with words like "oxter" and "wee" being claimed as part of the vernacular. There isn't even an Ulster Scots dictionary.

Good luck to anyone who wants to use the Ulster Scots words and fair play to them too, but to compare Ulster Scots to the Irish language is a nonsense. Irish is a living and vibrant language, both north and south. And what's the harm in allowing people the right to savour such a beautiful mother tongue?

Some will point to the information gleaned from the census forms and will claim Ulster Scots is in common use. One thing is for certain, and it is if all the self-assessed, and in Irish too, were subjected to an oral exam, the failure rate would be very high indeed.

There's another deadline fast approaching. July 12 is only weeks away. The sensible politicians, and there are some in the DUP, know how important it is to have a government in place by the beginning of the marching season when old prejudices are resurrected, and the terrifying thump of the Lambeg brings back memories of repression and bullying. The DUP seems to equate the introduction of legislation giving equal status to the Irish language as being in some way comparable to the banning of marches passing through Catholic areas. But no one was ever killed or ghettoised by the Irish language. There is no hidden agenda. The love of language is handed down heritage. The DUP should realise the granting of the long-promised language civil rights bill will actually result in a victory for democracy and law and order. It was 25 years ago, around now, and I was working up north as a salesman. The pharmacist gave me the time of day. Billy means a lot more in Ulster protestant villages than it does in Kerry.

The pharmacist was a lovely lady and we had a great chat. She had never heard of Kerry though, and this intelligent, well-educated woman was only in Dublin just the once. That insularity is still there. And it's such a pity the very many good people on both sides do no not try to make more of an effort to gain some understanding of how the other half thinks and lives.

If the parties do not come to an agreement over the weekend, well then there will be a vacuum, and this void will not be filled by James Dyson. There is an Irish seanfhocail which is particularly apt. The DUP would do well to take heed of the ancient saying "is ar scath a cheile a mhaireann na daoine" - we all live in each other's shadow.

Irish Independent

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Don't Miss