[lg policy] OPINION: Good Friday Agreement hasn’t transformed dyed- in-the-wool hardliners

Harold Schiffman haroldfs at gmail.com
Tue Feb 27 10:43:34 EST 2018

OPINION: Good Friday Agreement hasn’t transformed dyed- in-the-wool
Monday, 26th February, 2018 12:00pm
[image: OPINION: Good Friday Agreement hasn’t transformed dyed- in-the-wool


THE uncompromising attitude recently shown by Unionist leaders towards the
Irish language shocked those of us who once sort of believed that the Good
Friday Agreement had transformed dyed in the wool hardliners into folk who
encouraged the existence of opinions they did not agree with.

So, fair dues to the *Indo/Sindo*, which in a unique way recently gave an
insight into the latest phase of Unionist pig-headedness. To do so, it
sought the assistance of a former turf accountant and one time Fine Gael
minister, Ivan Yates.

Using to-the-point language, Mr Yates informed dumbbells down South that
the current crisis should be seen within the context of a football match,
‘Blue Glasgow Rangers versus green Celtic. Protestant versus Catholic.’ His
wonderfully deft analogy explained in a jiff a highly complex political

 Oh yes! Mr Yates was very much on the ball!

The I*ndo/Sindo* man went on: the DUP and Sinn Féin had seized on Brexit to
drive their individual tribal agendas; Sinn Féin seized upon a harder
border to leverage a border poll for a united Ireland, while all the time
driving home the core message that ‘Northern Ireland was a failed state,
tribal rivalry trumping what is best for the community.’

Yes, that’s what it’s all about: tribal rivalry!

*Discussion fatigue*

Was it any wonder then, he asked, that tribal rivalry people had turned
people off, or made them tone deaf to the ‘incessant circular argument.’
(Hopefully, in such a sweeping assertion Mr Yates was not including his own
TV3 discussion show. Scathing critics describe it is as boring as going to
the toilet despite ‘its unique take on the big stories of the day’).

As for the ‘united Ireland’ canard, correct us if we’re wrong but is it not
a fact that during the recent negotiations between Sinn Féin, Vardakar,
Theresa May and the DUP, the incorporation of the North into a unitary
state was not a feature of the talks?

 If it had been, Unionists gleefully would have seized upon it as an issue
of serious disagreement.

*Tribal North*

But for reasons best known to themselves, the *Indo/Sindo* and Mr Yates
lazily threw ‘Irish unity’ into the debate like an old bone before coming
to the earth-shattering conclusion that ‘tiresome tribal baggage was
hindering progress’ in the North.

Now, the word ‘tribe’ has a very distinct definition and to suggest that
Northerners were akin to a socio-political organisation consisting of a
number of clans that had a natural tendency for violence – rather like the
legendary man-eating natives of the Spice Islands – was … well … not nice.

On the other hand, perhaps Mr Yates did not have cannibals in mind but the
mysterious Bedouins of the Euphrates who, according to ancient texts, were
so chock-full of narrow-mindedness that travellers who encountered them ran
the risk of being bored literally to death. Much in the same way that
reports on the Six Counties bored the pants off Mr Yates and his readers in
the *Indo-Sindo*!

All of which emphasises the failure of distinguished media commentators to
make a coherent analysis of  Unionism’s poisonous and deep-rooted
antagonism towards the Irish language. Or is it that preconceived opinions
are preferable to facts?

*Nasty stuff*

For instance, last year the DUP callously withdrew a £50,000 grant for
underprivileged children to attend holiday courses in the Gaeltacht
districts. No mention of this by Mr Yates.

Nor was there any reference to the comment from former Stormont culture
minister, Gregory Campbell, who disgustingly warned nationalists in this
fashion: ‘On behalf of our party, let me say clearly and slowly so that
Catriona Ruane and Gerry Adams understand, we will never agree to an Irish
Language Act and we will treat their entire wish list as no more than
toilet paper. They better get used to it.’

Ignored too was the DUP’s manic readiness to believe the rumour that if an
Irish Language Act were passed, Sinn Féin would replace Edward Carson’s
statue at Stormont with one of Peig Sayers!

On another occasion, Sammy Wilson, now one of the ten ‘Honourable Friends’
who keep Theresa May’s minority government in power, said Irish was ‘a
leprechaun language’ (Last month, he dismissed Our Taoiseach as a ‘nut

And let’s not forget Sammy’s sidekick, Gregory Campbell who seems to debate
according to the principle that a sneer is irrefutable. While discussing
minority language policy, he infamously commented, ‘Curry my yoghurt can
coca coalyer.’ It mockingly was meant to sound in Irish like ‘thank you,

Even the dogs in the street can see that the DUP lacks any sort of
political philosophy, other than a collection of prejudices.

For instance, the official promotion of Welsh and Scots Gallic hasn’t
undermined the character and culture of Wales and Scotland.  Yet, according
to the DUP, a Language Act would allow ‘Sinn Féin put a gun to the unionist
head and say “move forward or else”.’

*Putrid little statelet*

Incredibly, an elite at Queen’s University shares the loony-toon ideology.
Staff and students of the college’s Orange Order warned that an Irish
Language Act had sinister ‘far-ranging ramifications’ that would impact
negatively on what they quaintly called ‘the nation.’

Against such a background, Alex Maskey had a point when he referred to the
Six Counties as a ‘putrid little statelet.’  For good measure, we also
might throw onto the compost heap Mr Yates’ extraordinary depiction of
Northern politics.

*Not literally, surely?*

And now for a wry smile, courtesy of *The Times*, which is an integral part
of the British Establishment and an affectionate observer of the Royal
Family. The following was spotted by a sharp-eyed reader from Clonakilty:
‘A heron has been feasting on the koi carp at Kensington Palace … As
children, princes William and Harry fed the carp with their mother, Diana,
Princess of Wales.’
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 Harold F. Schiffman

Professor Emeritus of
 Dravidian Linguistics and Culture
Dept. of South Asia Studies
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6305

Phone:  (215) 898-7475
Fax:  (215) 573-2138

Email:  haroldfs at gmail.com

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