The protestors descended on Stormont yesterday (Tuesday) to highlight the ongoing campaign against the Irish language being waged by the two major unionist parties.
David McNarry of the Ulster Unionist Party who last week spoke of being ‘sick of listening to Stormont Minsters speaking in Irish’, yesterday put a draconian motion reminiscent of the Penal Laws or the Statutes of Kilkenny before the Stormont assembly. The motion called for members to refrain from using the Irish language in the assembly chamber, in committees and in written communication with their fellow MLA’s.
McNarry also reaffirmed the unionist will to veto an Irish language act, which activists hope will mirror their Welsh, Scottish and 26 County equivalents. Not being satisfied with attempting to stymie the proposed act, he now essentially seeks to ban the Irish language from the building, as it offends the bigoted sensibilities of him and his party members.
Although yesterday’s motion was defeated, its ideological content does not, and should not, surprise anyone given the long-standing history of this type of behaviour from the unionist parties. In this they are merely imitating British policy used the world over, whereby the culture of the dominated is slandered and demonised to assist in a process of cultural genocide.
We are still dealing with the outworking of that policy and the British surrogates perpetuate it to this day in Stormont.
The motion McNarry hoped to have passed contained the following:
“That this Assembly... objects to the proposal for an Irish Language Act... and calls on the FM and DFM (First and Deputy First Ministers) to request all members of the executive committee to recognise the sensitivities of using the Irish language by refraining from its use in the Assembly chamber, in committees and in written communication with MLAs.”
The Irish language campaigning organisation ACHT, along with school children from west Belfast’s Gaelscoil Na Móna and other language activists and organisations protested outside Stormont as the motion was heard inside.
ACHT spokersperson Ciarán Mac Giolla Bhéin said: “This motion not only contravenes ‘Article 73’ of the assembly regulations but also the Good Friday Agreement and the European Charter for Regional and Minority languages, both of which uphold the right to speak and learn Irish.”
“The use of indigenous languages is an internationally recognised human right that can't be held to ransom by anti-Irish racism or party political posturing. The Irish language community firmly believes that instances such as this highlight the necessity for a rights-based Irish language Act in the six counties.”
Mac Giolla Bhéin also stated that Tuesday's motion can't be taken in isolation and follows what he described as,“A month of vitrolic and hugely insulting racist anti-Irish attacks by senior elected representatives of both the UUP and DUP. This was epitomised by the deeply offensive racist mockery of DUP MLA Gregory Campbell last month where he disgracefully imitated an Irish phrase by saying 'Cori my yogi Bear, a can coca colya'.
“Such irresponsible and racist behaviour is totally unacceptable and wouldn’t be tolerated by any other linguistic or ethnic minority. The Irish langauge community is no different and deserve a complete retraction and apology from Mr Campbell.”
éirigí spokesperson Daithí Mac An Mhaistir expressed disgust at McNarry’s motion and reitirated éirígí’s support for the ACHT campaign.
“We in Ireland seem to live in a parallel reality, where elected government officials are allowed to use an unaccountable political office to slur and offend the cultural heritage of the vast majority of the country’s population.
“It defies belief that such a farcical administration can continue to exist whilst its members openly incite racism and bigotry, encouraging division and perpetuating a centuries old anti-Irish racism, which seems almost acceptable within its walls and in the media.
Daithí continued: “Were the same comments used by a racist politician against any other community in any other part of the world he or she would be stripped of office and escorted from the building, yet it seems that within the world of Six County assembly politics, basic human rights do not apply.
“éirigí commend the work of ACHT and of the language activists and school children who continue to stand up to a unionist hegemony and challenge it. We must always remember the words of Mairtín Ó Cadhain in pursuing and restoring our cultural rights; ‘Is í athghabháil na Gaeilge athgabháil na hÉireann. Is í athghabháil na hÉireann slánú na Gaeilge’.”
Go n’éirí linn.
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