The Angrytown News™ has long regarded the notion of an officially funded West Belfast Gaeltacht Quarter as the empire building aspiration of a failed politik.
This week the bones of that slavish protectionism and a desparate attempt to lay claim to a language were laid bare in the shape of a blog by well known and respected gaelgoir Gearoid O’Caireallian (apologies, I’m shit with fadas) which appeared in the Belfast Media online version of the Andersonstown News.
Put simply Gearoid is calling for a boycott of the college at Loch an Iuir because students were attacked by a crowd of locals during the college term this summer.
Let us be absolutely clear – there is no excuse for attacks on young people who are simply attending a college to learn the Irish language. Neither can there be any excuse for someone like Gearoid, whose son was attending said college, to sensationalize this incident as some sort of worrying development or new trend as a means to posit the ridiculous notion “Perhaps it is time to turn the whole situation around and start up our own summer college here in West Belfast. (I’m pretty sure that you will hear more Irish spoken on the Falls Road than outside the chippie in Loch an Iúir) and let the thugs go without”.
I myself, together with thousands of other gaeltacht students over the years, recall only too clearly the ceilidh mor night shenannigans and fisticuffs between the locals the “Scotchies” and students.
It is extremely disingenuous, not to mention politically opportunistic, for Gearoid to imply that this is a new phenomenon – for it is not. It has, from personal experience, been de rigeur since at least 1975 in certain collaiste (specifically Machaire Rabhartaigh) and for Gearoid to state that he is unaware of such behaviours despite his having “been visiting the Donegal Gaeltacht all my life” is beyond ridiculous.
If Gearoid is going to campaign for a West Belfast Gaeltacht summer school then fair play to him and I wish him well – but for fuck sake lets not pretend that there is some sort of sanctity in the purported “value” of a West Belfast gaeltacht built on the false premise of “safety” or excellence for the students who might attend same.
That said, if I were in his position and I thought for a second that a son or daughter of mine were in danger of suffering physical harm resulting from their being in a place rife with “anti-Northern bias” then I think I’d be spending my time arranging for his or her safe transport home rather than spouting vitriol through the Belfast Media site.
Perhaps Gearoid has spent his entire life oblivious to the behaviours of individuals around him in West Belfast? Perhaps Gearoid has never heard of republican punishment beatings (strangely enough I am unable to source any reference prior to this particular incident, historical or otherwise, of Gearoid criticizing the abuse of children in the shape of “pre-meditated physical attack(s) by grown men on children” and God knows there was enough of it going on).
He also appears oblivious to the fact that week in week out the RVH accident and emergency unit is inundated with casualties suffering from stab wounds, glassings and physical assaults carried out on the very same Falls Road / West Belfast demographic which he considers to be “safer” than Loch an Iuir simply because it suits a certain agenda.
That agenda is, of course, to promote at any cost and by whatever tenuous means, the fantastical notion that a West Belfast Gaeltacht area will be a thing of cultural importance and beauty on a par with Mecca or the gates of Jerusalem or indeed the Vatican. Look out Darby O’Gill.
The subtext of Gearoids‘ message is clear. He wants a gaeltacht in West Belfast at any cost – including, it would appear, his own integrity which up until the publication of this particular rant by him I held in great esteem.
Lets not fool ourselves. Whilst Gearoids opinion is his own certain political parties have for years been making political and populist gain by aligning themselves with and peddling the myth of a West Belfast Gaeltacht / Gaeltacht quarter in the name of sustaining Irish culture.
As an Irishman and gaelgoir I am bemused – and somewhat embarrassed -by the fact that the citybound view of said quarter from its Falls Road beginnings at the top of Broadway consists of a Manchester United supporters bar (“An diabhal dearg” – “The red devil” as pictured above), a Chinese takeaway, a pizzeria and an off licence (admittedly a far greater selection of places to stand outside and chat in irish than the simpleand unremarkable chippie in Loch an Iúir) .
Someone is having a fucking laugh.
Throughout the Troubles™ families in Gaoth Dobhair hosted young men and women from West Belfast and beyond and taught them the Irish language whilst their parents dealt with the reality of the Troubles™ back at home. Yes, these people were remunerated for providing bed, board and the cultural experience of an irish speaking environment, is there something wrong with that?
What parent in his or her right mind, in a position to be able to afford to do so, would not have taken advantage of the opportunity to send their children off to the comparative safety of Donegal for three weeks during the summer – especially during the July “silly season”?
Sinn Fein and the republican movement were keen to capitalize on the heightened nationalist / republican awareness which this created in certain young people and they exploited it to the extreme.
It is disgusting that the irish language is beingkicked around as a political football simply because some ex republicans who are now in the pay / pocket of Stormont think it’s a good idea to win votes.
Fuck Sinn Fein and fuck their populist quasi linguistic trendiness.
The people of Gaoth Dobhair taught us well during those summer & easter weeks and they taught us more than a few opportunistic provie catch phrases and republican war crys . For that I and many others are eternally grateful. We owe them a debt of gratitude for they kept us safe from harm for three weeks each year. Safe from the bombings, shootings, murders and punishment beatings being meted out by the friends of those who now stalk the corridors of Stormont.
That Sinn Fein have managed to politicise the language in exchange for a few Government shillings speaks volumes of their intentions. Perhaps more worrying is the very fact that people would seek to demonize and put at risk the sustainability of an entire rural community by proposing a boycott over the head of a single incident. It smacks of desperation and opportunism at its very lowest level.
Ta dioma orm. Mo naire ort.