The way that Sinn Fein and Irish language activists behave, it is hard to think how unionism ever even came close to an Irish language act.
As if we didn’t have enough evidence in councils near the border of how Irish is used as a calculated statement to make Protestant minorities feel uncomfortable, now we have a fresh manufactured row over the use of Gaelic at Queen’s University in Belfast.
The acting vice-chancellor, James C McElnay has apologised for “any offence caused” by his letter to activists which appeared to suggest that bilingual signs would contravene equality policy. The activists had of course duly taken offence.
It is to be hoped that Queen’s continues to resist this provocative, sectarian plan to make the minority body of students from a Protestant or unionist background feel even more of a minority than they already do.
Not only are the Irish language activists in no way suffering disadvantage due to the lack of signs in Irish, but the real story of Queen’s has long been the dignified way that students from a Protestant background just keep their heads down amid the clearly dominant nationalist culture on campus.
A reverse situation, in which nationalist or Catholic students are visibly and uncomfortably in a minority would not be tolerated for five minutes.
It might be that if the student language activists make enough of a scene about their ‘rights’, they will get their way.
That is the pattern after all: Sinn Fein has shattered the prospect of local politics and local decision making with its disgraceful conduct over the last 14 months and its insistence that there be an Irish language act, yet still a host of influential voices including the Irish government have put pressure on unionists to buckle to that political blackmail.
As part of that a language act must be accepted to set in motion the first stages of a long bid to make Protestants across Northern Ireland feel as uncomfortable as they are currently made to feel in places where they are a minority.