A chara, I am writing to you to give my thoughts on the opinion piece by Maurice Fitzgerald (‘An Irish language act would be one of the most disastrous things that could happen to NI,’ July 10).
To begin, I find even the title of the piece to be nothing short of fear-mongering.
To suggest, after all that has happened in Northern Ireland’s history, that a piece of legislation to protect and promote a minority language would be “one of the most disastrous things that could happen to NI” and re-spark the violence seen over the last 40 years is, quite frankly, laughable.
Mr Fitzgerald begins his tirade with the unsupported and uneducated claim that the Irish language is beginning to take precedence over English in the republic.
I would like to remind your readers that this is certainly not the case – 1.7 million people may claim competency in the language south of the border, but with a figure of around 80,000 who say they use it daily outside the education system, this is not a language that is kicking English to the curb.
He goes on to say that people who have applied for planning permission in the Gaeltacht regions (not zones) were denied such due to their lack of fluency in Irish. This is, again, untrue.
The percentage of people in the Gaeltacht who can speak Irish is decreasing not because people are letting go of the language, but rather because of the sheer volume of monoglot English speakers moving in.
Moving on to his point about road sign translations, what Mr Fitzgerald fails to realise is that the place names of this entire island have as much meaning in English as a certain word we all know from Mary Poppins.
If anyone in Northern Ireland, Catholic or Protestant, nationalist or unionist, is to truly understand and appreciate where they call home, then the original Irish place names must be preserved and promoted. To be perfectly honest, if someone becomes so irate over the mere sight of a language, I think it says more about them than anything else.
Onto the matter of public sector quotas and government, people are not going to lose jobs to Irish speakers. In fact, new bilingual public-sector employees can essentially do two jobs for the price of one ie. deal with the public through both Irish and English.
When government documents are to be translated, which the majority of them won’t be much like the republic, they will adopt translation techniques already in place here, avoiding any starting confusion.
One translator for an assembly costs effectively nothing, and provides Irish speakers the right to use their language, native to this land, to engage with their own country’s government, as well as providing another stable job.
To conclude, this opinion piece by Mr Fitzpatrick is completely and utterly farcical, the language outrageous and hyperbolic, its arguments unsupported, unstructured, and chaotic and why it was published in the first place is beyond me.
It is nothing but scare tactics to convince non-Irish speakers that an ILA is to be feared, that it will shove Irish down their throats, and that it will breed a new generation of young radical paramilitaries that will terrorise the streets of Northern Ireland like before.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Tadhg Maloney, Slane, Co Meath