If the Newry, Mourne and Down Council is concerned about its officials dealing with its Gaelic speaking population, or those who would like to become Gaelic speaking, then an audit of its officials, and their willingness to acquire a competence in such is bound to raise the suspicions of staff and others expressed by Henry Reilly (Letters, February 12) in alerting the Equality Commission.
Bound to because the old Newry Council of the past, predominantly ‘nationalist’, like other such councils, behaved no differently from predominately ‘unionist’ ones in discriminating in favouring, with jobs and houses, those of the religious traditions deemed to be supportive politically.
In 1968 all it of its outdoor staff and its clerical workers were of the Roman Catholic tradition, as were all employed by the Port and Harbour Authority, and 18 teachers out of 20 in the Technical College, and 93 out of 101 hospital workers, despite Protestants at the time constituting 19% of the population. Protestants of various church traditions tend in general to have no more an interest in Gaelic than they have in Anglo-Saxon or that mishmash of Celtic, Anglo-Saxon, Germanic and Norman French, known as Old and Middle English.
The objective of the Newry, Mourne and Down Council does not require an audit, and a justified arousal of suspicion, with the consequent intervention of the Equality Commission. Its objective in meeting the needs of its Gaelic speaking population (or those who might aspire to be of such) could be met, more effectively and more cheaply, by appointing a few graduates competent in speaking and reading the Gaelic dialects (Ulster and Leinster) that are in use in the area, instead of an inquisition into attitudes and willingness on the part of all its officials to acquire a competence in such dialects at the Council’s expense.
W A Miller, Belfast BT13