Twelfth celebrates centuries of Irish persecution

Letter to the editor
Letter to the editor

In the News Letter’s front page ‘Morning View’ of February 15, the newspaper commends the DUP for not allowing the Irish language act (‘A grim moment, yes, but also a very necessary one,’ February 15).

On page 17 we see ‘Lodge Life: 147 days until the Twelfth of July’.

Is the irony not lost? The 12th celebrates the defeat of the native Gaelic speaking Catholic Irish and the centuries of persecution and neglect which followed, including the penal laws and the famine, by the colonial British empire.

It is a totally tasteless piece of provocation, a celebration of colonial triumph and exploitation.

The Irish language is a remaining part of the Celtic languages which once covered Europe from Anatolia to Donegal.

It is part of our European linguistic heritage and should be treasured as such by anyone with a modicum as part of our culture and heritage.

There are acts promoting Scots Gaelic, a sibling of Irish Gaelic in the ‘Q’ Celtic tongue, and Welsh, a ‘P’ Celtic cousin. What could be more British than nurturing and protecting an indigenous tongue of the British Isles?

Celtic languages were once spoken on the island of England, Wales and Scotland.

They were spoken relatively recently in the North West of England and Cornwall.

Manx would have been a close sibling of East Down Irish. Irish continued to be spoken in Lecale, South Down and Armagh and the Cooley peninsula until late in the 19th century. As can be seen in the BBC Two documentary on the Dungiven secondary school, the language is being successfully revived in the Sperrins, where it was spoken until very recently.

When St Paul wrote to the Galicians he was writing to a Celtic speaking people. When we enjoy Asterix the Gaul we are reading of the Celtic forebears of modern France.

In Donegal we nearly all speak Irish to a greater or lesser degree and it is seen as a culture to be loved and treasured as part of our identity.

At inter-cultural events in Donegal language lovers teach each other basic words from African and Asian languages and we reciprocate with basic Irish. It is all great fun and highly educational.

When I listen to the likes of Jim Allister and Arlene Foster it sounds as if they are boasting about their ignorance of the language.

They live in Ireland: the northern part of it. Ninety per cent of the place names are derived from Gaelic, including Belfast, Beal Feirste, where the ‘News Letter’ is published. Therefore why not learn it and enjoy the splendours of an ancient and beautiful tongue?

When I visit Wales I attempt to talk Welsh with the local Welsh speakers: it is only good manners.

I might be short in vocabulary but it is an attempt to show I appreciate the culture and history of the Welsh tongue. When the Welsh sing their national language with such gusto at rugby matches are they diluting their Britishness or enhancing it by singing in an indigenous tongue of Britain? Scotland has BBC Alba. Is this diluting the Britishness of the Scots when they show Scottish league football in Gaelic?

Sean O’Doibhilin, Letterkenny