Ulster Gaelic is in retreat compared to southern version

Letter to the editor
Letter to the editor

After reading the views of Ian Adamson (April 15) regarding an Irish language act and how it is tantamount to a betrayal I consider it necessary to expand on a key point of his, namely that of the De Valeran construction of the language.

What Mr Adamson omitted from his otherwise valid observation is that an Irish language act would not by any means include the southern melange that became known as Irish (down there).

When they were standardising Irish in the Free State (as it was at the time) they omitted the Ulster variants on account of their incompatibility with the southern versions, once again Ulster showed her colours to be different than that of the rest of the island.

I say ‘variants’ as opposed to ‘variant’ as there were still several types spoken at that point including Antrim Gaelic, which has been academically recorded as being identical to several (now extinct) Scottish dialects.

Again, Ulster shows its Dalriadan links with Scotland to be stronger than those with the south.

The irony here is that Ulster Gaelic (which is now pretty much Donegal Gaelic) is now on the retreat and unless something is done to stymie the decline then the southern version will be the sole Gaelic identity on the island.

Given that Ulster lost her musical style, her hurling (shinty) style and her folk dancing style (look at pre-partition photos of Ulster dancing, Michael Flatley they were not) to the south’s versions do we not owe it to our Ulster identity to retain what few distinctions we have left?

To use Mr Adamson’s parlance, to not support an Ulster Gaelic Act would indeed be a betrayal, a betrayal to all those Ulster men and women who proudly spoke the language until quite recently (the online census records of 1911 clearly indicate that thousands of Ulster Protestants spoke Ulster Gaelic, that is a fact).

I am struck by the irony that if he were alive today then Edward Carson himself would be opposed to an Ulster Gaelic Act on account of his being a fluent speaker of a Southern Irish dialect and hence not accommodated in any such Ulster orientated legislation.

Neale Weir, Formerly of Castledawson, Co Londonderry