Monday, May 15, 2017

Ancestral Voices, Bad Blood and Contested Shores in Ulster

Ulster Scots, Gaelic, Northern Ireland

Some considerably edgy kulturkampf over the civic funding of Gaelic in Northern Ireland of late - a fascinating subject in its own right with regard to the reach and endurance of the languages in modern Ireland and Scotland, where it sits linguistically alongside Welsh within the British Isles' Book of Invasions, the undeniably politicised dynamics of its usage in modern Ulster and the logic behind the current outreach to learners from the Protestant tradition in the North.

Yet there is still so little comprehensible clarification in the midst as to the actual linkage between Irish and Scottish Gaelic as it relates to the history of the Irish Gaels' footprint in Western Scotland, King James I's Protestant Plantation of Ireland or even the concept of a Pictish settlement in Ulster back in long ago and far away ancient times. A member of the public tried to comment intelligently and analytically on this last week on a BBC Radio Ulster phone-in I was listening to and obviously exhausted the presenter's 21st Century attention span very quickly.

Certainly whereas the promotion of Ulster Scots dialect since the Eighties may well have proved an essentially mischievous driver of cultural regeneration for northern Unionists  it is quite clear in the outplay of Brexit that the concomitant notion of a specific Ulster Scots identity was significant, timely, underplayed and alas unappreciated. This particularly with regard to the role of Ulstermen at war and in North American history or even the role of Francis Hutcheson in the Scottish Enlightenment (born in Saintfield in County Down in 1694). Indeed the rebranding of The Troubles as an intra-Celtic/Irish-Scottish conflict (in however qualified remit) could have fundamentally redefined the bitterness in time between two peoples who essentially rub along "okay" in the scale of things.

Interesting book I have just finished on Northern Ireland history by the way was Richard Bourke's 2012 Peace in Ireland: The War of Ideas - not an easy read but an incredibly important contribution to the political debate in his presentation of the Ulster Troubles as a consequence of competing yet essentially legitimate conceptions of democracy as opposed to more routine readings of ethnic and religious fractures.

Will definitely look forward to similar enlightenment in years ahead as to what the previous decade of my London life was all about - how exactly the biblical demographic shifts, the Ponzi property scamming, the infrastructural collapse, the lack of a serious party political choice in a fundamentally flawed electoral system, the garnering urban aggression, faking of news and the frozen salaries together somehow positively underpinned my financial well-being from my considerable labours, my core liberality and my big scary grown-up faith in a better (albeit medium term) future.

Either way I will be reading such analysis at that point from a different location  - the lack of both a vanguard and a rearguard in our national political culture (as referenced some posts ago) have succeeded to such an extent that my thirty year sojourn in London now comes to an end. Saturday Buddha will commence World Broadcasts again soon from another place and a better tomorrow.....

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