Letters to the Editor

Belfast council launching functioning, evolving language policy

TODAY Belfast City Council will take steps to achieve what the stalled talks at Stormont have so far failed to do – launch a functioning, evolving language policy.

After months of language-based issues dominating the headlines, Belfast City Council is leading the way in delivering for all citizens, showing how a joint-up approach can deliver an inclusive outcome for everyone. After all, language defines who we are, so it is only right that we celebrate it.

As a multi-cultural city, the streets of Belfast regularly come alive with the sounds of different languages and dialects – something the council recognised when it first started consulting on what shape the city’s new language policy should take.

The strategy delivers for Ulster Scots and minority languages, including sign language, but the main focus is likely to be on the Irish language. Despite the political football the Irish language has become, it is worth remembering it’s simply not for one side of our community, but remains part of our shared culture and heritage.

A unified proposal, if given the go ahead will start to see small changes, such as seeing tourism and cultural initiatives promoted through Irish and the use of Irish language when it comes to everyday use of council services, facilities and events. In everyday practice this means things like the development of an Irish language micro site within the website, the provision of an Irish language or bilingual version of press statements to the Irish language media as appropriate and recognising the practice of speaking Irish in the council chamber.

To help deliver this the opportunity is also there to appoint an Irish language officer, with the help of Foras na Gaeilge, at a maximum cost of £20,000 to the council. But this is only the beginning. Alliance wants to see an end to the politicising of the Irish language and the often offensive characterisation of the language and its speakers.

This will only be achieved if the language is promoted outside traditional means, opening it up to currently closed doors, making it a true part of our city. But this is only one part of a longterm strategy to see the open and diverse city that Belfast has become reflected in how it is governed.

Many other languages have a place in our city and Alliance will be pushing to establish an ethnic minority language forum to hear from speakers how we can best serve them. Language and culture plays an important role in our city. As our recently launched language policy for the city states – Tús maith, leath na hoibre – a good start is half the work. Once the policy is approved, you will have your chance to have your say when the document goes out to public consultation.

Cllr MICHAEL LONG
Alliance,
Belfast City Council

 

Attack on AOH over wreath laying was bitter and unjustified

BY the time I had waded through the vitriol of Frank McElroy’s letter (April 14) attacking the Ancient Order of Hibernians, I was left wondering what, exactly, was the point he was trying to make?

One might have imagined that Mr McElroy, whose adherence to equality and inclusiveness is implicit, would have sought to show solidarity with the AOH for wanting to lay a wreath at the Garden of Remembrance in Carrickmore in honour of a 1916 patriot.

The patriot in question, Edward Walsh, was a member of the AOH who fought with the Hibernian Rifles in central Dublin during the Easter Rising. Defending an outpost, Brother Walsh together with his eldest son and a handful of other members repelled a large force of British military that was attempting to advance on the GPO.

In the course of the Easter Tuesday fighting he was wounded in action and died a short time later. Following his death, the Commander of the Hibernian Rifles gave his son permission to return home. The younger Walsh chose instead to remain with his fellow Hibernians at the GPO where they stayed and fought until the end of the rising. As the role and sacrifice of the Hibernian Rifles in 1916 has been largely forgotten, the newly revitalised Tyrone AOH decided this year to pay homage to the memory of our fellow Hibernian, Brother Walsh, by laying a wreath in his honour on Easter Tuesday.

As many of us are dyed-in-the-wool republicans it was only natural that we should assemble on the familiar ground of the Tyrone Garden of Remembrance, which is open to all. Instead of welcoming this gesture, Frank McElroy chose instead to be ungracious.

His mockery extended into baseless accusations against the fathers and grandfathers of his neighbours in and around Carrickmore simply because they were members of one of the strongest AOH divisions in Tyrone at the time. His bitterness is unjustified.

The Hibernian tradition has deep roots in Tyrone, going back to the time of the Gaelic chieftains. Our motto of ‘Faith and Fatherland’ is as strong as ever and we will continue to honour the sacrifices of both our Catholic martyrs and Irish patriots.

GERRY McGEOUGH
President, Tyrone AOH,
An Brentur,
Tír Eoghain

 

Smile and be productive

IT seems that the politicians in NI are acting out all the faults which have contributed to the rise in extremism and disenchantment with democratic politics through large parts of the western world.

They fly in the face of general public opinion, against the evidence, both local and worldwide, against the recommendations of the experts that they employ. Like the EU bureaucrats they are comfortable with their positions, pay and lack of real accountability.

Examples are legion, I think of the Energy from Waste project which would have solved many problems and been financial contributors to our economy, stopped by Sinn Féin against all the Europe wide experience; the recommendations for Health Service improvements widely approved, but stalled by intransigence and lack of leadership; educational under performance stalled by vested interests, this not only is wasteful but produces another generation of state dependency.

The politicians must lead positively, with a smile on their faces, positive words embracing change and a refusal to insult people with whom they disagree.

We never see them as ordinary people who want to get on with their neighbours and with those who maybe are not-so-near neighbours; who want to enjoy the benefits of living here. Let us, as taxpayers, exhort the politicians to change and improve.

TOM EKIN
Belfast
BT9

 

Pen name attribution withdrawn

I REFER to my letter entitled ‘Wrong to try and pigeonhole people as unionist or nationalist’ which was published in The Irish News issue of April 18. The letter was my response to a letter from Eamonn MacGrianna (April 3) who cited an article entitled ‘Alliance Party: the ‘centrist’ soft unionist deception’ by Ruaidri Ua Conchobair.

Before writing my letter I Googled that article and discovered that it appeared on the website of Jude Collins, the writer and broadcaster. The wording on the blog seemed to suggest or imply that Jude Collins was the author of the article under a pen name of Ruaidri Ua Conchobar.

That is why in my letter (April 18) I placed in brackets after the Irish name, the words ‘better known as Jude Collins’. I understand that Jude Collins says that he has never used a pen name of ‘Ruaidri Ua Conchobair’. That being the case, I am content to withdraw the bracketed words from my letter.

JIM HENDRON
Belfast
BT5

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Letters to the Editor