Thousands march for Irish language: Fight for real language rights for all

By Eóin Dawson and Maitiú de Hál (As Gaeilge)

Five years after the historic An Dream Dearg [the Red Crowd] march for Irish language rights, they repeated their Lá Dearg [Red Day] event on 21/05/2022, demanding ‘Cearta, Cothromas agus Cóir’ [Rights, Respect and Recognition]. The sequel is being lauded as an even greater success, with 17,000 marching from An Culturlann to Belfast City Hall. 

The crowd was made up of activists from across the island of Ireland, with over 20 buses from both North and South. In attendance were school children, many from local Gaelscoileanna (Irish medium schools), parents, teachers, youth and other Irish medium sector workers and other Irish speakers and supporters. The largest contingents however were made up of young people, who are increasingly radicalised by the consistent failure of politicians to meet their demands. 

While politicians might use language as a bargaining chip, as part of their divide and rule strategy,  participants were clearly conscious of the need for sensitivity. Organisers ensured that the crowd were mainly adorned with the group’s distinctive red, avoiding symbols traditionally associated with political republicanism or nationalism. 

The mood of the march was vibrant and hopeful, but without the passing of legislation, the Irish language community will remain “dearg le fearg” [red with anger]. Speakers talked of no longer being invisible and see the passing of legislation, giving Irish legal status in Northern Ireland, as a key step along the road to language rights. With the passing of such legislation through Westminster seems in sight, it seems likely that the next stage will unfold, moving from largely symbolic legal recognition, to concrete demands. 

The battle cry of the marchers; cearta teanga, cearta daonna is entirely correct, language rights are indeed human rights. Those rights extended to the Irish language sector, as many in the Irish language movement would attest, must be extended to Ulster-Scots as the other native language of the North. Rights which ensure the ability of foreign nationals to communicate and fully participate in society must also be promoted and protected. Human rights must be unqualified, with individuals and communities free to exercise them in whatever way they see fit, whilst respecting the rights of those who prefer not to participate.

While passing of legislation through Westminster is to be welcomed, the struggle for a fully funded plan to protect languages in the North is far from won. Such a struggle will inevitably bring activists into conflict with capitalism, which systematically represses minority languages. 

As far as some within An Dream Dearg are concerned, debate over the cost of provision of services “is over”. That remains to be seen. The struggle for Irish language rights is the struggle for a fully funded education system, with adequate spaces in appropriate, permanent build, safe schools for all children. It is funding for the arts, community and voluntary sector, with permanent jobs on decent wages for workers to sustainable deliver services.  This would mean a confrontation not just with parties like the DUP, who oppose language rights and have been implemented callous cuts to the sector, but with all Northern Ireland executive parties, including Sinn Fein. All five main parties’ ministers have in the past implemented cuts that have disproportionately affected workers and Irish languages services.  

In the struggle against capitalism, for rights and recognition, Irish speakers are not alone. The struggles for decent education and a vibrant art, community and voluntary sector are relevant to all working class people, regardless of cultural heritage or language background. The Ulster-Scots community must also be involved in the struggle for language rights. While recognizing that different speaking communities have different aspirations, both indigenous languages ​​must be freed from the narrow confines of sectarianism if we are to have a brighter future. These languages ​​do not belong to one community, orange or green. That means challenging forces on both sides of the sectarian divide, who seek to use language to divide. It also means where there is difference around the use of language for example of signage it should be resolved not on the basis of confrontation but dialogue and democratic discussions involving ordinary people and residents. 

Often Ulster-Scots is dismissed, as is Irish. These insults come from a misunderstanding of what language is and are only a step backwards. It is not a threat to any language community to advance another, indigenous or newcomer, to any other language community but the opposite.  These disputes are based on the cult of scarcity,  spread to divide us.

The best way to win these demands is through unity in struggle. This doesn’t mean prioritising one group’s demands over another, or minority groups being drowned out by the majority. Nor does it mean complete uniformity of demands. Language communities within a broader movement can remain unified, regardless of differing aspirations. Struggle underpinned by and organised around the principles of solidarity and democracy offer an avenue by which Irish speakers, Ulster-Scots, other minority language and English speakers can win real gains. 

Na mílte ag máirseáil ar son na Gaeilge: Troidimis ar son chearta teanga do chách

Le Eóin Dawson agus Maitiú de Hál

Cúig bliana i ndiaidh mhórshiúil stairiúil, An Dream Dearg ar son chearta teanga na Gaeilge, rinne siad an Lá Dearg arís ar 21/05/2022, ag éileamh ‘Cearta, Cothromas agus Cóir’. Tá an léirsiú is deireanaí á mholadh mar bhua níos mó, le 17,000 ag máirseáil ón Chultúrlann go Halla na Cathrach i mBéal Feirste.

Bhí an slua comhdhéanta de ghníomhaithe ó fud fad oileán na hÉireann, le breis agus 20 bus ó Thuaidh agus Dheas. Ina measc, bhi páistí scoile, go leor ó Ghaelscoileanna áitiúla, a dtuismitheoirí, a múinteoirí, oibrithe óige agus oibrithe eile san earnáil Ghaeilge agus cainteoirí agus lucht tacaíochta na Gaeilge. Bhí an grúpa is mó áfach comhdhéanta de dhaoine óga, atá ag éirí níos radacaithe de réir a chéile mar gheall ar theip leanúnach na bpolaiteoirí freastal ar a gcuid éileamh.

Cé go mbaineann polaiteoirí úsáid as an teanga mar shlis mhargaíochta, mar chuid dá straitéis deighilte agus rialach, bá léir go raibh na rannpháirtithe tuisceanach faoi chigilteacht na ceiste. Chinntigh an lucht eagraithe go raibh an slua maisithe den chuid is mó le dearg sainiúil an ghrúpa, ag seachaint siombailí a bhaineann le traidisiún an phoblachtachais pholaitiúil nó leis an náisiúnachas.

Bhí giúmar na máirseála bríomhar agus dóchasach, ach gan an reachtaíocht a rith, fanfaidh pobal na Gaeilge “dearg le fearg”. Labhair na cainteoirí faoi gan a bheith dofheicthe níos mó agus féachann siad ar rith na reachtaíochta, ag tabhairt stádas dlíthiúil don Ghaeilge sa Tuaisceart, mar phríomhchéim ar an bhóthar do chearta teanga. Agus reachtaíocht den tsórt sin á rith trí Westminster le feiceáil, is cosúil go dtiocfaidh an chéad chéim eile chun cinn, ag bogadh ó aitheantas dlíthiúil siombalach den chuid is mó, go héilimh inláimhsithe.

Ba é “cearta teanga, cearta daonna” rosc catha an tslua dheirg agus an ceart ar fad acu. Caithfidh na cearta sin atá le leathnú chuig an earnáil Ghaeilge, mar a aontóidh neart i ngluaiseacht na Gaeilge, a leathnú go dtí an Ultais mar an teanga dhúchais eile atá sa Tuaisceart. Caithfidh cearta a ligean do náisiúnaigh eachtrannacha cumarsáid a dhéanamh agus páirt iomlán a ghlacadh sa tsochaí curtha chun cinn agus a chosaint fosta. Caithfidh cearta daonna a bheith neamhcháilithe le hachan duine agus phobal saor chun iad a fheidhmiú cibé bealach is cuí leofa. Ag an am céanna, caithfear meas a thaispeáint do dhuine ar bith bhfear gan bheith páirteach.

Cé gur chóir fáilte a chur roimh an reachtaíocht a rith trí Westminster,  tá bealach fada romhainn sa streachailt ar son plean lánmhaoinithe  do theangacha an Tuaiscirt. Is cinnte go dtan chluas bhodharabharfaidh streachailt dá leithéid gníomhaithe i gcoimhlint leis an chaipitleachas, a chuireann srian ar theangacha mionlaigh go córasach.

De réir cuid daoine atá páirteach den Dream Dearg, tá an díospóireacht faoi chostas sholáthar seirbhísí “críochnaithe”.  Beidh le feiceáil, áfach. Is í streachailt chearta na Gaeilge an streachailt ar son chóras oideachais lánmhaoinithe, le neart spásanna i scoileanna atá fóirsteanach, buanthógála agus sábháilte d’achan pháiste. Is maoiniú é don earnáil ealaíon, phobail agus dheonach, le poist bhuana ar phá réasúnta d’oibrithe chun seirbhísí a sholáthar go hinbhuanaithe. Chiallódh sé seo coimhlint, ní amháin le páirtithe mar an DUP, atá dubh in éadan cearta teanga agus a rinne curtha ciorruithe geárr don earnáil, ach leis na páirtithe feidhmiúcháineach i dTionól Tuaisceart Éireann, Sinn Féin ina measc.  Airí ona cúig phríomh bpáirtithe a chur ciorruithe i bhfeidhm sa tréimhse seo caite, a rinne dochar díréireach le sheirbhísí Ghaeilge.

Sa streachailt in aghaidh an chaipitleachais, ar son cearta agus aitheantais, níl cainteoirí Gaeilge ina n-aonar. Baineann na streachailtí seo ar son oideachais mhaith agus earnáil bheoga ealaíne, phobail agus dheonach le gach duine den lucht oibre, is cuma a n-oidhreacht chultúrtha ná a gcúlra teanga. Caithfear an pobal Ultaise a thabhairt isteach sa streachailt ar son chearta teanga seo chomh maith. Cé go n-aithnítear go mbíonn mianta difriúla ag pobail labhartha dhifriúla, caithfear an dá theanga dhúchasacha a fhuascailt ó shrianta caola an tseicteachais más mian linn todhchaí níos gile bheith againn. Ní le pobal amháin, oráiste ná glas, na teangacha seo.  Is minic a dhéantar beag is fiú den Ultais ach is minic a dhéantar beag is fiú den Ghaeilge fosta.Tig na maslaí seo ón mhíthuiscint ar cad is teanga ann agus níl iontu ach céim chun cúil. Ní bagairt d’aon phobal teanga dul chun cinn pobal teanga eile, dúchasach nó nuathagtha, d’aon phobal teanga eile ach a mhalairt. Tá na haighnis seo bunaithe ar phisreog an ghanntanais a scaiptear chun muid a scoilteadh.

Is é an bealach is fearr chun na héilimh seo a bhaint amach ná aontacht sa streachailt. Ní chiallaíonn sé seo d’éilimh ghrúpa amháin a chur chun tosaigh thar ghrúpa eile, nó  a thabhairt do ghrúpaí mionlaigh  is muid ag tabhairt chluas éisteachta don tromlach ghlórach. Ní chiallaíonn sé  gurb ionann gach mian is éileamh.  Is féidir le pobail éagsúla teanga bheith mar chuid de ghluaiseacht níos leithne agus fanacht aontaithe, is ardmhianta éagsúla acu. Cuireann streachailt atá bunaithe ar, agus eagraithe timpeall phrionsabail na dlúthpháirtíochta agus an daonlathais bealach ar fáil inar féidir le cainteoirí Gaeilge, Ultaise, mionteangacha eile agus cainteoirí Béarla dul chun cinn dáiríre a fháil.

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