Saturday, 31 October 2009

Irish blarney?

Today I came across an article from the 2 July edition of the Sinn Fein newspaper Republican News / An Phoblacht. In it the writer refers to Belfast City Cemetery and states that 'many of the graveyard's Protestant headstones bear Irish inscriptions'.

I found that somewhat surprising and so perhaps someone who is familiar with the graveyard can tell me just how many of the headstones do in fact have Irish inscriptions.  I know that there are a few Protestant headstones with inscriptions in Irish but is it true that there are 'many'?  Is it a fact or is it just another bit of Irish blarney from Sinn Fein?


  1. Minister, I'm not familiar with Belfast City Cemetery.

    However, I am quite familiar with St. Paul's Chapel (Episcopal) cemetery in lower Manhattan.

    There, we find two large memorial stones written in Irish. (They're not headstones as the deceased commemorated by them are buried elsewhere.)

    One is dedicated to the memory of Thomas Addis Emmett, himself a Protestant and the brother of Rob't Emmett. Sadly, it's a bit worn now and impossible to make out the Irish.

    The other, dedicated to Wm. Jas. Mc Nevin, is much more legible. Mc Nevin was a Catholic, but well-known and loved by the people at St. Paul's.

    I wouldn't rule out the possibility of Irish on a Protestant grave marker.

    Irish is a language, not a religious badge.

    Here, I'd like to recommend the following books:

    Hidden Ulster, Protestants and the Irish Language by Pádraig Ó Snodaigh

    Presbyterians and the Irish Language by Roger Blaney

    The Irish Language and the Unionist Tradition, edited by Pilib Mistéil

    Towards Inclusion: Protestants and the Irish Language by Ian Malcolm

    When you're next in New York, I'd be happy to show you our Lost Gaeltacht.

  2. Nelson knows full well that he should consult with former Mayor of Belfast, Tom Hartley, if he wants information on the graves of Belfast City Cemetery. I saw such an inscription in Irish on the grave of a once prominent Orangeman in that cemetery - were there more? Maybe? Maybe not? But there were no grave markers in the Ulster Scots, the 'language of Protestants‘ if we are to believe the Minister....

  3. “The Irish Language – Edwin Poots said that unionists have nothing to fear from the Irish language. It was Presbyterians that preserved the language for future generations. I know party colleagues like Gusty Spence and Plum Smith learnt the language. We have nothing to fear from the Irish Language. How Sinn Fein have used it to exaggerate their republicanism is damaging to the language itself. I think we need to see the DUP bring forward proposals for a language act and one that recognises and encourages the development of all our minority languages.” ~ Progressive Unionist Party [Press Release, 13/10/2008]

  4. There is an OO lodge that meets through the medium of Irish, and the Ultach trust promotes it in the Unionist community.

    As a nationalist / republican myself, I feel we should de-politicise the tongues of our isle, and have Ulster Scots and Irish Gaelic recognised as the native tongues of this land, on par with English, on both sides of the border.

    Reason 1 is parity of esteem for the Laggan Valley Scots already in the South

    Reason 2 is in the event of a united Ireland, the Scots will be the largest native minority

    Reason 3 is that it is the tongue of great Irishment like Mc Cracken, Orr and Grey

    Reason 4 is that it is spoken outside the unionist community, as many Irish in northern ireland - in Ulsters nine counties, north Leinster and North Conaught, learned - or were forced to learn depending on opinion, location and time - English from Scots, and learned it with their version of Scots English / Lowland Scots.

  5. Tomas - you state that 'there is an Orange Order lodge that meets through the medium of Irish.' I have been a member of the Orange Order for more than 30 years and have never heard of such a lodge. I have also checked with an Orange historian at Schomberg House, the headquarters of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, and he has never heard of such a lodge either. I think you must be mistaken or misinformed.

  6. There was an Irish medium Orange Order lodge calling itself Oidreacht na hEireann (ie Irish Heritage), but I think it wound up in the 80s. It's referenced in an old book I have.

  7. There was at one time an Orange lodge called 'Ireland's Heritage' and it had the name in English and Irish on the banner but it did not conduct its business in Irish and as far as I know none of the members spoke Irish.

  8. Igaelige - I have never stated that Ulster-Scots is 'the language of Protestants'. The Scots language was brought to Ulster in the 17th cnetury by Scottish settlers who were Lowlands Protestants and largely Presbyterians. However today some native speakers are Protestants and some are roman Catholics. In his autobiography Cardinal Cahal Daly, a native of Loughguile, referred to speaking Lallans or Scots as a boy in the school playground.


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