Wednesday, 2 March 2011

What an eejit!

On 16 February I posted about the Irish Daily Star (16 February) and an article  by Terry McGeehan, who described Ulster-Scots as 'basically a bastardised version of the English language as it is spoken in these here parts.' Later he described it as a 'demi-dialect' and 'a local lingo that everyone who speaks English as their native tongue can understand without any great difficulty.'

Now another journalist in the Irish Daily Star (28 February) has decided to write about the Ulster-Scots language and this time it is none other than John Coulter.  I thought that Terry McGeehan had plumbed the depths in being gratuitously offensive but I must acknowledge that John actually surpassed him!

Coulter started off his article by claiming that 'Ulster-Scots is effectively a broad north Antrim accent' but at that point he had not really got into his stride as regards gratuitous offence.

However it did not take him long and his next blow was to refer to me as 'Scottie Nelly'.  In fact he obviously enjoyed this phrase so so much that he used it three times in the article.  Now you will imediately grasp from this that John is an incisive and analytical journalist ... or maybe NOT!  Such silly name calling is utterly pathetic and childish.  It is what you might come across with small children in a school playground.  It is not what you expect from a professional journalist, indeed from any sort of journalist, but then, this is John Coulter.

According to Coulter: 'Ulster-Scots is nothing more than a rural Ballymena accent.  I grew up in north Antrim and spoke with this rural Ulster-Scots accent for many years, cured only by expensive elocution and a few years stint at BBC Radio Ulster.'  Now Ulster-Scots has a distinctive vocabulary and its own grammar, so clearly John is unable to distinguish between accent, vocabulary and grammar.

Instead John Coulter encourages unionists to 'reclaim the Gaelic tongue for Protestantism' and this is not the first time he has expressed this view.  He even argues that 'Unionists were too red-faced to learn Irish because of the Kincora scandal in the 1980s. ...  Unfortunately, in the Protestant community, the Irish language became falsely associated with child abuse because of Kincora.'  Clearly John has 'a wee fondness' for fiction!

Perhaps a more significant development in the early 1980s was the emergence of a new Irish language strategy by Sinn Fein as part of their process of broadening the battlefront.  That was the time when one Sinn Fein publication stated that every word spoken in Irish was 'another bullet in the freedom struggle.'  I think such things may well help to explain Protestant alienation from the Irish language.  But John forgot about that!

Now it is easy to dismiss John Coulter as, to use a good Ulster word, 'an eejit' (and that is not name-calling - that is a description), but the most alarming thing about him is that he is actually the HND Broadcast Journalism Coordinator at the Belfast Metropolitan College, as well as a journalist in the Irish Daily Star.  Indeed the BMC website reports one of his courses, in which students work with Radio Feile in West Belfast.  This is a radio project of Feile an Phobail, the West Belfast Festival, and the website carries a commendation of John Coulter's course by Danny Morrison, chairperson of Feile an Phobail.  Danny, you may remember was the person who said that republicans would 'win the war' and 'take power in Ireland' 'with a ballot paper in one hand and an armalite in this hand'.

So there you have it.  John Coulter's knowledge of things relating to the Irish language is just as poor as his knowledge of the Ulster-Scots language.  As I said to Terry, I would also say to John, Ach ye wudnae hae a gleed o wut, John, wud ye?


  1. The fact that I could perfectly understand what "Ach ye wudnae hae a gleed o wut, John, wud ye?" means without having been brought up in an Ulster Scots community shows perfectly why Ulster Scots cannot be considered a language.

    You may not agree with the manner in which Coulter said what he did, but frankly, he is correct.

    Ulster Scots is NOT a language.

    It IS a dialect.

    Here is the dictionary definition of a dialect.

    "A regional or social variety of a language distinguished by pronunciation, grammar, or vocabulary, especially a variety of speech differing from the standard literary language or speech pattern of the culture in which it exists"

    Now, explain to me how Ulster Scots does not fall under that exact discription.

    I put it to you that you have used Ulster Scots as a point scoring tool against the Irish Language - (something which you see regard as an idicator of Nationalism/Republicanism - as you've demonstrated above by referring to the frankly unfortunate comments from ONE Sinn Fein publication) because you don't like the idea of the Irish speaking community protecting their legitimate language at the cost of Unionist tax payers.

  2. And I wasn't brought up in an Ulster-Scots speaking area either, I was brought up in Belfast. But Ulster dialect incorporates many Ulster-Scots words and forms and everyone in Ulster will know at least some words.

    As regards the terms dialect and language I would refer you back to some of my earlier posts on this subject.

    Yes I only quoted from one Sinn Fein publication but I noticed in one of today's newspapers that even Margaret Ritchie of the SDLP was criticising Sinn Fein for exploiting the Irish language.

    Finally, perhaps you could say whether you think Scots is a language or a dialect of English.

  3. A language is nothing more than a dialect with an army. Ulster Scots now fits this description, as does Irish, but not without consequence.

    Rather than take the either/or approach it do well to acknowledge the value of both. Depoliticizing both would also be beneficial.

  4. Both regional or minority languages are part of our cultural wealth.

  5. It would appear Ulser Scots is a dialect. A dialect of Scots?

  6. Ulster-Scots has been described as a variant of Scots but in the context of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages the UK government recognised Ulster-Scots as a minority language in Northern Ireland. One thing that is certain is that it is not a dialect of English.

  7. According to
    "The United Kingdom declares, in accordance with Article 2, paragraph 1 of the Charter that it recognises that Scots and Ulster Scots meet the Charter’s definition of a regional or minority language for the purposes of Part II of the Charter."
    That mentions 'a language' rather than 'languages'. If I understand that right, the Ulster in 'Ulster Scots' is a geographic adjective indicating that the charter also applies to Scots in Ulster. Just one language and not separate ones in Northern Ireland and Scotland. I assume Scots will likely have many variants, for example Ayrshire Scots or Aberdeenshire Scots etc., Ulster Scots simply being one of them.


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