Thursday, 29 June 2017

A'm fair scunnered

As the Thursday talks deadline passed, I was interviewed on Radio Scotland, along with former Sinn Fein election candidate Chris Donnelly.  The interview, which was conducted by Bill Whiteford, covered various aspects of the political impasse but the Sinn Fein demand for a free-standing Irish Language Act received particular attention because it has been one of the republican party's 'red lines'.

Bill Whiteford
Chris Donnelly, why is Irish such a shibboleth?

Nelson McCausland:
It's not so much about language, it's about identity.

Chris Donnelly: 
Really at the root of it, The unionist opposition to the Irish language really comes down to a desire to frustrate expressions of the Irish national identity in the north of Ireland.

Chris Donnelly acknowledged that the Irish Gaelic language was an 'expression of the Irish national identity'.  As I  had said earlier in the conversation, 'It's not so much about language, it's about identity.'

That's why we need a genuine conversation about expressions of cultural identity, including the two minority languages, and a Culture Act that settles such issues on a basis of equality.  That conversation has never taken place and I suspect Sinn Fein don't want it to take place.

Sinn Fein talk about equality and their election posters included one that demanded 'EQUALITY NOW!' while another declared that they were 'STANDING FOR EQUALITY'.  

Then let them honour that commitment and accept that there can be no preferential treatment for the Irish language and an Irish national identity.  Or is it the case that they really do see equality as a 'Trojan horse'?

During the interview Bill Whiteford used the Scots word 'scunnered' and as regards the arrogance and intransigence of Sinn Fein, I can really say, 'A'm fair scunnered!'

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Dae ye min the Jawbox?

Now don't worry, I haven't taken to the drink and I only became aware of Jawbox gin when I read an article in the summer edition of Ulster Grocer.

It stated that Jawbox Gin Limited had secured a major contract to supply 500 Asda supermarkets across the UK.

In fact it was the label on the bottle rather than the contents of the bottle that caught my attention.

According to the Gin Factory website: 
A Jawbox, more commonly known as a Belfast Sink, was a staple in Northern Irish households of old, used to wash near enough anything “from dishes, clothes, bikes, children and even sometimes their husbands,” said Jawbox Classic Dry Gin founder Gerry White. The sink was a busy place, with a lot of life and chatter revolving around it and as such has served to be one of Belfast’s most lasting legacies.

A sink or jawbox
So where does the word jawbox come from?  Well we can trace it in the Scottish National Dictionary and the word jaw appears in Old Scots as far back as 1513.  It can be a verb or a noun but as a noun it means a sudden rush or outpouring of water, 

The word jaw is found in Scots and in Ulster-Scots and from it we get the word jawbox, which means 'a water trough used for scullery purposes, or a sink in a kitchen.  It was recorded in Ulster in 1880 as was the term jaw-tub.  So this new Ulster product has an Ulster-Scots name.

The gin is produced by the Echlinville Distillery, which is situated in the grounds of the Echlinville Estate on the Ards peninsula and there's another Ulster-Scots story about the name Echlin forbye.

Saturday, 3 June 2017

The GAA is an Irish nationalist organisation

In the course of the current Westminster election campaign, four candidates in Northern Ireland have received endorsements from prominent figures in the world of sport.

First of all the Fermanagh GAA manager, who is also a former manager of Down GAA, endorsed the Sinn Fein candidate in South Down.

This was followed by three endorsements from people associated with local football teams, with the Ballymena manager backing the Ulster Unionist candidate in Fermanagh and South Tyrone, the Cliftonville chairman endorsing the Sinn Fein candidate in North Belfast, and the Linfield chairman supporting the DUP candidate in South Belfast.

These endorsements have been the subject of some comment in the media but there is one obvious point which I have not seen in any of the comments I have read.

The three endorsements from people involved with football were all for different parties - DUP, UUP and Sinn Fein.  This reflects the fact that football is indeed a sport for everyone, whether they are unionists, nationalists or neither.  It is open and inclusive.

Meanwhile the endorsement from a prominent figure in the GAA was for a Sinn Fein candidate.  Prominent GAA members can endorse Sinn Fein candidates, SDLP candidates or indeed any nationalist or republican candidates but they are not going to endorse a unionist candidate, from whatever unionist party.  

It's just not going to happen and there is a very simple reason for that.  You can only join a GAA club if you are an Irish nationalist or republican.  The constitution of the GAA includes a commitment to Irish nationalism and acceptance of that position is a requirement for membership of every club within the GAA.  In other words, unionists are barred from membership of the GAA.  A Protestant nationalist could join the GAA and there have been a few of them but every unionist is excluded.

For example GAA rule 1:2 states: 'The Association is a National Organisation which has as its basic aim the strengthening of the National Identity in a 32 County Ireland through the preservation and promotion of Gaelic Games and pastimes.'

This morning's editorial in the Belfast Telegraph commented that the recent spate of electoral endorsements were 'bringing sport into politics' and that is a matter for discussion.

What is beyond dispute is that throughout its existence the GAA has brought politics into sport in a way that no other sporting body has done, even to the extent of barring unionists from membership.

The GAA may talk about reaching out but until the GAA abandons its aspiration for a 32-county Irish republic its door is shut and bolted and unionists are shut out.