Sinn Fein wasting money on vanity language projects
The phrase "speak out of both sides of your mouth" came to mind this week in relation to Sinn Fein - and not for the first time. On this occasion it was in relation to the Irish language.
When the Sinn Fein Culture Minister, Caral Ni Chuilin, produced her bids for the June monitoring round, she was looking for more money for her Liofa project, which is designed to promote and publicise Irish as "a language for all". That was Sinn Fein speaking out of one side of its mouth.
However, in the course of the same week, Sinn Fein was also speaking out of the other side of its mouth. While the Culture Minister was pushing her "Irish for all" language project, Junior Minister Jennifer McCann was reverting to the traditional Sinn Fein stance of linking the Irish language to Irish republicanism and Irish republican terrorism.
On her Twitter account, she posted a picture of herself and her party colleague, Councillor Bill Groves, standing below a mural of IRA hunger striker and convicted terrorist Bobby Sands.
Then, above it, she posted the comment: "Delighted to launch the Bobby Sands Scholarships with Cllr Bill Groves this morn (sic) in Twinbrook."
This was a reference to the Bobby Sands Gaeltacht Scholarships, which were launched last year and handed out by Martin McGuinness and Jennifer McCann to two pupils at St Colm's High School in Twinbrook. McCann's tweet was announcing the launch of the 2015 scholarships.
The Bobby Sands Scholarships and the Bobby Sands Certificates are a joint initiative taken by Sinn Fein and a group of west Belfast businesspeople to encourage children to learn and speak Irish.
There is nothing wrong with providing financial support for the Irish language; the thing that is terribly wrong is that Sinn Fein and their business partners have linked the language to a convicted IRA terrorist.
Is an IRA terrorist the right sort of person to hold up before children as a role model? Is it right to poison the minds of young children by glorifying the IRA murder machine?
It may not be a problem for Jennifer McCann, who was arrested for the attempted murder of an RUC officer and sentenced to 20 years in prison. However, it should be a problem for everyone, both in terms of providing suitable role-models for children and in terms of de-politicising the Irish language.Of course, there is already an Irish-medium primary school that uses the pen-name of Bobby Sands as the name of the school, Scoil na Fuiseoige, and an illustrated Irish language biography of Bobby Sands for children was published in 2006.
Sinn Fein's Conor Murphy even went to the trouble of turning up at an Irish-medium school to be photographed with the children and the biography of the IRA terrorist.
Again, that was not a problem for Conor, who was himself sentenced to five years for IRA membership and possession of explosives.
That is why it is only the most gullible who believe that Sinn Fein's support for Irish is anything other than part of their cultural war.
Meanwhile, in the Republic, an officially commissioned report on the state of the Irish language makes dismal reading for Sinn Fein.
The report, which was published last Friday, admitted that, even in the core Gaeltacht areas, in places like Donegal, the Irish language is in a state of serious and probably terminal decline.
Sinn Fein can squander money on vanity Irish-language projects, partly as a sort of job-creation scheme for former republican prisoners, who learned Irish in the Maze, but in its real heartland areas Irish is dying.
A few weeks ago, we saw the Sinn Fein electoral strategy splutter to a halt and now it is clear that the Irish language is crumbling in its heartland.
Things are certainly not going too well for Sinn Fein strategists at the moment.
- Nelson McCausland MLA is chair of the Assembly's culture, arts and leisure committee