Pól Ó Muirí: How Army could help break down the barriers
Ranger 1640 of the 2 Royal Irish raised an interesting conundrum in last week's letters page to this newspaper. Writing about his regiment, which is currently deployed in Afghanistan, the ranger suggested that the troops should be given a parade when they come home to Belfast. He signed his letter with the regimental motto: Faugh-A-Ballagh which is from the Irish 'fág an bealach' — clear the way.
Usually, nationalist parties would rush to dismiss the ranger's suggestion and unionist ones would rush to embrace it. However, are things so clear cut now?
After all, we have the Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness, paying a private visit to a member of the PSNI who was injured in a bomb attack and Sinn Féin representatives have attended wreath-laying ceremonies on Armistice Day.
Is it so far-fetched to suggest that Sinn Fein would be obliged to support a parade by British soldiers — and not just any British soldiers but British soldiers with an Irish-language motto?
Sinn Fein president, Gerry Adams, is very vociferous in his calls for an Irish- Language Act. Here is a perfect opportunity for him to further that cause by taking up Ranger 1640's suggestion and inviting his regiment to march down the Falls Road shouting Faugh-A-Ballagh at the top of their voices. Obviously, there might be reactionary elements in the provisional movement who would object to British soldiers parading down the Falls with the local MP at their head.
However, Adams need only point out that while they might be Brit warmongering imperialists, they are at least Irish-speaking Brit warmongering imperialists.
Indeed, Adams — who was never in any army — could get some ex-prisoner to give 'ár mbuachaillí' ('our boys') their orders in the sweet, soft Gaelic: by the left, quick máirseáil!
One of the reasons Culture Minister Edwin Poots rejected the Irish Language Act was that it had insufficient cross-community support. But Adams could argue that an Irish-language Act would protect the linguistic rights and heritage of the Royal Irish Gaeilgeoirí and would do much to attract unionist support to the Irish language.
Or would it? You don't think the DUP would object to spending money on the Irish language if the people getting the lessons were 'ár mbuachaillí', do you?