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Irish doesn't need a law, just volunteers

I HAVE no objection against anyone wanting to learn to speak Irish, as long as they don't expect the taxpayer to fund it.

More than 60 years ago, I learned to speak Gaelic fluently, having travelled around the world for two years with a lad from the Isle of Barra who coached me (at no expense to the taxpayer).

Why don't Irish speakers volunteer to teach people without introducing an Irish Language Act? It's totally unnecessary.

In the past 30 years, more than 200 languages have disappeared worldwide, as will Irish eventually.

Proof, if needed, is that Gaelic teaching in Scotland is down 60% in the past 10 years and Bun-sgoil Ghaidhlig in Inverness has advertised 11 times in the past 10 years for a teacher of Gaelic at a salary of £53,000 without success and is now considering a non-Gaelic speaker.

Personally, I think some people who spout for Irish should get their knowledge of English up to date.

I will name one ignoramus: Gerry Adams. He can't differentiate between 'Northern Ireland' and 'the north of Ireland'.

There is a big difference, you know. Or, obviously, he doesn't.


Carryduff, Co Down

Alliance Party abhors extremism of all hues

WHEN Alliance isn't being accused of being a unionist party, we are accused of being a nationalist party. This is lazy thinking. Alliance is a cross-community party.

I refer to a letter published on Monday (Write Back, September 4) in which the writer was keen to make sweeping statements about the Alliance Party without stopping to assess the facts.

So, let me lay it out clearly for him. Yes, we believe there should be an Irish Language Act. We don't, however, believe it should be a red line in saving our health service.

It's easy to think in binary oppositions - good/bad, east/west, unionist/nationalist - but it is problematic.

Anna Lo used to be asked if she was Catholic Chinese or Protestant Chinese. The issue with thinking this way is not just that it can create boundaries between groups of people (which often leads to prejudice and discrimination), but it doesn't make room for anything 'other'.

Alliance is proud to be objective and to judge each issue on its merits, rather than first assessing whether it is an orange or green issue, and I would challenge your earlier contributor to do the same.

One wonders what we could achieve if this way of thinking was adopted by more people.


Belfast City Council

Local councils should regulate flying of flags

ALLIANCE MLA Paula Bradshaw (Write Back, June 29) suggests that flags flown on street furniture need to be properly regulated. I quite agree. I should add that they would not be tolerated anywhere else in the UK.

Last week, I visited London, as I was invited to give an organ recital at St George's Church, Hanover Square, during the Mayfair organ concerts. I stayed for three nights at my club, Royal Overseas League, St James. During my stay, there was a special talk on heraldry for club members, given by the Richmond Herald of the College of Arms, Dr Clive Cheesman. Afterwards, there was a question-and-answer session.

For a general discussion, I raised the thorny issue of the flying of flags in Northern Ireland on street furniture, which attracted both amusement and eyes to heaven among members, guests and the herald.

The general outcome of the discussion on flags was that, really, it is very poor form indeed to fly any flag at all on street furniture and, in fact, in England there are numerous council planning and by-laws prohibiting such displays.

The proper means of flying flags has already been established by the UK Flag Institute, which recommends only flagpoles and says flags should never be flown from residential properties or street furniture.

In order to bring in the same regulations here, the Assembly would have to enact similar local government legislation to enable local councils to prohibit the erection of flags.

As we are currently stuck with the DUP-Sinn Fein coalition of chaos, it is unlikely that any progress will be made to address the flag problem.

However, my brother, a QC at Doughty Chambers in London, informs me that concerned residents in Northern Ireland can have flags removed by a court order. Under this, anyone found subsequently re-erecting a flag will be subject to contempt of court and could be prosecuted.


Strangford, Co Down

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