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Names don't tell the full story

Brian MacLochlainn (Write Back, October 25) claims that unionist politicians with surnames of Gaelic origin are being 'schizophrenic' if they oppose an Irish Language Act. The claim is bizarre and the argument disingenuous.

Many figures in Irish cultural nationalism and Irish republicanism have had names that were not of Gaelic origin, but they still identified themselves as Gaels and they still promoted Gaelic culture.

Douglas Hyde, the founder of the Gaelic League, had an English surname. Eamon de Valera had a surname of Spanish origin. Martina Anderson MLA has a Scottish surname. Gerry Adams MP has a name that comes from the Christian name Adam and this is of Hebrew origin.

The world is much more complex than Brian MacLochlainn's letter would suggest. A person may have a surname of Gaelic origin and yet identify himself as an Ulster-Scot. On the other hand a person may have a name of Anglo-Norman or English origin and yet identify himself as a Gael. Yet neither of them is 'schizophrenic'.

The study of family names is extremely interesting but needs to be treated with caution. Each of us has the right to determine our own cultural identity and our own cultural interests and the fact that I exercise that right does not make me 'schizophrenic'.

Nelson McCausland, MLA, Belfast

Belfast Telegraph


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