Protestantism has supposedly launched a counter
offensive against republicanism's domination of
the Irish language as a political weapon by promoting
its own lingo.
Scots, which common sense would tell you, is essentially
a broad rural Ballymena accent, washed down with
a healthy support for Glasgow Rangers soccer club!
To its fanatical followers, Ulster Scots is an oral
language, so talk of it being dismissed as an accent,
dialect, or even just drunken Prod gibberish is
like a cultural red flag to a bull.
what Protestants need to do practically is to form
their own version of the Gaelic League and reclaim
the Irish language back from republicans. They should
forget about making fools of themselves by trying
to repackage the Ulster Scots Ballymena accent.
Protestantism should concentrate on re-taking those
elements of culture, such as the Irish language
and St Patrick's Day, which republicanism has paraded
as part of Irish nationalism's supposedly unique
reality, however, Northern Protestantism can only
go the Ulster Scots cultural route if it wishes
to survive. Its Irish identity died with the radical
Presbyterians who were defeated in 1798 during the
doomed United Irishmen's rebellion.
be specific, the defeat at the Battle of Ballynahinch
effectively marked the death of the concept of revolutionary
Protestant nationalism in Ireland. It was a defeat
helped by the establishment Church of Ireland's
tactical support for the fledgling exclusively Protestant
this third millennium, Protestants' British identity
is being slowly but surely undermined by an increasingly
pluralist and multi-racial England with the Protestant
Throne seemingly determined to distance itself from
the defence of the Reformed Faith. Indeed, there
is the real danger that within a generation, fundamentalist
Islam - not Christianity - could become Britain's
both its Irish and British roots becoming increasingly
eroded, Protestantism has been forced to look to
Scotland as a source of cultural identity. Many
in Northern Ireland, even within the majority Protestant
community, would view the Ulster Scots 'language'
as little more than a hyped-up and carefully spin-doctored
they certainly would not want their cultural identity
defined by the blood-curdling portrayals of anti-English
nationalism as outlined by Hollywood legend Mel
Gibson in his brutal movie Braveheart.
Northern Ireland, the Scottish Ulster cause is being
championed by two fairly well funded organisations
- the Ulster Scots Agency (Boord o Ulster-Scotch),
established as part of the Good Friday Agreement,
and the older Ulster Scots Heritage Council (Ulster-Scotch
Heirskip Cooncil) formed in 1995.
cultural war which Protestantism faces in language
terms was clearly spelt out by a past announcement
from Iontaobhas na Gaelscolaiochta, the Irish language
schools organisation. It said the numbers being
taught in Irish medium schools in Northern Ireland
had reached more than 3,000 and no less than 60
new schools were planned over the next few years.
it would be accurate to suggest that whilst a large
number of the North's one-million Protestant population
would sympathise with an Ulster Scots identity,
precious few would be able to recognise this supposed
Ulster Scots tongue, let alone speak it.
cultural counter reformation has been built on the
twin pillars of historic ancestral links with Scotland,
along with a healthy dose of the arts, such as dancing
a major factor in the development of the Ulster
Scots campaign on the culture, history and language
fronts has been the dynamic enthusiasm of two of
its leading lights - pro-Agreement UUP peer Lord
Laird of Artigarvan, and Nelson McCausland, a prominent
anti-Agreement North Belfast DUP Stormont MLA. The
media literacy of these two Ulster Scots activists
should not be underestimated.
Laird, the former public relations guru John Laird,
has a wealth of experience in dealing with the media.
Assemblyman McCausland has gained the reputation,
too, as a skilled communicator, cutting his teeth
as a Gospel recording singer and a one-time chief
spokesman for the Christian fundamentalist pressure
group, the Lord's Day Observance Society.
teaming up with the DUP, Mr McCausland was also
formerly linked to the Ulster Independence movement,
then headed by leading Orange cleric, the Rev Hugh
the arts and historical aspects of the Ulster Scots
culture has been gathering a rapid momentum within
Protestantism, the development of the language has
proved to be a major stumbling block. In spite of
the strong leadership given to the campaign by Laird
and McCausland, it almost ran aground as a result
of the sex scandal in the United States involving
ex-Agency frontman Stan Mallon.
when it comes to dismissing the Ulster Scots language
as merely an accent from rural North Antrim, the
pro-linguists lobby comes out with all clamours
told me bluntly: "Despite media commentators
dismissing the language as 'gibberish' - and I can
assure you that we take no prisoners on this one
- the language as a recognised European minority
or lesser used language and has certain rights.
Ulster Scots has survived as an oral language.
is not a formal developed language as we would tend
to think of, like French or Irish, and it needs
to go through a considerable development process,
particularly with the compilation of an Ulster Scots
dictionary where spellings and pronunciation will
be standardised. Its development is only just starting
and how it will be developed rests mainly with the
wishes and desires of the people who want to maintain
is a lively debate in Ulster Scots language circles
between native speakers and new speakers, between
rural Ulster Scots and urban Ulster Scots, and people
are beginning to write creatively in Ulster Scots.
poet James Fenton writes exclusively in Ulster Scots
and will not translate his work. His collection
of Ulster Scots, The Hamely Tongue, has thousands
of words that he has collected and knows are still
in use. Obviously, a lot of native speakers are
quite old and there is a real fear that the words
will die out of not captured, hence the tape-recorded
survey of speakers undertaken by the Ulster Scots
said the Northern Ireland branch of the Royal Scottish
Pipe Band Association was one of the largest in
the world. There were even plans to export the art
of Scottish country dancing to the Japanese.
in Northern Ireland, the activist emphasised: "The
Ulster Scots language, culture and history must
be brought into the schools. These aspects of the
Ulster Scots culture had been marginalised by the
media and the education system, but under current
European legislation there was an obligation for
Ulster Scots to be taught in Northern Ireland schools."
real danger for the Ulster Scots language lobby
is that it could badly backfire on unionists. By
nailing their colours to the Scottish kilts, Protestant
unionists are effectively fuelling the perception
they are descended from the Cromwellian Presbyterian
invaders who ruthlessly - and effectively - crushed
the Irish Catholic rebellions in Ireland from 1641
recent years, there has been much emphasis placed
in Ulster Protestant circles that Northern Protestantism
was descended from native heroes such as Cuchulainn
and King Conor as outlined in the ancient tale known
as Tain Bo Cuailgne, or the Cattle Raid of Cooley.
It is called The Tain for short, and is regarded
as a masterpiece of Irish saga literature.
Ulster champion Cuchulainn was killed defending
the Northern Irish territory from the Black Witch
of Connacht, Queen Maeve, who launched a full-scale
invasion of the North under the cloak of a cattle
raid, according to The Tain.
Supporters of The Tain saga say this is proof that
Northern Protestantism is actually descended from
the native Irish and not from any English invaders
as suggested by Irish republicanism.
follow the Ulster Scots route is to support the
perception that Northern Protestantism is not native
to Ulster, but is actually imported from the British
other problem which the Ulster Scots lobby has to
overcome is political. Scotland already has its
own devolved legislative parliament, but there is
a rapidly growing Scottish nationalist movement.
Scottish unionism in the shape of the Conservative
Party has been fighting an uphill battle to avoid
being politically eliminated north of the English
Protestantism's support for the Ulster Scots culture
is based on the political foundation that Scotland
remains within the Union. But what happens to this
ethos if the Scottish National Party (SNP) - which
pushes for Scottish independence - ever becomes
the party of government in the Scottish Parliament?
There is also a growing body of opinion within Protestantism
which believes that the Irish language should be
reclaimed from republicanism rather than trying
to confront it with a lingo, such as Ulster Scots,
that sounds and looks like Bog Latin.
Supporters of this position would eventually like
to see the formation of a Protestant Gaelic League,
with classes in Irish for Protestants set up in
the network of Orange Halls across the North.
Ulster Scots language plastered across Orange banners
on the Twelfth would make a global laughing stock
of the Order, especially after its hard-working
attempts to clean up its world tarnished image in
the aftermath of the various parades controversies,
the Irish language on an Orange banner, however,
would not be alien to the Order. At one time, a
Belfast-based lodge, Ireland's Own Heritage, had
Gaelic on its banner. But a prominent member of
the lodge was the late homosexual paedophile William
was more notoriously known as the Beast of Kincora,
after he was convicted of sexual offences against
young boys in his care in the Kincora Boys Home
in east Belfast. McGrath was also a senior member
of the loyalist extremist group, Tara.
But given his notoriety with child abuse, McGrath's
personal campaign to have the Irish language used
more frequently by Protestants largely fell on deaf
ears for most of a generation.
as a new, small generation of Protestant Irish speakers
emerges, some unionist activists in the Irish-speaking
community believe the time is now right to launch
a linguistic counter offensive against Irish nationalism's
stranglehold on the island's own language.