Editorial - Exposing their own ignorance

Those who shout loudest about the past in the North are often the most ill-informed about history.

This was illustrated again in recent days with the disgraceful, yet unsurprising comments from a senior Orangeman concerning the Irish language.

Belfast County Grand Master, George Chittick, issued a “word of warning” to Protestants against learning Irish, claiming that it is somehow “part of the republican agenda.”

While few will be surprised that such attitudes exist within the upper echelons of the loyal orders, the ignorance of history the remarks displayed is surprising from an organisation so deeply rooted in the past.

Even the most cursory glance at the history of Irish highlights the key role played by Protestants in the survival and promotion of the language in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

And it is not just ancient history.

Many Protestants continue to embrace their Irish language heritage and, in some parts of the North, regular church services are conducted through Irish.

In fact, far from being divisive, the Irish language could be used a unique tool to unite communities who may be unaware of a shared linguistic heritage.

Ultimately, it is a language spoken daily by many thousands and is completely and utterly nonpolitical.

However, such selective use of the past to suit present political moods or causes is not new, nor is it confined to any one ‘side’ or other.

The actions of those who sought to exploit one of the great tragedies of Derry’s recent past, Bloody Sunday, by scrawling on walls at the weekend is also deplorable and shows the same lack of knowledge or understanding, not just of the past it evokes, but also of realities of the present.