Anti-Irish racism in focus

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The defacement of a bilingual road sign in Fermanagh has symptomised a new wave of anti-Gaelic and anti-Irish hate in the wake of the collapsed Stormont talks.

The Mid Ulster council road sign, located outside Caledon in County Tyrone, had the Irish lettering painted out.

Sinn Fein Assembly member Colm Gildernew said: “The vandalism of this sign is indicative of the attitude of some in society who show a complete disregard and lack of respect for the Irish identity.

“There is no excuse for this type of vandalism and it will not be tolerated.

“Anybody removing, destroying or vandalising bilingual signs is involved in criminal damage and should be reported to the PSNI.

“Occurrences like this bring into focus the need for protection of Irish Language rights through Acht na Gaeilge.”

Last week David McNarry -- a former leader of the UK Independence Party in the north of Ireland -- said he would break the law to remove an Irish language sign if one was erected on his street.

This week he said he would not condemn the vandalism at Caledon.

“I would be a total hypocrite if I condemned the people who did this,” he said. “I don’t know what reason they’ve had for doing it except that they may have just been standing up for what they think are their own rights and their own British dimension.

“This is where we’re heading with the Irish language - people are going to have to think very, very carefully that these things aren’t just being done to agitate people and to cause friction.”

Meanwhile, there has been an angry response to the mockery of the Irish language recently by BBC broadcaster Stephen Nolan, with a petition calling for an apology receiving almost 10,000 votes.

Award-winning actor winner John Connors has turned down an appearance on Nolan’s television show as he was “disgusted” at the presenter’s attitude to the Irish language.

He was invited to appear by a researcher to appear on Nolan Live following his celebrated speech at the Irish Film and Television Awards (Ifta) last week. Mr Connors was widely praised for his speech in which he referred to the barriers he faced as a Traveller as well as his own mental health.

He said he was “disgusted” at the treatment by the show’s host of former Sinn Fein Belfast City councillor Niall O Donnghaile, in a discussion on the language.

Mr Connors said: “I will forever boycott that show because of Stephen’s disgusting mockery of the Irish language, the native language of the whole island of Ireland”.

Mr Connors said he thought “a BBC presenter should be trying to bring people together, trying to mediate. Instead he seemed to be talking for the DUP. I thought the way he kept persisting with it, I thought it was horrendous and disgusting.”

The online petition for a public BBC apology to the Irish Language community is online at the address: https://bit.ly/2ChxqWi

SECOND ST PATRICK’S DAY BAN FOR TRICOLOUR

Meanwhile, Newry, Mourne and Down District Council has been accused of tagging on to an anti-Irish bandwagon in the north of Ireland. It has emerged that the Irish tricolour flag has been banned from the St Patrick’s Day parade in Newry, just weeks after it was banned in Strabane and Derry.

According to local Saoradh representative Stephen Murney, the flag has been barred from the annual event for a number of years now.

Speaking to the Newry Democrat, Mr Murney expressed his anger at the continuing situation, and said that another ban had also now been imposed on the Four Provinces flag.

“I was contacted by a representative of the Banna Fliuit Naoimh Phadraig,” he said. “They informed me that they had phoned the council to enquire if the flute band could carry the tricolour in this year’s parade in Newry.

“Not only were they told that they are banned from carrying our National Flag, but they were also told that the flag of the Four Provinces would also be banned.

“Banna Fliuit Naoimh Phadraig have quite rightly told the council that unless the ban is lifted they won’t be taking part.

“This is outrageous and is clearly an attempt to suppress and erode any display of Irish culture and heritage in the Saint Patrick’s day parade.”

The news comes less than a month after it was revealed that Ireland’s national flag had been banned from the St Patrick’s Day parades in both Strabane and Derry city.

In those cases, the council withdrew the bans after facing a massive public backlash on social media.

However, a spokesperson for Newry, Mourne and Down District Council insisted the Irish flag will not be permitted by any of the participants in the Council’s St Patrick’s Day carnival parades in either Newry or Downpatrick.

“Saint Patrick’s day is a worldwide recognition of Irish culture,” said Mr Murney. “It’s a disgrace that our nation’s flags are being banned. It has to be asked who will enforce such a ban? Will the British forces be tasked to enforce it?”

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