The father of six-year-old Dáithí Mac Gabhann, who led a successful campaign to reform organ donation laws in the north of Ireland, has received sectarian hate mail accusing him of “extreme political views” because of his Irish name.
Dáithí’s parents Máirtín and Seph had campaigned tirelessly to pass a law on organ donation in Westminster to improve the chances for the six-year-old, and others, of getting a heart transplant.
Máirtín Mac Gabhann has described finding the anonymous handwritten letter on Wednesday.
“The reason why we started the campaign was to try to protect Dáithí, I’ve always spoke about the helplessness of not being able to protect Dáithí from his condition,” he said.
“So, when your thoughts are always to protect your family and you get this disgusting letter through the door.
“It was handwritten in capital letters. Just everything about it made us uncomfortable.”
Quoting the letter, he said: “Repent your sins, untaint your poor little boy. Just in case he lives, let him grow up free and happy, unburdened by the Irish language and its horrible connotations of murder and hate... you are using your son to promote yourselves just as you have used your son to promote your extreme political views.
“To name your son such an awful name is child abuse.”
Mr Mac Gabhann said the letter continued for two pages, leaving him to wonder if it was a sick joke.
“It’s just horrible thinking there are people like out there. But the outpouring support that we have received since we released the statement.”
He added he was proud to send his son to an Irish speaking school, where he was “flourishing” with two languages.
“It’s just really saddening to read the letter, what it does to you really is when you hear your gate going or your door raps, you’re thinking ‘is this person coming to your house?’.
“When people are sending you these hateful words, it’s heartbreaking to be honest.
“We’ve been through so much over the last couple of years, we’re a very strong family and I put that statement out yesterday as a warning, we will not tolerate any of this nonsense.”
Separately, the DUP displayed its own contempt for the Irish language this week when a councillor in a mixed area of County Derry expressed “shock” at the installation of a bilingual placename sign in what she declared was “a Protestant village”.
The sign welcoming visitors to Mill Park in Tobermore was removed, with two British Union Jack flags stuck in its place.
“A lot of people were very angry about this and many residents have been voicing their opposition to an Irish sign being put up in a Protestant village,” declared DUP councillor Anne Forde.
The village’s name, Tobermore, comes directly from the Irish, Tobar Mór, meaning big well. Until the British occupation and Plantation, when Irish was suppressed, Ireland’s native language was dominant in the area, but Forde said the sign was intolerable.
“We don’t condone the Irish language”, she declared, adding that local residents “don’t speak Irish nor do they have interest in it”.
The PSNI agreed that the removal of the sign was a hate crime, but Forde hit out at the local council and warned it “to think very carefully before replacing it”.
Local Sinn Féin representative Ian Milne described the removal of the signpost as “an act of wanton destruction”.
“It is clearly a hate crime and an attack on the ratepayers of the district and I would call on all political parties to call it out and condemn this act of hate vandalism,” he said.
“Following international best practice for the protection of minority and indigenous languages internationally and within these islands, Mid Ulster District Council has developed its own Irish language policy which is aimed at protecting and promoting our language.
“The erection of bilingual place name signage is an important element within that policy.
“Irish language is not the preserve of any one section of our community, religion or race.”