Nelson McCausland – the DUP Minister in question – has just made a fool of himself (again) for writing to Northern Ireland's museums asking them to give more prominence to Ulster-Scots, the Orange Order and 'alternative views on the origin of the universe'.
The first two are, of course, uncontroversial – both are part of what Northern Ireland is, after all. But the third item on McCausland's wish list brings him into the realm of the nutter, and makes him an object of ridicule amongst intelligent people in Northern Ireland and elsewhere.
"Without specifically mentioning creationism, Mr McCausland's letter includes a request for the trustees to consider how alternative views of the origin of the universe can be recognised and accommodated".
He has already been publicly dismissed by Richard Dawkins, and will undoubtedly be the object of as much ridicule as his fellow-DUP 'young earther' Edwin Poots.
But there is more to McCausland than merely an incomprehensible belief in creationism – he is trying his best to use his position to advance his own segment of Northern Ireland's society (the Orange, Protestant and Ulster-Scots segment), and to block the recognition of the other segment, the Gaelic, Celtic, Catholic one.
On his own blog (yes, even creationists can use the internet!) he expends considerable energy trying to dispel the notion that Northern Ireland is a 'Celtic' country, or that it forms part of the 'Celtic fringe':
Yesterday: "… we are not a Celtic country in a linguistic sense. Neither are we a Celtic country in an ethnic sense … The use of the term 'Celtic countries' is therefore erroneous."
In April: "The Celtic Media Festival has been taking place this week in Newry and I was invited by Cathal Goan to attend and officially open the annual festival. … Towards the end and in the context of some remarks about a 'shared and better future' I referred to the way in which the festival organisers described the participating countries as 'Celtic nations'. If we are to recongise and respect the cultural diversity of Northern Ireland, is it appropriate to describe us as a Celtic nation? Yes, there are some people who speak a Celtic language and there are many people who will regard themselves as culturally Celtic or even ethnically Celtic but that represents only one element in our diversity. Is there not a need for a terminology that recognises that important fact?"
The Minister appears to have a bit of a bee in his bonnet about the 'Celticness' of Northern Ireland. 'Celticness' itself is a fairly controversial concept, but in general refers to those areas in which that area's own Celtic languages and cultural traits have survived. According to such a definition Northern Ireland certainly has a very good claim to be Celtic. The area was almost exclusively Irish Gaelic before being 'planted' by a mixture of English and Scots – many also of evident Gaelic ancestry – in the 17th century. Nobody denies that there are many people in Northern Ireland whose ancestry includes other origins, but this is true in the south, and in Britain. Should England stop being called 'English' because there are other elements in its diversity? Or France French because of its North African immigrants?
The real irony in this, of course, is that the Minister carries a Gaelic surname, and thus cannot deny the Celticness of his own paternal line.
One definition of the name McCausland is: probably a variant of MacAuslan, which according to Black is an Anglicization of Mac Ausaláin ‘son of Absolom’, from the name of an early 13th-century cleric. However, there may rather be an underlying Gaelic personal name, possibly Caisealán, meaning ‘little one of the castle’.
Is the Minister suffering from a case of autophobia?