Wednesday 26 May 2010

ABC

That's 'Anything But Celtic' – and must be the new McCausland family motto, judging by the Minister for Culture, Arts and Leisure.

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?

22 comments:

New times, New approach said...

If Nelson has any intelligence or even any common sense then it is entirely obscured by what Horseman calls autophobia, but I would call xenophobia (things Celtic being considered by him to be foreign). He cannot hope to emphasize his lack of gaelic credentials by referring to some far off ancestor's Scottish derivation. Fer Gawd's sake Nelson, Ireland and Scotland are the 'fior gael' or primary truly Celtic nations. We share a language and, a beautiful world renowned traditional musical portfolio. There is just about as much difference between Ulster Irish and Scots Gaelic as there is between the former and Connacht Irish. Mind you I will allow that some lowland Scots invented a dire doggerel now called Ulster Scots, but honestly Nelson, that isn't a language, it doesn't have the most basic structure of a spoken let alone a written language, rather it is an oral dialect for a rural community which had a degree of difficulty with adapting to standard English.
Professor Rosalind Pritchard of the University of Ulster put her finger on the problem in her thesis 'Protestants and the Irish Language' when she said, 'Irish
was an object of affection and admiration for many influential nineteenth century Protestants and unionists. In the twentieth century, the language became increasingly polarised for political ends, and after Partition was largely rejected in the education system as experienced by unionist children in Northern Ireland. It is argued that such an overwhelmingly anglocentric orientation, not just in language, but also in History and Geography, has paradoxically served to exacerbate the Troubles. It has alienated unionists from cultural capital which rightfully and historically belongs to both traditions, and in so doing has promoted a "frontier mentality" among them. Somewhat in a spirit of definition by opposition, they are currently turning to Ulster-Scots; yet by adopting a more positive attitude towards Irish, unionists would simultaneously re-connect with their historical roots, and might deprive the language of its potential as a political weapon to be used against them.'

In trying to force a comical religious based definition of the world's origins into the domain of arts and culture you are making a laughing stock of not only yourself, Nelson, but your compatriots (i.e. us) in the eyes of the world.
You are entitled to believe whatever nonsense you personally wish, but you are no more entitled to impose it on others than the Inquisition was with Catholicism. At least they had the excuse that the world was a much more primitive place when they forced Galileo to recant some of the most important scientific discoveries. I would hate to have been Darwin with you as a government minister, dreaming up new tortures for me.

I truly never thought Sammy Wilson could be beaten with his contribution to the environmental crisis of the declaration that all those scientists and research institutions were wrong and global warming didn't exist, but maith fear, Nelson you have him bate with your contribution to the culture of your native land. You ignoramus.

Scots Anorak said...

For more on this, see http://scots-anorak.blogspot.com/2010/05/you-read-it-here-first.html.

bangordub said...

"Is the Minister suffering from a case of autophobia? "
Sadly the Minister is suffering from a long recognised affliction hereabouts. I'ts called Bigotry. Complicated with symptoms of whataboutery, denial, antifactitus, zerosumitis and outright silliness.
God love him, as my Mum would say.....

Nordie Northsider said...

'There is just about as much difference between Ulster Irish and Scots Gaelic as there is between the former and Connacht Irish.'

Wishful thinking, I'm afraid, and a cliche without any basis in fact whatsoever.

New times, New approach said...

Nordie, Regarding the familiarity between the two languages.

Bhi me i mo chonai i n-Albain ar feadh cupla blianta i m-oige agus ta eolas eigin agam de'n bheirt teangacha.

Or, nach bfuil gaeilge agat, - I lived in Scotland for a couple of years when young and I have some knowledge of the two languages.

Forgive the absence of accents, I couldn't be bothered to look for them.

Horseman said...

New times, New approach,

Níl mé gaeilgeoir liofa - ach tá beagán gaeilge chomamara agam (sin scéal eile). Sílim go bhfuil sé níos éasca gaeilge uladh a thuiscint ná gaeilge alba. I mo thuirim tá na canuintí eireannacha ach canuintí ach tá an ghaeilge albanach teanga eile - gaolta lena chéile, ach difriúil - cosuil le Ollainais agus Gearmánais. Ar chor ar bith, níl mé in ann gaeilige alba a thuiscint gan foclóir - ach gan aon foclóir albanach agam!

hoboroad said...

Nelson McCausland, who believes that Ulster Protestants are one of the lost tribes of Israel, has written to the museum's board of trustees urging them to reflect creationist and intelligent design theories of the universe's origins.

The Democratic Unionist minister said the inclusion of anti-Darwinian theories in the museum was "a human rights issue".

McCausland defended a letter he wrote to the trustees calling for anti-evolution exhibitions at the museum. He claimed that around one third of Northern Ireland's population believed either in intelligent design or the creationist view that the universe was created about 6,000 years ago.

"I have had more letters from the public on this issue than any other issue," he said.

The minister said he wrote a "very balanced letter" to the museum because he wanted to "reflect the views of all the people in Northern Ireland in all its richness and diversity".

Earlier in his letter to the museum's trustees McCausland said he had "a common desire to ensure that museums are reflective of the views, beliefs and cultural traditions that make up society in Northern Ireland".

His call was condemned by the evolutionary biologist Professor Richard Dawkins, who said: "If the museum was to go down that road then perhaps they should bring in the stork theory of where babies come from. Or perhaps the museum should introduce the flat earth theory."

Dawkins said it was irrelevant if a large number of people in Northern Ireland refused to believe in evolution. "Scientific evidence can't be democratically decided," Dawkins said.

McCausland's party colleague and North Antrim assembly member Mervyn Storey has been at the forefront of a campaign to force museums in Northern Ireland to promote anti-Darwinian theories.

Storey, who has chaired the Northern Ireland assembly's education committee, has denied that man descended from apes. He believes in the theory that the world was created several thousand years ago, even though the most famous tourist attraction in his own constituency – the Giant's Causeway on the North Antrim coast – is according to all the geological evidence millions of years old.

Last year Storey raised objections to notices at the Giant's Causeway informing the public that the unique rock formation was about 550m years old. Storey believes in the literal truth of the Bible and that the earth was created only several thousand years before Christ's birth.

This latest row over Darwin versus creationism in Northern Ireland comes at a delicate time for the Ulster Museum. Earlier this month it was shortlisted for the UK's largest single arts prize. The Art Fund Prize annually awards £100,000 to a museum or gallery for a project completed in the last year.

The belief that the Earth was divinely created in 4004 BC originates with the writings of another Ulster-based Protestant, Archbishop of Armagh James Ussher, in 1654. Ussher calculated the date based on textual clues in the Old Testament, even settling on a date and time for the moment of creation: in the early hours of 23 October.

New times, New approach said...

Horseman,

Amharc ar seo. http://www.bbc.co.uk/alba/foghlam/beag_air_bheag/
Ni silim go bfhuil moran difriuil annsin.

I think that a lot of Scots Gaelic (as with Scottish music) has it's origins in c. 7th century Dalriada when the Ulster Irish invaded and colonised a lot of Scotland's western coast. It is unsurprising that Scots Gaelic has evolved separately to Ulster Irish as indeed has Connacht and even Munster Irish, ach nil siad ach canuinti uilig, dar liomsa.

Ca bfhuair tu an gaeilge chonamara? Is fear rundiamhair tusa!

Horseman said...

New times, New approach,

Ca bfhuair tu an gaeilge chonamara?

Bhuel, níl sí faighte agam i gconamara féin, mar a tharla. Níor fholaim gaeilge ar scoil (buiochas le oideachais phrotastúnach!) - d'fholaim le cabhair 'Learning Irish' ó Micheal O Siadhail - agus blas laidir Chois Fharraige atá ann!

New times, New approach said...

Horseman,

I have bought the hat and am now doffing it to you. Fior Gael a ta tusa, go cinnte.

Anonymous said...

Who could imagine such disgusting racism in this day and age. This is not some minor argument over semantics or triviality, consider this situation in other former British colonies; how would the world react if the white leadership in a still occupied Kenya denied Kenya being an "african" nation?:

"… we are not an African country in a linguistic sense. Neither are we an African country in an ethnic sense … The use of the term 'African countries' is therefore erroneous."

He would be abhorred by the entire world and denounced as racist scum.

The Celtic people in France, Britain and Spain were swallowed up in napoleonic power-grabs, and now repressed in order to maintain the status quo. Europe is stronger for it's diversity, not only do we Celts deserve our own self-determination and freedom to fully express our culture, but we owe it to the development of Europe as a continent to send these unknowing-imperialists back to the 1800s.

In a European Union the Celtic world should push for complete independence at last and challenge these uneducated dinosaurs at every turn.

We don't need to be part of superpowers, our nations are distinct and we have no reason to submit to Paris, London or Madrid anymore.

Scots Anorak said...

"Fer Gawd's sake Nelson, Ireland and Scotland are the 'fior gael' or primary truly Celtic nations."

Ní dóigh liom go dtiocfadh linn a mhaíomh go bhfuil na hÉireannaigh is na hAlbanaigh níos Ceiltí ná na náisiúin Cheilteacha eile.

"There is just about as much difference between Ulster Irish and Scots Gaelic as there is between the former and Connacht Irish."

Sílim féin gur "wishful thinking" é sin fosta.

"Mind you I will allow that some lowland Scots invented a dire doggerel now called Ulster Scots, but honestly Nelson, that isn't a language, it doesn't have the most basic structure of a spoken let alone a written language, rather it is an oral dialect for a rural community which had a degree of difficulty with adapting to standard English."

Tá sé seo ciníoch. Is cineál véarsa é "doggerel" nach gciallaíonn rud ar bith sa teangeolaíocht. Agus tá struchtúr ag achan chanuínt.

Nordie Northsider said...

New Times - Dúirt Reg Hindley an rud céanna sa leabhar úd The Death of the Irish Language agus chonaic mé á bhréagnú ar bhealach iontach cliste ag díospóireacht phoiblí i nDoire. Bhí Alan Titley ag caint leis agus gan deacracht dá laghad ag muintir Dhoire a chuid 'Gaolainne'a thuiscint. Cad é a rinne sé ansin ach tiontú ar an Ghaidhlig (teanga atá aige go paiteanta). Níor thuig aon duine é agus b'éigean do Hindley a admháil go bhfuil bearna i bhfad níos fairsinge idir an dá Ghaeilge ná mar atá idir canúintí na hÉireann.

Colm said...

Before the advent of mass communication in rural Ireland and the development of the Caighdeán Oifigiúil (official standard Irish), Ulster Gaelic had many phrases in common with Scottish Gaelic that were incomprehensible to southern speakers. One of the challenges facing Radio na Gaeltachta in its early days was how to make their programming understandable to speakers of the different dialects. Each dialect had by that time developed differently in isolation just like Scottish Gaelic (albeit for much longer in the latter case).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Differences_between_Scottish_Gaelic_and_Irish

Anonymous said...

I wonder what exactly would McCausland say if someone pointed out to him that he has a Celtic surname in person. It would probably make for an entertaining Youtube video.

Paddy Canuck said...

So what does McCausland propose as an alternative to "Celtic", I wonder? How would he describe Northern Ireland in other applicable terms? The only possible one that applies is "Germanic". After all, the English are originally Germans, after all... which is why it's always such a scream to listen to them sneer about their "German" monarchy. But somehow, I'm guessing this nod to the only other Indo-European branch that applies is not what Mr. McCausland has in mind. Perhaps he should shut his Kuchenloch. :)

Paddy Canuck said...

"He claimed that around one third of Northern Ireland's population believed either in intelligent design or the creationist view"

A third of Northern Ireland can believe they can flap their arms and fly; that doesn't give this man the right to insist school children be taken up on the roof and told to "give it a whirl". I guess you can tell them whatever you want at home, but in public space, what we should teach and espouse is what can be DEMONSTRATED with proof to be factual. Science has the whole world; he's got a book... and one flatly contradicted by about ten dozen just like it.

hoboroad said...

http://www.britishisrael.co.uk/newsletter/3.pdf

Nelson McCausland is on page 9 of the Newsletter above.

Anonymous said...

"Níl mé gaeilgeoir liofa - ach tá beagán gaeilge chomamara agam (sin scéal eile). Sílim go bhfuil sé níos éasca gaeilge uladh a thuiscint ná gaeilge alba. I mo thuirim tá na canuintí eireannacha ach canuintí ach tá an ghaeilge albanach teanga eile - gaolta lena chéile, ach difriúil - cosuil le Ollainais agus Gearmánais. Ar chor ar bith, níl mé in ann gaeilige alba a thuiscint gan foclóir - ach gan aon foclóir albanach agam!"

Took the words straight out of me mouth there, H-Man

pagasp

Anonymous said...

The term "Celtic" has been assigned to the dustbin of history by those in the know. It's a 19th century pseudo-race like "Aryan". This is why you will not see the word in a seriously scholarly place such as the Ulster Museum or the National Museum of Ireland in Dublin. They both avoid the term like the plague, and talk instead of simply an "iron age" pot, brooch or sword.

The English, Scots, Welsh and both varieties of Irish are genetically peas in a pod, more similar to each other than anyone else, and with such overlap as to be indistinguishable as individuals. The English versus Irish language issue is a fight between the language of one set of invaders rather than another, with both the English and the Irish being 80%+ descended from people who were already on these islands before either of those languages even existed, never mind were spoken here.

hoboroad said...

www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/opinion/pootsrsquo-selfinflicted-wound-is-a-body-blow-to-economy-14823243.html

hoboroad said...

www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/local-national/nelson-mccausland-lsquomet-creationists-before-museums-requestrsquo-14826091.html