Friday, October 29, 2010

One Small Step for Sinn Féin: Why Iain Dale is Wrong

I read this morning that Iain Dale is feeling cold about a Sinn Féin member of the UK Youth Parliament preparing to speak in the chamber of the House of Commons. I disagree I feel a little warm buzz on hearing the news.

Connor Morgan is apparently is about to make history in being the first Sinn Féin speaker in the chamber. That is one small step towards a normalisation of politics. If his senior representatives can find a way to similarly to take a full role in their elected representatives of the people by voting and speaking in the chamber we would be a step closer here in Northern Ireland.

Iain objects to the young man on a number of grounds.

First, that he will address the house in Gaelic or rather Gaeilge. Iain should wake up, this is allowed in all three of the devolved chambers across the country. The addressing of the house in native tongues at Stormont, Holywood and the Senedd is as far as I'm aware allowed, but then must also be spoken in the majoritive language English*. If this is what Mr Speaker Bercow is allowing in the chamber today it is not unusual. The citation of Ray Michie taking the oath in Scots Gaelic is one that has been repeated in the devolved Assemblies and Parliament and is an exception as an approved version in the native tongues is already available. Personally I hope that Connor is as fluent as the Gael speakers in Kelly's Cellars rather than the stuttering version we hear from Gerry Adams at Stormont.

Second there is the objection that turns his heart cold. He cites the killings of Lord Mountbatten, Airey Neave, Ian Gow, yes all the victims of republican violence. But the people of Northern Ireland have less prominent people, their mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, friends etc who they remember who are lost, who have lost life, or home or livelihood as a result of the 'troubles'. In 1998 the people of Northern Ireland voted in a referendum to move on. To look for a shared future together, putting aside the things of the past to look for a new tomorrow. If the people of Northern Ireland are looking to do that since the Belfast Agreement then Iain you should allow us all to do that. That includes letting Sinn Féin, if and when they choose to do so, to speak in the chamber of the House of Commons. You may not agree with them, but Connor Morgan, just like Gerry Adams has been elected to a UK Parliament and if he wishes to speak he should be heard.

Finally Iain falls into the mainstream journalists trap of condemning youth by their Facebook pages. Iain before hurling that stone should look at the pages of some of the Conservative Future members of the same Youth Parliament. Yeah we are growing up with a generation of future politicians who have all their youthful high jinks captured on a mobile phone and uploaded before they have a chance to sober up. We've all done things that we regret, just in our youth if there wasn't a camera loaded with film present it wasn't recorded for posterity and picked over by someone who thinks they know better.

Therefore overall the fact that Sinn Féin are allowing Connor to not only take his seat today but to speak, is a good thing. The fact that the speaker is allowing Gaeilge to be spoken is also a step towards the normalisation that happens elsewhere, I expect the same conventions will apply, the exuberance of youth may have led Dale to believing that the whole speech will be unintelligible to an English speaker.

There is a little ray of hope and an anticipation of history on a young man's shoulders later today. I hope he strikes the right balance between the two, for his own and all of Northern Ireland's shared futures' sakes. Connor Morgan I wish you well, go n-éirí an t-ádh leat.

UPDATE: As I suspected Connor only gave a greeting in Gaelic before carrying on to speak assuredly against the raise of the cap in tuition fees. Some of what he said is here and below:

"It is a great honour to stand here before you and to have the opportunity to address you in Irish.

"Is it just that the current Members of Parliament, many of whom had a university education paid for by the state now expect us, the innocent and disenfranchised in this economic mess, to pay for the mistakes that they have made?

"Is is right that considering we, as young people, are constantly being told that we are the future, our future appears to us to be a burden of debt and uncertain job prospects?"

UPDATE 2: Paul Burgin has added this on his Mars Hill blog.

* I'm not sure if this applies in Wales which is legally bi-lingual, maybe one of my Welsh readers will clarify.

7 comments:

Matt said...

Well, I'm glad someone said this, other issues to note:

Iain's assistant Grant Tucker got in a bit of trouble due to material on his facebook page.

In Wales, simultaneous translation from Welsh to English is available in the Senedd, Members may speak in whichever tongue they choose.

Colin said...

It's precisely the "normalisation" of fascism that Iain and others object to.

doctorhuw said...

I think in Wales both languages have equal status, and simultaneous translation is provided - although I don't know whether they provide English into Welsh. Certainly I don't remember hearing members repeat themselves in a different language.

Of course the dynamic in Wales is, as you say, very different - far more people speak Welsh, despite Wales's comparatively small population, than speak either Gaelic or Gaeilge. Of course, that doesn't apply to either the SoS or her shadow - so I fear Cwestiwnnau Cymreig are still a long way off at Westminster!

Personally I think it's encouraging to see signs of Sinn Fein committing to democratic paths rather than violent ones, and I don't care what language they use to express it.

Kiera Hardie said...

Colin said... It's precisely the "normalisation" of fascism that Iain and others object to.


Fair point. Sinn Fein is a fascist party and this chap represents them. But he's only young, and this should be seen as a step towards rehabilitation - what in Germany they called denazification.

Remember - we won the war and they lost. Generosity in victory.

Oisín said...

Kiera from the sounds of it you wouldnt know fascism if it bit you in the arse. Only the most politically ignorant or the most politically dishonest would stoop to calling Sinn Fein a fascist party. I suggest you pick up a copy of The Anatomy of Fascism by Robert Paxton, or maybe just a dictionary, they are quite common.

Its also worth noting that their has been no statement by SF on this. It would appear Conor is simply a member of SF, not a SF speaker or spokesperson or representative in an formal fashion. The youth parliament he is a member does not have parties as far as I am aware.

For anyone who thinks this means anything like SF ever entering westminister you can keep dreaming.

Oisín said...

Kiera from the sounds of it you wouldnt know fascism if it bit you in the arse. Only the most politically ignorant or the most politically dishonest would stoop to calling Sinn Fein a fascist party. I suggest you pick up a copy of The Anatomy of Fascism by Robert Paxton, or maybe just a dictionary, they are quite common.

Its also worth noting that their has been no statement by SF on this. It would appear Conor is simply a member of SF, not a SF speaker or spokesperson or representative in an formal fashion. The youth parliament he is a member does not have parties as far as I am aware.

For anyone who thinks this means anything like SF ever entering westminister you can keep dreaming.

Anders said...

I'm not sure how the simultaneous translation works in the Assembly, but I have been to meetings with public officials in Wales where they only translate from Welsh to English.

In the Welsh Assembly equivalent of Hansard, they translate the headings for each debate or question in to both languages, but then only translate the words spoken by an AM from Welsh to English, but not the other way round.

Certainly, people don't repeat themselves in both languages.

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