Thursday, April 23, 2009

Objections to Ulster-Scots: Part Five

because it's just a politically motivated recent invention

This objection only really applies to those people who are daft enough to fall for the lie that Ulster-Scots was created in a laboratory in the mid 1990s, and was wheeled out of the cultural armaments plant just in the nick of time - a glorious gleaming Supergun-style weapon of tartan-clad retaliation to defend the Prods from the advancing, surging, Irish hordes.

Most people with a titter of wit know fine rightly that that's nonsense.

I'm not sure what politically motivated really means, but it sounds baaaad. I suppose in Norn Irn speak it roughly translates as something that's used to try to do the other side over. Let's have a look at this:

a) If the objection means (to coin a cliché) the sectarian politics of Northern Ireland, well then maybe the objector has a point. After all, it was the Ulster Unionist Party that negotiated the Belfast Agreement that gave birth to the Ulster-Scots Agency. So therefore surely Ulster-Scots is a purely unionist thing? Hmmm... but there are well-known public figures from at least two non-Unionist political parties that have been, or still are, very active in the very small Ulster-Scots world. And that's fine by me. But when presented with this evidence, if the objector retreats a wee bit and is really only in a tizzy about the unionist bit, then the objection itself is politically motivated...

On a more practical level, in the day-to-day political world that's often called bread-and-butter, (and I hope that's the heel of a plain loaf, and good Ballyrashane country butter) everything in Northern Ireland was / is / will be political. We have a massive political class which wields enormous influence, and not all of it good! And thanks to our history we're all quite highly-tuned in to the ongoing political tug of war - we absorb it in every news broadcast of every day. So in Northern Ireland everything has been appropriated by politics - that's just the way it is. The 11 Plus, the stadium, water charges and all the rest - Ulster-Scots is not unique in that regard. Get over it. Find me an aspect of life in Northern Ireland that's never been touched by politics and I'll send you a wee bag of Portavogie dulse as a prize.

Here's nice simple tv ad on the theme from a few years ago:

b) As for part two of the large type statement above - the recent invention bit - well, have a look through the archives of this blog (now sitting at 366 posts!) and you'll find plenty of material to kill that idea off once and for all.

However, the underlying issue is that many people - especially the smarter-than-thou chattering class - are actually very lazy and can't be bothered to take the time to look beyond the stereotype and find out for themselves. And so this particular objection is, for some, a handy cloak to hide behind, which saves them from having to adjust their viewpoints.

There's another angle to this. The point above deals with the usual notion of Ulster-Scots being a contrived reaction to Irishness. However, I also know Unionist folk who see Ulster-Scots as a cynical means of weaning Ulster Protestants away from their Britishness - part of the process to reduce the British identity of Northern Ireland. Personally, I see Ulster-Scots as my true identity, what I always was, and am very thankful for what I've learned about myself and my own history through the growth of Ulster-Scots. Identity is a complex thing.

Previous articles in this series:
> Part Four
> Part Three
> Part Two
> Part One
> Intro
> What is Ulster-Scots?