Now I’m going to start this post with a few disclaimers. First, I think it’s totally splendid if people wish to learn Irish, or partake in the other trappings of Irish culture. Ditto Ulster Scots. In fact anything that could be regarded as a “cultural” pursuit. In the same way I think it’s just great that people do loads of other things – like model aeroplane making, skate-boarding, hill walking, otter spotting.
However, I’m somewhat intrigued to read the following:
“No PSNI officers who are registered as Irish speakers are working on the streets of Belfast, the Andersonstown News has learned.
“The surprise statistic emerged this week after the Andersonstown News made a request to the PSNI under the Freedom of Information Act, asking how many police officers in Belfast are Irish speakers, and further asking for a breakdown of the number of Irish-speaking cops in the various policing districts of the city.”
Now why would the Andersonstown News find this a surprise statistic? And why would it seek the statistic in the first place? Did the Andytown journos seek to ascertain the number of stamp collectors in the PSNI? Oh and what about officers with a penchant for yodelling?
Of course some may say that there is a fundamental difference between these things – yodelling and what-not – and the Irish language. They might argue that the Irish language is part of our cultural heritage etc. But the last time I checked the PSNI was not required to quota control based on hobbies – even those regarded by some as in some way culturally superior to others (like the Irish language). But it would appear that certain folks on the AndyNews feel that certain public sector employers should now be required to monitor and provide data related to the speaking of a language that virtually no-one speaks for day-to-day discourse. Next they’ll be demanding that we positively discriminate in favour of Irish language speakers in the workplace to redress the imbalance.
Now the Andersonstown News may think it’s appropriate that officers engage in witty banter with the sea of Irish speakers they might meet on a Saturday evening while scanning the streets of Belfast for yobbish drunken behaviour. Or perhaps it is implying that there might be merit in PSNI officers understanding Irish just in case they might apprehend a dissident Republican ASU that spontaneously switches to Irish subversive mutterings without any fear of the officers understanding their communications. I don’t know. Perhaps they might think it would be useful for PSNI officers to be able to interpret Irish graffiti in Republican enclaves. I’m at a loss.
But this must be political correctness gone stir crazy, even in Northern Ireland terms. Let’s face it. Very, very few people speak this language. Next to no-one speaks it on this island for day-to-day discourse – certainly not in Northern Ireland. Perhaps people might have a fondness for it as a language. However, even those who do can still speak English and would fully understand a PSNI officer speaking in English. Just as they would understand a meeting of the Policing Board conducted in English.
Now I was under the impression that for Nationalists to trust and accept the PSNI they had an expectation that it would be fair, and would properly represent our “communities”. Now that it appears to be achieving cross-community support now, apparently, it has to demonstrate that it has a cohort of Irish speakers in its midst and has to produce researched data to inform the the Andersonstown News, under freedom of information laws, just how many Irish language speakers it has at any point in time.
I really do question the sanity of this society we live in sometimes. The PSNI should treat this nonsense – and the mind-set it represents – with utter derision. And whoever polices freedom of information provisions in the PSNI should tell the Andytown News to go swing its hook (in English).