Hello there. A select few of you may recognise the name at the bottom of this post, and if you do, then you presumably know that I write dick jokes for a living. That’s probably not the most convincing invitation to listen to my political whitterings, but here I am. Hear me out. Coupla minutes, sure.

The wonderful folks at LAD HQ have been gracious enough to allow me to post occasional articles and thoughts on their blog. That's a true honour, and whilst I understand that this blog is primarily a satirical blog, I wish to use my first post here to make a few points that, in light of recent events, need to be said with the utmost sincerity.

Now, before you go off thinking I'll be boring the bollocks off you every time I post, I can promise you that future contributions will be heavily peppered with silliness. For now, you'll just have to make do with this animated .gif of everyone's favourite decrepit tangerine, George Chittick, being smoulderingly sexy:

 "Ye wanna do the bouncy...?"

Anyway, with that out of the way, it's down to business. Here we go.
The opening of a new Irish language center in the predominantly Protestant East Belfast is poignant for many reasons; not simply for the obvious, but also as a reflection of a slowly emerging, broader change within the wider Protestant community. As we normalise ourselves within the (admittedly) fragile peace the Good Friday Agreement has given us, we learn more and more that many notions of old are simply that – notions of old.  They are constructs. Antiquated ideas still fed to us by voices from a dark past. Ideas still used as weapons of the mind.

One of these antiquated ideas that I'm talking about is thus: that any promotion of the Irish language and culture is simply a front for the republican agenda towards reuniting Ireland. 

It's easy to understand why this generalisation is still fresh in the minds of many within the PUL community. After all, the extremist republican movement has, in the past, attempted (and in some ways, succeeded) to politicise the language for their own gains – to instate themselves as the purveyors of “true” Irishness. Today, this is perhaps most evident in the suggestion that the most Irish many in the PUL community currently understand is "tiocfaidh ar la.”

Loyalist and unionist hardliners have been happy to indulge this notion themselves, by tarring everything remotely Irish with the same brush of republican terrorism. They do this to galvanise the loyalist cause by promoting a fear of anything Irish within their own community. They, like the hardline republicans, have politicised the Irish language for their own gains also

These constructs, meticulously cultivated from both sides throughout recent history, have helped to disguise the true, historical relationship between the Protestant people of the north of Ireland and the Irish language. We'll talk more on that in a bit.

A Foundation For Change

The last 14 months of bully-boy, boo-hoo bellyaching about the “slow dismantling of loyalist culture” in the North from the DUP/Orange Order/loyalist collective have disenfranchised said culture to many Protestants, who, being fed up of what they’ve seen during this period, have perhaps decided to seek out for themselves something else that truly represents them – and why not? 

When we are told by hardliners that hate-fuelled flag burning and antagonism is “our culture,” we feel misrepresented deep in our bones. They say they speak for all of the Protestant people in today's North. They do not. 

When hardline loyalists talk about the idea of Protestant culture being dumbed down, they are blurring lines.  The true question is this – is Protestant culture being dumbed down, or are the negative aspects of loyalist culture being dumbed down? Hardliners may want us to believe the notion that they are one and the same, but they are not. 

Perhaps, in light of recent events, there is an emerging desire for many Protestants to disassociate from the “culture” they have been told over the years is their own, and to find something more positive to connect to. Some, such as those who now attend Irish classes in the Irish Language Center of East Belfast, have looked further back into their lineage and been surprised at what they have discovered.

There is a deep historical relationship between northern Protestants and the Irish language dating back hundreds of years, all the way back to the Ascendancy landowners of the 1700s, who used the language to communicate with their local tenants despite it being outlawed by the English.

The Irish language has been held in dear regard throughout much of Protestant involvement in Ireland: from the United Irishmen, a revolutionary group founded by northern Presbyterians to protect Ireland's interests (and led by the Protestant Wolfe Tone) to the grandfather of modern unionism himself, Edward Carson, who was a fluent Irish speaker and enthusiast.

Even post-partition, the unionist government of the new six-county state were very comfortable in using celtic regalia for their governmental crests and plaques, such as this design for the Parliamentary Library of Northern Ireland:

 Source: Ulster Scot FB page. Willie Frazer would have a fit.

It is this oft-forgotten relationship that many loyalist hardliners wish to keep hidden, as it contradicts their political aspirations. To keep the Protestant community polarised from the Catholic community is to keep the Protestant people where hardliners such as the DUP want them – a place where these zealous individuals can wield the most power and fulfil their own small-minded, bigoted agendas.

As hardliner support in today’s North slowly lessens, and we slowly free ourselves from the constructs of conflict, more and more Protestants are now discovering for themselves once again their Irish roots. 

There is the recent story of Protestant Linda Ervine – developer of the Irish Language Center in East Belfast – who discovered that many in her family, alongside her husband’s family, spoke fluent Irish prior to partition. Perhaps as more Protestants seek to find and discover their own hidden relationship with the language, we will see the true Protestant culture of the North emerge:

A culture that thrives on re-engagement with the proud historical contribution Protestants have made to Irish culture. 

A culture centered on reconciliation with Catholic neighbours via rediscovered common interests, all founded in the principle of peace. 

As the culture of reconciliation becomes more apparent, the less the hardline brand of hate-fuelled “culture” becomes relevant. Eventually, the notions of old will fade away.

This isn’t mere conjecture. As we emerge out of the ashes of the past, we are seeing this change in action through the work of people like Linda Ervine. Perhaps one day we can all, Protestant and Catholic, take a singular pride in our home through a unified sense of cultural wellbeing.

We are, after all, a part of Ireland that is a part of the UK

Protestants must disengage completely from the voices of old such as George Chittick, who bray with fire and brimstone about how engagement with Irish culture is the “slippery slope” towards a United Ireland. A United Ireland is completely irrelevant to this discussion. Irish culture is, after all, as much a Protestant's culture as it is anyone else’s on this island, regardless of the union with Great Britain.

 Perhaps we should take a great pride in this together as one, and perhaps the North can stand tall as a proudly Irish part of the UK. 

I, myself, am from a Protestant background, raised in the very north coast of County Derry. I am a proud Irishman from the North. I am slowly learning to speak Irish myself, and I hope to be fluent someday. 

I invite everyone from a Protestant background in the North to reacquaint themselves with our significant connection and contribution to Irish culture. 

So whaddya say, fellas, fancy joining me on this journey?


To the heinous bigotry that parades itself as “culture,” I hope, some day, we can all say bliain mhaith i do dhiaidh.

Best wishes, 

-Dave McElfatrick