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Irish is neither republican nor unionist… let toddlers talk how they wish while grown-ups learn about anti-sectarianism

1 18 1
31.07.2021

In anyone’s language, the fact that a nursery school should be forced to relocate due to a “social media hate campaign” is outrageous. The very idea that toddlers at Naiscoil na Seolta, learning to count and drawing pictures of mummy, could pose a threat to anybody’s culture is absurd.

Yet the proposed opening of the first Irish language pre-school on the site of Braniel Primary School in east Belfast prompted such vile and libellous online abuse that the PSNI are investigating.

News the nursery had decided to move elsewhere was met with anger, despair and dismay.

But this being modern-day Northern Ireland, where anything can be a sectarian flashpoint, it also resulted in another slew of abusive comments on social media, this time with some painting every single Protestant as a knuckle-dragging bigot.

Which is a sweeping generalisation given that Braniel PS has 400 pupils yet its principal Diane Dawson said she received just three complaints about the nursery. She also stressed that only a few mounted the online campaign.

Still, it’s a free-for-all on social media, where even so-called voices of moderation can indulge themselves in lazy stereotypes, carefully avoiding caveats to subscribe to the accepted narrative.

Braniel PS is fortunate to have Mrs Dawson, a straight-talking woman with conviction and courage. Her words nailed it: “I am a unionist, I will be first, foremost, and last a unionist and not one word of the Irish language spoken undermines or weakens my unionism. And certainly not two-year-olds learning how to say colours on the Braniel school site.”

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