February 28, 2007

(Y)our day will come

According to a story Monday in BreakingNews.ie ("Irish language teacher in Belfast guilty of disorderly behaviour", 2/26/2007):

An Irish language teacher was convicted today of hurling abuse in Irish at police officers during a night out in Belfast.

Maire Nic An Bhaird, 25, had denied shouting “Tiocfaidh Ar La” – our day will come – a declaration regularly used by republicans as part of their struggle for a united Ireland, during a confrontation in the city last May.

She claimed police held her in custody, demanding she spoke in English before they let her go.

But after hearing both sides a magistrate ruled against Nic An Bhaird and ordered her to pay a £100 (€150) fine.

Jim McCloskey helped me with the analysis and pronunciation of this phrase:

Tiocfaidh ár
come[FUT] our day
`Our day will come.'

This is a slogan which is indelibly linked with the Provisional IRA. I first began to hear it used in the early to mid 1980's (I think). I don't know where exactly it came from, but it features a lot on murals in areas where the IRA is or was strong (often linked with images of armed IRA volunteers or with the hunger strikers).

In Gaeltacht Irish, it would be something like:

[t'uki ar la:]

(the [t] heavily palatalized, the [u] very centralized, [k] velarized, the [i] short and centralized, strongest stress on the final syllable). It's more often used in English than in Irish contexts (and therefore is most often used by people who don't in fact speak Irish), in which case it comes out basically as:

Chuckee our law

Ms. Nic An Bhaird claimed to have said something different:

She was arrested after leaving a bar on the Malone Road in south Belfast with friends.

But while those with her walked on ahead, Nic An Bhaird became embroiled in a confrontation with police officers.

During the contest she gave evidence insisting what she had actually said at the time was Tiocfaidh Bhur La, which translates as you’ll have your chance.–

According to Jim, that one would be:

Tiocfaidh bhur
come[FUT] your[PL] day
`Your day will come.'


[t'uki wər la:]

The magistrate apparently didn't care what pronoun she used:

But in her ruling Magistrate Fiona Bagnall said the defendant had taken a substantial amount of alcohol on the night.

She accepted that Nic An Bhaird shouting in Irish was not a reason in itself to be arrested for disorderly behaviour.

And even though the magistrate said defence witnesses appeared to have given truthful accounts she added that the accuracy of their recollection may have been distorted because of their distance from the defendant.

All police witnesses have been consistent in their accounts of what happened, Ms Bagnall told the court.

She said: “I’m satisfied that the defendant continued to address police officers in a loud and aggressive manner. I therefore find her guilty of disorderly behaviour.”

Jim commented:

I have very, very bad associations with this slogan, which always carries with it (to me) the smell of menace (not to mention the cynical and hypocritical use of the language for propaganda purposes). That said, how it could possibly be construed as being `abusive' in any literal or legal sense is absolutely beyond me.

Though I have no idea what the law in Belfast says about "disorderly behavior", I wouldn't be surprised if it would technically cover reciting the alphabet "in a loud and aggressive manner". Of course shouting the Provos' slogan, or something close to it, would no doubt have had more impact on the attitude of the police.

The arrest apparently took place back in November -- some links and quotes are given here and here and here -- and the different descriptions give radically differing pictures of what actually happened.

[Martin Cornell writes:

The linguistics of Ulster is a minefield, with the Protestant side insisting their language is just as much under threat, and demanding provisions such as an Ulster Scots translation service for the Northern Ireland Assembly - you may have missed this announcement last week:

Progress with Ulster Scots Academy plan
Belfast, Tuesday, 20 February 2007 by Michael Montgomery
A commitment to an Ulster-Scots Academy, announced in the April 2003 Joint Declaration between the governments of the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland, has steadily moved toward fulfilment with submission in September of a comprehensive set of proposals to the Northern Ireland government at the invitation of the province's Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure, and ensuing consultation.

Talking of linguistic minefields, you'll notice Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brun was quoted in the first story you link to as saying: “The feeling right across this island is ..." instead of "The feeling right across Ireland is ..." because Ireland is ambiguous, as that's the short name for the 26-county republic, and "Northern Ireland and the Republic" would appear to legitimise the division ...

For similar reasons Nationalists in the North and anybody from the Republic will never refer to "the British Isles", only "these islands", since the usual name, they feel, implies British ownership - ignoring, one might feel, the fact that that Pretanni/Cruithni who gave their name to the islands were a Celtic or pre-Celtic tribe, not Angloi-Saxon, and were found on both sides of the irish Sea ...


Posted by Mark Liberman at February 28, 2007 06:32 AM