Friday, 22 February 2008

Letero al la Boord o Ulstèr-Scotch

22 February, 2008

Mr. George Patton
Tha Boord o Ulstèr-Scotch
Franklin Haw, 5t Flare
10-12 Brunswick Raa
Bilfawst, BT2 7GE

Dear Mr Patton:

I am in receipt of a letter from Ms. Suzanne Clark of Aer Lingus’ Chief Executive Office addressing the controversial issue of that organisation’s banning Irish-language announcements on Belfast flights.

She offers the rationale that “it would be operationally impractical to deliver anouncements in English, Irish and Scots Ulster [sic].”

I think that we can both agree, sir, that before pretending to address the needs of language communities, Aer Lingus would do well to learn the proper names, even in English, of their correlative languages.

Even more so, I find it rather disheartening that Aer Lingus is using one language community as a ready excuse to exclude another. In this way, both Ulster Scots and Irish are cast aside.

Although I am comfortable with Irish, I enjoy hearing all languages, as all are intriguing to me. Indeed, as a resident of New York’s Borough of Queens, I undoubtedly live in the most linguistically diverse 462 square kilometres on the planet. Here, 150 languages are spoke on a daily basis.

In addition to socialising in Irish, I very much enjoy conducting neighbourhood business in Spanish, and of course, as a native New Yorker, my English is peppered generously with Yiddish words and phrases.

Languages don’t frighten me. Ignorance does.

Aer Lingus’ ignorance manifests itself in their arrogance which sells short the people of Northern Ireland.

In truth, Aer Lingus’ Irish-language announcements were always quite short and amounted to little more than a “welcome”.

Indeed, it is impossible to believe that adding “Fáilte go Béal Feirste” and "Walcome tae Bilfawst” to “Welcome to Belfast” would in any way prove to be “operationally impractical” to any intelligent flight crew or would cause any serious consternation to their passengers.

If any difficulty were to persist, a live announcement could be replaced with a recording in English, Irish and Ullans. Here, both the Boord o Ulstèr-Scotch and Foras na Gaeilge would be well-equiped to direct Aer Lingus to good languages services.

Aer Lingus’ misguided and ill-advised policy denies opportunities to both language communities in question.

It is my hope that you would reach the same conclusion and bring your concerns to the attention of Mr Dermot Mannion, the airline’s Chief Executive Officer.

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