McCrea says much of that can be attributed to the way nationalist Sinn Féin politicians like to speak Irish in Stormont, Northern Ireland's
legislature--something he calls hijacking the language.
"You know when [Sinn Féin is] annoyed because they respond in a huge amount of Irish," McCrea says. "It's like flying a flag. It's got nothing to do with
language and everything to do with politics."
Sinn Féin's stance on the Irish language has long been associated with the saying, "every word of Irish spoken is like another bullet being fired in the
struggle for Irish freedom."
McCrea argues that the language is promoted more as a token than as the spearhead of the tolerance movement
Twenty years ago, at the peak of Catholic-Protestant tensions, a unionist named Ivor Reid might have agreed.
Now the 51-year-old sits in a classroom at the East Belfast Mission, reciting terms he's learned in Gaelic alongside his fellow students. He and about a
dozen others are enrolled in a beginner's Irish class, where they learn the basics of the language every Wednesday night.
"Conas tá tú? (How are you?)," the instructor asks.
"Tá mé go maith (I'm well)," the students respond.
Reid grew up in a part of town where "everything's British" and murals with painted Union Jacks are inscribed with messages like "The Ulster conflict is
about nationality," lest anyone forget.
Reid doesn't buy into the idea that everyone in the city gets along post-peace process, he says, and argues that people take their British pride too far--a
reference to the flag protests that took place last fall and still flare up to this day.
"My community, they probably think I'm nuts," he says, taking a swig of his coffee during the class break. "But the people I've met learning the Irish
language, they aren't republicans...this is our language, not just republican language."
Reid sees Irish as a way for both sides to communicate and better understand each other, a way to rid the city of an "us and them" attitude.
"It's not sorted out, that's the problem," he says of the enduring societal divisions. "Which is sad, but it's Northern Ireland. The older generation has
turned around and said, 'You know, wise up.'"
If the Líofa campaign succeeds and Gaelic becomes commonplace, it won't be the first time language has helped unite a nation still reeling from tragedy and
Though Irish was never fully extinct as a spoken language like Hebrew once was, experts draw a parallel between the faded language's resurrection in Israel
and the Gaelic revival in Northern Ireland. Paul Frommer, a linguistics expert and creator of the Na'vi language spoken in the movie Avatar, says
Hebrew is an example of how language brings people together.
"Every language is a reflection of the culture in which it developed," Frommer says. "The way you speak says an awful lot about who you are and who you