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Unionist councillors boycott Council’s Irish Language working group

August 15, 2016

Unionist councillors on Newry, Mourne and Down District Council have announced they are to boycott an in-house Irish Language working group, claiming their concerns are being “treated with contempt” by nationalist and republican councillors.

DUP councillor Garth Craig revealed unionists refused to nominate members to the Irish Language Strategy Implementation Working Group, and pointed out a previous situation where unionists had advised against erecting Irish signs at council boundaries in mainly unionist areas, but this was ignored and the signs were ultimately vandalized.

UUP councillor David Taylor said his party has consistently opposed the Council’s Irish language strategy, describing it as “a petty political ideological crusade”, while TUV councillor Henry Reilly also criticised nationalist councillors, saying: “These are the same people who were offended by the Council’s email address ending ‘.gov.uk’ or having ‘Welcome to Northern Ireland’ signs at border crossings – and the Council lifeguards having the British crown on their t-shirts.”

However, Sinn Fein councillor Barra Ó Muirí said he is “genuinely saddened and disappointed” at the unionist councillors’ refusal to engage with the group.

“Whilst not overly surprised, I had hoped to have the opportunity to foster positive relations with my Unionist colleagues, by assuring them that the Irish language belongs to all of us, and that by working together, we could send a positive message of collegiality out to the people who we represent,” Councillor Ó Muirí said.

He says he is “particularly annoyed” by Councillor Taylor’s description of the Irish language, claiming his comments insult Irish language activists across the district and only serves to highlight “his own lack of understanding”.

“Why don’t the Unionist councillors take a leaf out of Linda Ervine’s book and show true leadership by opening the Irish language up to Unionist communities?” he asked.

“Languages are there for us all, there is nothing to be feared by any language, despite what the UUP and DUP councillors say. No language should be forced upon anyone, but by the same token, respect should always be afforded to languages.”

Appealing to his unionist colleagues to reconsider, he added: “By working together in a spirit of respect and mutual understanding, we can indeed let all the people of Newry, Mourne and Down know that the future is bright, with equality and opportunities for all guaranteed.”

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