Hundreds take to streets in call for Irish Language Act

February 20, 2017

More than 700 people took to the streets of Newry on Saturday, calling for the introduction of an Irish Language Act.

The crowd assembled at the Town Hall as part of a public demonstration, organised by Irish-language movement, An Dream Dearg.  The purpose of the event was to highlight the lack of rights for Irish speaking people and communities in the North and to call for respect and recognition through the provision of rights-based legislation.

Pádraig Ó Tiarnaigh, spokesperson for An Dream Dearg said it is important for the Irish language community to be as vocal as possible, particularly as the Assembly election draws near.

“The failure of Stormont to deliver on promises made to us makes it imperative that our rights are delivered prior to the resurrection of any Executive,” he told those gathered.

“The continued intransigence and opposition of political unionism, reiterated again recently, illustrates the impossibly of this being resolved locally. Our rights cannot be held hostage to ‘political consensus’ and we call on all political parties who support us to affirm their commitment that they will not be part of any future arrangement that facilitates the active discrimination of Irish speakers.”

Sara Ní Chuireáin from South-Down Irish language community said obstacles must be removed to all respect and recognition for all Irish speaking communities.

“This can only be delivered through the provision of rights,” she said.  “We have learnt recently, in this area, of the intervention of our former First Minister to prevent the erection of bilingual signs, in contravention of the expressed wishes of the local community. This highlights the need for legislative protection. We will continue to agitate and organise until our rights are delivered. We ask all of those who support an inclusive, respectful society where diversity is celebrated to stand with us.”

Local Sinn Fein politicians came out in support of the demonstration.  In a statement, the party said the Irish Language Act was promised as part of the St Andrew’s Agreement in 2006, but has faced continued opposition from unionists.

“We in Sinn Féin believe that the time has come for all stakeholders to sit down and discuss the future of the Irish language. We want to show our Unionist neighbours that they need not fear a language, and that An Ghaeilge belongs to us all.   The numbers of young children being educated in the medium of Irish continue to rise, to unprecedented levels, something we wish to protect and encourage. We want language rights for all Gaeilgeoirí  and we are happy to fight for that,” the statement said.