DUP leader ‘uplifted’ after visit with Irish speaking students

May 1, 2017

A visit by the DUP leader Arlene Foster to Our Lady’s Grammar school in Newry on Wednesday to meet with Irish-speaking students, has been described as “an extremely positive experience” by Principal, Fiona McAlinden.

The visit was arranged as part of Mrs Foster’s pledge to meet with Irish speakers ‘without political baggage’ and gain a better understanding of the culture.  Earlier this year the former First Minister was criticized for declaring her party would never agree to an Irish Language Act.

When meeting with staff and pupils at Our Lady’s, Mrs Foster enjoyed songs and drama performances in Irish, and afterwards declared she was “set up for the rest of the day”.

Stating she was “really uplifted” by the visit, Mrs Foster said: “One of the very strong things that came across was the passion that the girls had for the language and it is really good to strip away all the politics out of this issue and just to listen in a very clear way as to how Irish and the language has helped in the study of other languages and to give them a head start in relation to job opportunities as well.”

To mark the occasion, Mrs Foster was presented with a painting depicting two girls with the bilingual message ‘Ní neart go chur le chéile – Together we are strong’.

At the conclusion of her visit, Mrs Foster addressed her hosts in Irish, saying “Go raibh maith agat” (thank you).

Principal Fiona McAlinden praised Mrs Foster’s positive engagement with the students.

“We were very happy to welcome Mrs Foster to Our Lady’s.  We were delighted with the positivity in the room and how Mrs Foster engaged with the students,” she said.

“On the day she met girls who have come to Our Lady’s from the Irish Medium Unit in Crossmaglen, others from a Bunscoil background, as well as students who only came across Irish when they started in Our Lady’s.  It was an extremely positive experience for the students, the staff and Mrs Foster herself and we were very happy to host such a visit at the school.”