Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 26 July 2014

Ervine relative speaks up for Irish

Linda Ervine, a relative of the former loyalist leader David Ervine, has revealed she has started to learn the Irish language

A relative of the former loyalist leader David Ervine has revealed she has started to learn the Irish language.

Linda Ervine, whose husband Brian recently stepped down as leader of the UVF-aligned Progressive Unionist Party, began her studies through a cross-community project.

But while Irish has traditionally been associated with the Catholic community, the 49-year-old said she was struck by research that showed how her Protestant ancestors also spoke the tongue.

The East Belfast teacher said more Protestants were becoming aware of their community's historic links to the language and wanted to see it freed of its political baggage.

Her brother-in-law David Ervine, who died four years ago, was a former UVF prisoner who later came to international prominence through his support for the peace process and his efforts to develop a political voice for loyalism.

But Mrs Ervine said her family history was an encouragement rather than a hindrance to taking up Irish. She said: "People may not be aware that David learned Irish while he was in prison.

"The first Irish I heard was from Brian, who knew it from place names, which always interested me. I suppose people might find it unusual, given my background, but there you go."

She said much of the Protestant community's link to Irish, including the role of Presbyterians in preserving and protecting the language centuries ago, had been forgotten.

"I think it's very sad people don't know that. That has been lost," she said.

"I feel that because the language has been politicised, sadly, it has been seen to belong to one community, which is nonsense. The language belongs to all the people of Northern Ireland."

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