Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 24 April 2014

Respect Union flag and Irish language in Northern Ireland: Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore

Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore made statement to TDs
Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore made statement to TDs

The second most senior politician in the Republic has called for respect for the Union flag and the Irish language in Northern Ireland – two key cultural symbols at the centre of controversy north of the border.

Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore's reference to the flag will be welcomed by unionists, because it reiterates an explicit recognition of UK sovereignty here. As Irish foreign minister, Mr Gilmore takes the lead in Irish Government policy on Northern Ireland and also Anglo-Irish relations.

In a statement to TDs, Mr Gilmore also called for the Irish language to be given the same status in Northern Ireland as Welsh enjoys in Wales.

"Steps can and should be taken that provide for the respectful expression of British and Irish cultural identity – whether that is for the appropriate display of the Union flag as the sovereign flag of Northern Ireland, or for affording the protections and status to the Irish language that are already afforded in Wales to the Welsh language."

Mr Gilmore also suggested there would be a concerted push by Dublin and London to move the Haass process forward in Northern Ireland.

He used a Dail debate to set out his stall ahead of a meeting with Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers in Dublin today, where the two will consider what more the governments can do to help facilitate agreement.

The recent talks chaired by US diplomat Dr Richard Haass broke up last month with the five Executive parties unable to reach agreement on key issues that divide Northern Ireland.

"Parades, flags and emblems and contending with the past can be touch-paper issues which, in the absence of agreement at Executive level on how best to deal with them, continue to disrupt other areas of government and civic life," Mr Gilmore said.

"Agreement and unity on these issues would, I believe, inspire a new sense of security and confidence across communities in Northern Ireland. And the Northern Ireland parties deserve and require all the support they can get from across society and from the two governments.

"I confirm that this government will provide that support to the full. Both governments have made clear that we attach high importance to the parties making progress on these issues."

Mr Gilmore said he saw agreement as a stepping stone to prosperity. "This work is important in itself but it is also necessary so that the parties can turn their attention to other serious pressing issues around unemployment, education, and economic recovery."

QUOTES

"I know that there is a great deal of scepticism that these (post-Haass) talks will lead to agreement. I don't share that scepticism. I believe that there is genuine desire by all party leaders to find agreement and that agreement is within reach and achievable. I encourage them to conclude this work now without further delay."

Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore

Further reading

First Minister Peter Robinson hits out at 'don't learn Irish' call from senior Orangeman 

Visit our Irish class in loyal east Belfast... challenge to Orange chief who hit out at language 

Growing appetite among Protestant, unionist and loyalist people to learn Irish language, says wife of former PUP leader

Irish language class takes off in Protestant community in east Belfast  

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