Belfast Telegraph

Alliance MLA slams SF 'language police' over cash machine protest

By Staff Reporter

A protest by Sinn Fein "language police" outside a Bank of Ireland branch over its decision to drop Irish from cash machine screens will not build confidence in the language, Alliance has said.

Lagan Valley MLA Trevor Lunn criticised what he described as "attempted interference in private business decisions around Irish".

Last week, Sinn Fein senator Niall O Donnghaile and Fra McCann MLA requested a meeting with Bank of Ireland officials after it removed Irish language options from new ATMs in the Republic. They held a protest against the move on Friday at the bank's Belfast headquarters.

Mr O Donnghaile described it as "a backward step and a denigration of Irish language rights". However, the bank said that fewer than 1% of transactions on cash machines offering Irish were completed in the language.

Mr Lunn said such protests needed to end if those from non-traditional backgrounds were to support the language. "Alliance supports a realistic and proportional Irish Language Act as a way to celebrate our shared cultural heritage, not as a pre-condition for government but to help create a stable form of devolution," he said. "But attempts such as this to police the private sector cross an important line and will not help build confidence in the wider community.

"For those who would not traditionally support the Irish language, this will do nothing other than raise the spectre of an Irish language police, when more should be being done to help encourage them to see the positive side of an Act.

"Alliance will continue to push proposals in discussions with all parties and interested stakeholders towards a workable solution which enables an Irish Language Act to be introduced for all in Northern Ireland."

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