Belfast Telegraph

MLA warns of Liofa project risk

Efforts to boost the Irish language risk further politicising and segregating the issue, it has been claimed.

Ulster Unionist MLA Robin Swann called for "parity of esteem" for unionists and warned more should be done to promote Ulster Scots. He was criticising Liofa, a project to create many new Irish speakers.

He was speaking after a Culture, Arts and Leisure Committee meeting at Stormont during which culture minister Caral Ni Chuilin gave evidence.

The minister said she is keen to engage with all members of the committee and the community, regardless of their background, on promotion of the Irish language.

Mr Swann said: "My personal opinion would be that Liofa was part of a Sinn Fein agenda. We know what Sinn Fein's agenda is with regard to the Irish language, her actions actually would further politicise it and make it a segregated issue."

North Antrim MLA Mr Swann said Ulster Scots organisations were not enjoying a level playing field, adding: "She did not seem to be giving the same credence or importance to Ulster Scots as she was to Irish."

Liofa 2015 is separate from the long-running political deadlock over securing legislative protection for Irish and Ulster Scots.

More than 100 police officers were among the first to sign up to learn Irish after the launch of a new project to support the language.

Representatives of the sporting bodies for gaelic games, football and rugby also joined the minister at Stormont recently to launch the plan to create 1,000 new Irish speakers by 2015.

The Sinn Fein minister, who represents North Belfast, told the committee that she invited all members of the committee and all MLAs to the launch of Liofa.

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