Belfast Telegraph

Police sign up for Irish lessons

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

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

Members of the public are also being asked to try to become "liofa", Irish for fluent, by the target date.

Ulster Unionist Basil McCrea also attended the launch of Liofa 2015, which is being billed as a bid to take the language away from the political divisions of the past.

Mr McCrea said that while the tongue was most closely associated with nationalism, history pointed to its cross-community roots.

"We are keen that it is de-politicised," he said. "The only way to do that is through engagement, which is why we are here. It is worth saying that in the past there were lots of Presbyterians, Church of Ireland, a lot of Scots that were involved in the whole thing as well."

Deputy Chief Constable Judith Gillespie, who also attended the launch, said police wanted to reach out to all communities.

She said she had learned Irish from CDs and books, but said the police had held internal classes, and she revealed that around 150 had now expressed interest again in learning Irish.

Minister Ni Chuilin said: "I recognise that some have over many years sought to portray the promotion of Gaelic culture and the Irish language as in some way threatening and as the preserve of one section of our community. This approach needs to be challenged.

"I want us to reach a position where the Irish language is learnt, spoken and enjoyed by people of all backgrounds and traditions. Therefore today I launched the Liofa 2015 Initiative."

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