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Watch: Arlene Foster says thank you in Irish during school visit

DUP leader describes multi-lingual gift as 'beautiful'

By Claire Williamson

Arlene Foster has said thank you in Irish after meeting students at a school in Co Down as part her outreach to those who speak the language.

As an Irish Language Act has become one of the major stumbling blocks in political talks, the DUP leader said she wanted to engage with Gaelic speakers who lacked political baggage.

The DUP leader visited Our Lady's Grammar School in Newry on Wednesday and spoke with 30 pupils and members of staff.

During her visit Mrs Foster said "go raibh maith agat" - an Irish phrase meaning thank you - as she left the school.

She described as "beautiful" the gift she received of a painting from the school which had both English and Irish writing on it.

The painting of two girls had the English translation: "Together we are strong".

Mrs Foster said she had been "set up for the rest of the day" after listening to songs and performances in Irish.

During her visit she said people have "nothing to fear from engaging with another culture".

She said: "There is nothing to be feared from engaging with another culture, in fact I think it's a sign of strength if you engage with another culture that's not your own."

She added: "I was really uplifted this morning."

DUP leader Arlene Foster visits Our Lady's Grammar School in Newry and meets pupils and staff to discuss the Irish Language. Arlene Foster pictured leaving the school after the visit followed by Principal Fiona McAlinden
Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye.com
DUP leader Arlene Foster visits Our Lady's Grammar School in Newry and meets pupils and staff to discuss the Irish Language. Arlene Foster pictured leaving the school after the visit followed by Principal Fiona McAlinden Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye.com
DUP leader Arlene Foster(right) visits Our Lady's Grammar School in Newry and is greeted by (L-R) Vice Principal Teresa McAlister, Sister Frances and Principal Fiona McAlinden. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye.com
DUP leader Arlene Foster(right) visits Our Lady's Grammar School in Newry and is greeted by (L-R) Sister Frances and Principal Fiona McAlinden. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye.com
DUP leader Arlene Foster visits Our Lady's Grammar School in Newry and meets pupils and staff to discuss the Irish Language. Arlene Foster says goodbye to Vice Principal Teresa McAlister after the visit. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye.com
DUP leader Arlene Foster visits Our Lady's Grammar School in Newry and meets pupils and staff to discuss the Irish Language. Arlene Foster(left) pictured leaving the school after the visit as Principal Fiona McAlinden(centre) and Vice Principal Teresa McAlister say goodbye. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye.com
DUP leader Arlene Foster visits Our Lady's Grammar School in Newry and meets pupils and staff to discuss the Irish Language. Arlene Foster speaks to the media after the visit. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye.com
DUP leader Arlene Foster visits Our Lady's Grammar School in Newry and meets pupils and staff to discuss the Irish Language. Pupils of the school look on as Arlene Foster speaks to the media after the visit. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye.com

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In February, Mrs Foster said more people spoke Polish than Irish in Northern Ireland and declared the party would never agree to an act protecting the language.

Mrs Foster said on Tuesday she is on a "journey" in relation to the Irish language.

"I have met with some individuals already around why they believe Irish is so important to them.

"One of the very strong things that came across was the passion that the girls had for the language and it is really good to strip away all the politics out of this issue and just to listen in a very clear way as to how Irish and the language has helped in the study of other languages and to give them a head start in relation to job opportunities as well."

Posting on Facebook after the visit the school thanked Mrs Foster for accepting their invitation.

It said: "We were delighted with her positive engagement with past and present Irish students and with our Irish teachers."

Last week POBAL, the independent advocacy group for the Irish language, confirmed it received a response from the DUP after they wrote to them asking for a meeting with Mrs Foster.

The group said that the party told them even though the General Election has now been called the DUP is "seeking to free up space in the diary to meet with us, 'as soon as possible'.

The move for Mrs Foster to meet with Irish speakers has been called "positive" by Sinn Fein.

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