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Irish language above politics and religion

It was disingenuous and damaging enough that Gregory Campbell should mock the Irish language on the floor of Stormont, but to hear the leader of the DUP describe the provision of assistance to those in the north who want to study Irish as encouraging crocodiles by offering them food was downright insulting (News, February 7).

She needs to know that there are people all over the island of Ireland who love the Irish language, who are learning the language for the first time, or retrieving their lost language and/or getting together in groups to chat and celebrate in Irish.

She also should remember that the Irish language, in ancient forms, has been on the island for about two-and-a-half-thousand years.

It is also very closely related to Manx Gaelic and Scottish Gaelic and these were the common languages of much of what constitutes Britain today.

It predates unionism and nationalism. It predates Christianity. It predates Protestantism and Catholicism. It is part of the very fabric of what we are. Nor does the Irish language belong to any political party - least of all to Sinn Fein.

A language is not simply a tool. It is an emotional, social and psychic home. Octavio Paz, the Mexican poet, touched on this when he pointed out "every language that dies is a vision of humanity that is lost forever".

I would urge Arlene Foster to realise that helping the Irish language to survive among those of the citizens of the north who wish for this is a not a sign of weakness, but of strength.

MARIE MacSWEENEY

Drogheda

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