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Irish Language Act would be beneficial

In his recent address to the McGill Summer School in Donegal, the DUP's Edwin Poots spoke openly and at times positively about the Irish language, saying, "Anyone who speaks and loves the Irish language is as much a part of Northern Ireland life as a collaret-wearing Orangeman".

He continued, however, to say that his party "opposes the introduction of Irish language legislation that is more about developing a sense of national identity than it is about supporting the language itself" and suggested that the language is used as a "weapon in a cultural war".

While Mr Poots' language is very much different from previous comments made by his party regarding Irish, the idea that there is a "cultural war" taking place is incorrect and further polarises communities which may, with the correct language and approach used, be open to debate on the Irish language.

Conradh na Gaeilge has been to the fore in the campaign for an Act, and has produced a document which contains proposals which would recognise, protect and promote the use of Irish in everyday life, but which would at no point pose any threat to any other cultures.

An Irish Language Act would put an end to prejudiced and whimsical decision-making regarding the language and it would provide a platform for the language to thrive and become part of a continued and much-needed cultural revival. I am personally unaware of any genuine member of the Irish language community who is interested in cultural warfare, or who would make any attempt to denigrate or suppress other cultures. In fact, the opposite is generally the case.

None of what Conradh na Gaeilge has put forward contains any trappings of warfare, cultural or otherwise, and this is the view held by the Irish language community.

In its meeting with Conradh na Gaeilge, the DUP delegation and Mr Poots himself agreed that the costs of the proposals were, in fact, "reasonable" and the party leader accepted that there would be "legislative provision" for the Irish language. None of the proposals put forward by Conradh na Gaeilge will impact negatively on other cultures. Indeed, we are convinced they would enhance them.

If the DUP genuinely believes that "anyone who speaks and loves the Irish language is as much a part of Northern Ireland life as a collaret-wearing Orangeman" it should recognise and accept that the Irish language should be officially recognised through the means of a stand-alone Act, as recommended by the United Nations, the Council of Europe, the Dail and a majority of our own elected MLAs.

DR NIALL COMER

President, Conradh na Gaeilge and lecturer in Irish at Ulster University

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