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Ian Paisley says yes to Irish language radio’s request for an interview

By Noel McAdam

Belfast's Irish language radio station has landed a major scéal speisialta — scoop — in an interview with former First Minister Ian Paisley.

In it, the DUP leader talks of his long interest in St Patrick and his admiration for the sacrifices and dedication of great Irish figures like St Colomba.

The famous ‘no’ man of Ulster politics said ‘yes’ to the interview when approached at an |exhibition he was opening with former Belfast Lord Mayor and Ulster Unionist Party MLA Ian Adamson.

But the ex-Free Presbyterian Moderator speaks only in English during the five-to-six minute question and answer session which Raidió Fáilte 107.1FM is to broadcast later this week.

Station manager Fergus Ó hÍr said the piece was part of its |mission to endeavour to prove that Irish is a common cultural heritage which belongs to everyone.

And he played down the piece as evidence of changing unionist attitudes towards the Irish language, which was one of the issues at the centre of the stand-off between Sinn Fein and the DUP which prevented Executive meetings for five months last year.

“I wouldn’t read too much into it, but all of this helps towards a point where the Irish language becomes normalised and people realise it is there for their enjoyment, if they wish to enjoy it, and not being forced on them,” he said.

“I would say it is very much in keeping with our position on the Irish language, as part of the cultural heritage of everyone and does not belong to one section or group in society.”

The station, which has been going for almost two and a half years, has also in the past interviewed former DUP Culture Minister Edwin Poots, who rejected proposals for Irish language legislation, and broadcast special programmes on the anniversary of the death of former Progressive Unionist leader David Ervine.

Mr Paisley spoke at the launch of an exhibition of a painting entitled Amra Cholum Cille (an elegy for St Colmcille) in the Cregagh Library in Belfast last week when he was approached by intrepid Raidió Fáilte reporter Caoimhe Ní Chathail and readily agreed to talk. The North Antrim MP has always been in touch with his Irish side — he once said: “I would never repudiate the fact that I am an Irishman” — and talks of his view of the importance of “the sacrifices, of the dedication and of the heritage of these great men like Colomba and Patrick and others”.

The interview can be heard on Raidió Fáilte 107.1fm or on www.raidiofailte.com this Friday, January 16, at 1pm.

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