Belfast Telegraph

Irish language ‘in your face all the time’ says councillor over plan to light up Belfast City Hall

Belfast City Hall is often lit up in support of various causes.
Belfast City Hall is often lit up in support of various causes.
Gareth Cross

By Gareth Cross

A Belfast councillor says Sinn Fein are pushing the Irish language “in people’s faces all the time” after it was announced city hall is to be lit up to show support for calls for an act.

City Hall will be lit up on Saturday at 4.30pm.

The Belfast City Council website said red was chosen as it was a "special human rights colour" and the illuminating of the iconic building was to mark the anniversary of the first public protest in support of an Irish Language Act, organised by campaign group An Dream Dearg.

A Belfast City Council spokesperson said that the "request was considered and agreed by members" in March 2018 when council passed a motion in support of an Irish Language Act.

UUP Alderman Jim Rodgers said that he was concerned by the move and that he felt it was part of a sustained agenda from Sinn Fein.

“I do have concerns because I think far too much has been made of the Irish language and its caused the Assembly not to be up and running,” Alderman Rodgers said.

“I’m a democrat, and if decisions have been taken I’ll abide by them, but it seems to be in your face all the time at every opportunity from Sinn Fein.

“I can see it every week in Belfast City Council and you become a little bit tired of it, but they are not going to push me out I can assure you.”

Alderman Rodgers expressed concern that the event could alienate one side of the community.

“I will try and look after the best interests of everybody in this community but if people are going to be in your face on certain matters I have to take a stand and rightly so,” he said.

“I believe in reaching out to both sides of the community, I have no time for sectarianism or bigotry, but some of these issues really do raise concerns and division and don’t help good relationships between our communities.”

The Stormont Assembly collapsed in January 2017 over the RHI scandal, and equality issues including same-sex marriage and Irish language rights.

Speaking at the time the late deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said that there would be "no return to the status quo".

An Irish Language Act has been a red line issue for Sinn Fein during talks aimed at restoring the power-sharing institutions.

An agreement between parties seemed close in February 2017 before talks collapsed over the issue of an Irish Language Act.

DUP leader Arlene Foster said the talks failed due to disagreements with Sinn Fein about legislation for the Irish language.

Sinn Fein Councillor Orla Nic Biorna called on supporters of Irish to turn out and support the lighting up on Saturday.

"The Irish language threatens no one and enriches our society and the Irish language community are entitled to protection with an Irish language act.," she said.

"I would call on all Irish language activists and everyone who supports rights and equality to come along on Saturday to demand an Irish language act."

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