Belfast Telegraph

Praise for DUP Mayor's special Irish language event

By Brett Campbell

A DUP mayor has hosted a special event in Ballymena to celebrate Irish language week.

Paul Reid, the Mayor of Mid and East Antrim Borough Council, facilitated the cultural night celebrating Irish in The Braid arts centre.

DUP opposition to an Irish Language Act has been one of the main sticking points to restoring the power-sharing institutions at Stormont.

But Mr Reid was happy to embrace the language on Wednesday.

"I'm delighted as mayor for all the citizens of the borough to welcome elected members and our guests from Irish language groups and musicians," he said.

Mr Reid is the second DUP mayor to reach out to the Irish language community recently.

Antrim and Newtownabbey mayor Paul Hamill spoke Irish when he welcomed nearly 200 guests to the Theatre at the Mill in the for a special Irish language event last month.

During Wednesday's event organised for Seachtain na Gaeilge (Irish Language Week), Mr Reid reserved his highest praise for Irish language activist Linda Ervine who explored the hidden historical links between the Protestant community and one of the "oldest and most historical written languages" in the world.

"It was great to raise awareness of the linguistic links between Irish and Scottish Gaelic, especially in Ballymena, an area with such strong links to Scotland," she said.

Mr Reid described Mrs Ervine's contribution as "excellent and informative" and said he and a number of his colleagues enjoyed it.

Mrs Ervine, the wife of ex-Progressive Unionist Party leader Brian, has been organising Irish language classes for a number of years at the Methodist-run Skainos Centre in the predominantly loyalist area of inner-east Belfast.

She has previously credited DUP MP Gregory Campbell for driving her support of a contentious Irish Language Act after he mockingly mispronounced the phrase "go raibh maith agat" in the Assembly back in 2014.

Mrs Ervine accused the then MLA of showing "disrespect" after he said "curry my yoghurt can coca coalyer" when he took to the floor to speak.

But last night Mr Reid struck a more conciliatory tone by saying that it is the council's vision that "everyone who lives and works in Mid and East Antrim should feel welcome, safe, respected and celebrated".

"Events like this are important to Council as we continue to work together to create a better future for all", he added.

Dr Niall Comer, president of Conradh na Gaeilge thanked the Mayor and Mid and East Antrim Council for celebrating Seachtain na Gaeilge in what is the 125th anniversary of a language revival.

"This event in The Braid shows that the Irish-speaking community locally, from Larne to Crosskeys, from Ballymena to Carnlough, continues to play its part in highlighting the vibrancy of Irish - a language that belongs to us all, regardless of background."

Ballymena-based Glor Dhal Riada also participated in the event which featured traditional musical performances.

Rosie Lyness, a spokesperson for the group, said the community was founded when Irish speakers from north Antrim brought their language and writings with them to Scotland.

"Many place names in both Scotland and Ireland are in fact Gaelic," she said. "Our motto is 'Beatha An Teanga i A Labhairt' meaning 'speak a language and it lives', we're delighted that through events like this one, we can continue to promote and nurture the Irish language and culture, making it a living identity for all."

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