Belfast Telegraph

Compulsory Irish in Republic's schools a mistake: Higgins

By Staff Reporter

Irish President Michael D Higgins has claimed that making the Irish language compulsory in schools in the Republic was "a mistake".

He was speaking during the fourth day of an official visit to New Zealand

"In my time, people would say about English: 'It's what you needed for the boat' because our people had to learn English to go abroad because of migration.

At one stage all civil servants changed their names to Irish "as if that was going to revive the subject", President Higgins told a university audience in Auckland, according to The Irish Times.

"The language needn't stand for every antiquated authoritarian idea that was ever dreamed up and imagined in ancient Irish," the newspaper reported.

President Higgins also said that the Irish language was made compulsory in schools after partition because English had been forced on Irish speakers, adding that the language was today increasingly being spoken by the young.

"I remember in other times people foisted attitudes on the language that really had nothing to do with the essential spirit.

"It is a language of life and thankfully it is being spoken more and more by young people," he said.

A dispute over the status of the Irish language in Northern Ireland lies at the heart of the current political impasse at the Northern Ireland Assembly, which collapsed in January this year after the resignation of Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness.

The main stumbling block centres on calls for an Irish Language Act. Sinn Fein Stormont leader Michelle O'Neill has said her party would not return to power-sharing without an agreed Irish Language Act.

However, DUP leader Arlene Foster rejected the proposal, instead suggesting a 'cross-community' Bill with provisions for Irish and Ulster-Scots.

But Sinn Fein insists it will only agree to standalone Irish language legislation.

The Belfast Telegraph revealed this week that more than £1m had been spent on utility bills for the zombie Stormont Assembly building.

Belfast Telegraph

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