Irish Republican News · February 29, 2008
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
March in defence of Irish language

Thousands of people took to the streets of Belfast city centre on February 23 to show their support for the Irish language and cultural diversity.

The march, organised by POBAL, the umbrella organisation for Irish language groups in the Six Counties, was hailed by the Chief Executive of POBAL, Janet Muller, as a huge success.

A 20-foot Chinese dragon led supporters from West Belfast to Writers’ Square in the city centre for an afternoon of music and poetry from Irish language speakers and multi-ethnic groups from as far away as Poland and Ghana.

Several groups attended to show support not only for the Irish language and cultural diversity itself, but also for Ciste Craoltoireachta na Gaeilge (the Irish Language Broadcast Fund) which is under threat at present. They were also supporting the call for an Irish Language Act and backing the threatened Irish language paper La Nua.

Ms Muller said the large crowd and colourful atmosphere showed the depth of support for the ‘Say Ta to the Irish Language’ campaign.

“It was an extremely lively, noisy and colourful march and the multi-ethnic atmosphere showed just how wide the support is,” she said.

“We had traditional Irish music from Marcas O Murchu and Oisin Mac Diarmada, poetry readings from Jamaican and Ghanaian poets and ethnic music from Polish and Slovenian musicians, so it shows how wide the cultural support for this is.

“People from all walks of life were here and they came from all over Ireland to show their support. A lot of what you can hear about the Irish language can be bad and this event proved just how colourful and joyous it is. The great turn-out showed the wealth of support there is out there for the Irish language.”

Janet said that in recent months, the language itself was under attack, with the decision not to introduce an Irish Language Act, the threat to the broadcasting fund, and the threat of the imminent closure of La Nua, Ireland’s only daily Irish language newspaper.

The march took place as the North’s so-called ‘culture minister’, the DUP’s Edwin Poots, admitted that he has not accepted an invitation to any Irish language events since he was appointed, despite attending five celebrations of the arcane Ulster-Scots dialect of English.

Poots said he turned down invitations to four Irish language events since the restoration of power-sharing in May 2007.

However, he has attended five Ulster-Scots projects including a re-enactment of the 1798 Battle of Saintfield in August as part of the Saintfield Liberty Days Festival.

Recently, it was revealed that funding for the promotion of the Ulster-Scots dialect is to outstrip Irish language projects over the next three years.

Official figures show Ulster-Scots projects will get around 1 million pounds more in funding than Irish language schemes between 2008/09 and 2010/11.

Meanwhile, POBAL has said they will raise DUP assembly member Jimmy Spratt’s comments on the Irish language act with British Secretary Shaun Woodward.

At a meeting of the DUP’s Tandragee branch at the weekend, Spratt said that “thanks to DUP policy”, a proposed Irish language act had been “rubbished” by Edwin Poots.

“We have also seen devolution deliver greater funding for our culture,” he said. “For the first time, funding to Ulster-Scots will be greater than funding to the Irish sector. This money can be used for capacity building in order to increase community activity within the unionist and protestant family.”

Janet Muller said Mr Spratt’s comments showed the DUP’s “opposition to the [Irish Language] Act is purely based upon narrow party political interests”.

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© 2008 Irish Republican News