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Catholic Bishop urges MLAs to "work together" to bring about Irish Language Act

The Bishop of Raphoe, Alan McGuckian, with his two brothers, Fr Michael McGuckian SJ (left) and Fr Bernard McGuckian SJ at his ordination last week. Picture by Liam McArdle

THE new Catholic Bishop of Raphoe has called on MLAs to "work together" to bring about an Irish language act saying people should not see it "as a threat".

Alan McGuckian is himself a fluent Irish speaker and scholar who has translated a biography of St Ignatius, the founder of the Jesuits, into Gaelic.

Originally from Cloughmills in Co Antrim, he was ordained last Sunday in Donegal as Ireland's first Jesuit bishop.

He said he believed there was support for an Irish language act in Northern Ireland.

"Given the support there is for the local national languages of Wales and Scotland, it is obvious that there should be the same support for the traditional Irish language here," he told the Belfast Telegraph.

"I would like to see the Stormont politicians working together to make the Irish language act a reality...and the DUP supporters and other people beginning to find some affinity with the Irish language and not see it as a threat."

His comments came as Ulster Unionist leader Robin Swann said that his party "remain unconvinced of the need for an Irish language act" following a meeting with Conradh na Gaeilge and Forbairt Feirste at Stormont on Thursday.

Janet Muller, the director of Irish language advocacy organisation POBAL, said the UUP's response was "disappointing but not surprising".

She said: "Robin Swann's rejection of the Irish language act as a legitimate community demand for the fulfilment of the commitment given in the St Andrew's Agreement is nothing more than business as usual."

Sinn Féin South Belfast MLA Máirtín Ó Muilleoir said the "Irish language belongs to all".

"The UUP response to the legitimate demand for an Irish language act belongs to our divided past. The Irish language, its speakers and the provision of their rights belongs to our future."

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