Activists join forces to push for an Irish language act in NI

Dr Francis Costello and Linda Ervine at the Skainos Square in east Belfast. Picture by Matt Bohill

A PROTESTANT Irish language activist and a historian with links to the GAA have joined forces to argue the case for an Irish language act.

Leading Gaeilgeoir Linda Ervine and Dr Francis Costello, a leading figure in Irish America based in Belfast, have said there is nothing to fear from legislation.

Writing in today's Irish News the two campaigners have said "those in the Irish language community and their supporters do not seek to threaten anyone else's culture".

The DUP's opposition to an Irish language act which is a key Sinn Féin demand, is a major stumbling block to the restoration of a power-sharing executive at Stormont.

Prominent Irish enthusiast Mrs Ervine - the sister-in-law of late PUP leader David Ervine - and Dr Costello - a businessman and former US political advisor - said a growing number of people in the north are learning Irish and "developing an understanding of its richness and deep roots in our communities".

They said they want to see the Irish language afforded similar status to Scotland and Wales, in keeping with long-standing European-wide protections for minority languages.

"As advocates of equality legislation we welcome the warm support of the Scottish and Welsh who live in harmony in their own countries with the English language," they said.

"At this late date in the 21st century Northern Ireland can do the same without rancour and in a spirit of generosity.

They said there is a "growing workforce employed within the Irish language sector promoting Irish as a living working tongue".

They also argue that charges that an Irish language act would discriminate against members of the unionist community are unfounded.

They added that the Irish language "belongs to all of those who chose to make it their own regardless of colour, creed or country of origin".

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