Northern Ireland news

Major rally in support of Irish language act to converge on Belfast City Hall

Irish speakers gathered at Stormont to call for an Irish language act last month. Picture by Mal McCann

A MAJOR rally calling for the introduction of an Irish language act for the north is to be held in Belfast.

The protest, organised by campaign group An Dream Dearg, is scheduled for Saturday May 20.

Organisers are urging supporters to meet at the Cultúrlann on Falls Road in west Belfast at noon, before marching to City Hall where there will be speeches and a family fun day. A similar protest was held in April 2014.

The issue of an Irish language act has proved one of the most divisive between Sinn Féin and the DUP as political talks to restore devolution stalled before Easter.

Campaigners have urged parties not to return to Stormont without legislation for an Irish language act.

Irish language groups last week welcomed an announcement by DUP leader Arlene Foster that she wants to meet with Irish speakers.

Mrs Foster said she intended to meet with Irish speakers "over the next short period of time" to "respect and better understand" the language and culture.

Some Irish language groups said they had contacted the DUP to arrange meetings, but the DUP has not disclosed who Mrs Foster or senior party members will meet and when.

Pádraig Ó Tiarnaigh, from An Dream Dearg, said participants were being asked to dress in red, in keeping with the campaign slogan #DeargleFearg (red with anger).

The demonstration follows several protests by Irish language groups about the act, and cuts to bursaries and services, in recent months at locations across the north, including Stormont.

Mr Ó Tiarnaigh told The Irish News that "around 5,000" protesters are expected to converge on City Hall.

An Dream Dearg has notified the Parades Commission of the protest and is awaiting a decision, but Mr Ó Tiarnaigh said the group was confident of getting approval.

"The idea is to bring all of the previous protests together into one. There has been a group meeting every Wednesday night to organise things, put up posters, notify the Parades Commission," he said.

"Last week 13 Irish language schools across the north held a non-uniform day to raise funds for buses to bring people to the May 20 protest.

"As we have seen since Christmas the Irish language community is more organised than ever. Everyone is coming together to support the call for an Irish language act. This is the time to resolve it."

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