Basque visitor to Belfast voices concern over Catalonia

Mayor of the Basque city of Vitoria-Gasteiz, Gorka Urtaran, during a visit to Belfast this week
Connla Young

A LEADING Basque politician has voiced concern abut the response of the Spanish state to an independence vote in Catalonia during a visit to Belfast.

Gorka Urtaran took part in several events throughout the city this week as part of the annual Belfast International Homecoming.

A member of the Basque National Party, he is currently mayor of the city of Vitoria-Gasteiz, which is the seat of government and the capital of the Basque autonomous community.

People in both the Basque region and Catalonia have been involved in running campaigns for independence from Spain.

Spanish authorities raided several polling stations in a bid to halt the vote.

Mr Urtaran voiced concern about attempts “to prevent people from voting and deciding their future and meeting democratic rights with violence”.

He said that while the political process in the Basque region is different he is “hopeful” of a positive outcome for those who want Basque independence.

During his time in Belfast Mr Urtaran discussed the importance of promoting the Basque people’s native tongue, euskara.

“Euskara and Gaelic are important in the way of being Basque and being Irish,” he said.

Former Finance minister Máirtín Ó Muilleoir said he was delighted the visiting mayor was in Belfast.

“It underlines the links between the Basque country and Belfast and how we have a lot to learn from each other,” he said.

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