Thousands march in Belfast for Irish language act
THOUSANDS of people have marched in Belfast to demand an Irish language act.
'An Lá Dearg' (the red day) saw activists and supporters from across Ireland march on the city hall from the Falls Road on Saturday.
Schoolchildren, youth groups and politicians donned red t-shirts emblazoned with a white circle - which has become the symbol for Irish language rights - as they joined in chants for legislation protecting speakers.
An Irish language act has been one the main stumbling blocks in political talks to restore power-sharing at Stormont.
In the run-up to March’s assembly election, DUP leader Arlene Foster said she would never agree to an act and likened Sinn Féin to a "crocodile" over its demands.
However, the former first minister has since met several Irish language groups and hinted at the possibility of legislation which also encompasses Ulster Scots and Orange culture.
Saturday's rally was organised by campaign group An Dream Dearg, and was attended by Sinn Féin northern leader Michelle O'Neill.
Among those who took to a specially erected stage at City Hall to address the large crowd was Caitlín Ní Chathail, who is raising her child through Irish.
"As a parent who is raising my family as Irish speakers, all I ask is that the state recognises Irish as our language of choice - to live my life through the medium of Irish," she said.
"I’m not asking for a special privilege or concession from those in power, just simply that they recognise my language rights and the language rights of my children."
Ciarán Mac Giolla Bhéin, spokesman for An Dream Dearg, said the future of Stormont depends on agreement on the Irish language.
"There is no doubt that the Irish language is now at the very centre of the current political crisis in the north and An Dream Dearg are stating clearly that no political institutions or future political arrangement are tenable in the absence of a rights-based Irish language act," he said.
"Extensive public support for an Irish language act has been endorsed by the overwhelming majority across the community in successive public consultations; a clear majority of newly elected MLAs in the assembly support our demand, as does the United Nations and the Council of Europe."
Linda Ervine, an east Belfast Irish language activist and sister-in-law of the late PUP leader David Ervine, said she attended to show the diversity in the Irish language community.
"I don't see it that it needs to be de-politicised, I think it needs to be multi-politicised. I would like to see all parties embracing the language and saying Irish belongs to it all, because it does," she said.
South Belfast Alliance councillor Emmet McDonough-Brown said his party has also supported an Irish language officer for Belfast City Council and a language policy for the city.
"Irish belongs to everybody, threatens nobody, and is a language of art, poetry, music and much more. I look forward to the next asssembly passing an act," he said.