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14 June 2007 Edition

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5,000 march in Belfast for Irish Language Act

Up to 5,000 people paraded from West Belfast to Writer’s Square in the city centre demanding that the British Government introduce an Irish Language Act last Saturday.
The march, the second in support of an Irish Language Act, saw pupils from many of the city’s Irish language schools and Irish language bodies bring colour, good humour and enthusiasm to the streets of Belfast in support of their demands.
Commenting on unionist negativity and opposition to the calls for an Act, Janet Muller chief executive of the Irish language group Pobal said: “We have been saddened by some of the negative comments about the language and our community from a few unionist politicians in the past while. It is time they put their old fashioned attitudes aside”.
Unlike Scotland and Wales the North’s Irish speakers are afforded no legal protection and their rights as Irish speakers are not recognised.
During the political talks at St Andrew’s, Scotland last year Sinn Féin extracted the inclusion of an Irish Language Act in the final agreement that was agreed upon by both governments and the political parties.
Then the North’s Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure put the legislation out to consultation with the vast majority of the submissions backing the idea.
But, bowing to unionist pressure Direct Rule Minister Maria Eagles, refused to go ahead with the legislation and instead announced a second consultation process.
That closed last week with over 4,000 submissions having been handed in.
Speaking to An Phoblacht at Saturday’s march Sinn Féin’s culture spokesperson Francie Brolly said: “The Irish language should be supported in legislation. People have campaigned to promote and support the language over many years. It is time the British government recognised the rights of Gaelgeoirí to speak their own language”.
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