Large crowds take to the streets of Belfast in support of Irish language legislation

Thousands of red-clad protesters marched through the streets of Belfast on Saturday afternoon to call for protections for the Irish language.

Large crowds made up of Irish-speaking families, community groups and sports clubs marched through the city of Belfast demanding “recognition, respect and language rights” as well as calling on the UK government to implement an Irish Language Act, as promised. previously.

The An Lá Dearg protest started from Cultúrlann McAdam Ó Fiaich and made its way to Belfast City Hall, where speakers and singers addressed the crowd.

Five-year-old Daíthí Mac Gabhann was among those who addressed the protesters at the town hall. Other speakers included Katie Irvine, an Irish-language youth worker from Glór na Móna, and Dónal Ó Cnáimhí from the Gaoth Dobhair Gaeltacht in Co Donegal.

The protesters’ chants included calling for an Irish Language Act and recitations of Irish phrases such as “tír gan teanga, tir gan anam”, which translates as “a country without a language is a country without a soul”.

The campaign network An Dream Dearg, which translates to “the red group”, organized another An Lá Dearg protest in Belfast in 2017, which also drew large crowds.

Spokesman Conchúr Ó Muadaigh said on Saturday they were “impressed” by the level of support shown and said it was “the biggest Irish-language demonstration in a generation”.

“An Dream Dearg has built a grassroots movement that has pushed the Irish language from the fringes into the very center of political and civic discourse both here and internationally, a movement that has spoken truth to power and ensured that that our community is no longer treated as second class citizens, marginalized or excluded. Those days are gone forever.

“The Irish Language Act is long, long overdue. Our community cannot and should not wait any longer for the same linguistic rights enjoyed by citizens on these islands,” he said.

Campaigner Clíondhna Ní Mhianáin said that after being told in 2014 that they could not have a new Irish-language high school in Derry, a public campaign led to the opening of Gaelcholáiste Dhoire in 2015, with 13 students.

“Now almost 300 students have passed through our doors and as a member of the freshman class I am now wrapping up my journey. None of this would have been possible without a community campaign for equality and rights, without Irish speakers demanding something better, demanding an Irish Language Act.”

Councilor Mal O’Hara, deputy leader of the Green Party in Northern Ireland, tweeted from the protest that it was “great to see thousands of campaigners coming to City Hall calling for deals made years ago to be honored.”

He said: “They shouldn’t have to. We have a duty to promote and protect indigenous and minority languages.”

He added that Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis “should do it.”

Legislative protections for the Irish language in Northern Ireland were a key element of the New Decade, New Approach agreement that restored power-sharing in January 2020 after a three-year deadlock.

Former Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams at the An Lá Dearg event in Belfast on Saturday.  Photo courtesy of Bayview media / An Lá Dearg

Former Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams at the An Lá Dearg event in Belfast on Saturday. Photo courtesy of Bayview media / An Lá Dearg

They were included in a broader package of cultural laws that include an Office of Cultural Identity and Expression to promote respect for diversity, as well as an Irish Language Commissioner and a commissioner to develop the language, arts and literature associated with Irish culture. Ulster Scots/Ulster British tradition. .

Implementation of the package has stalled amid ongoing political wrangling over the matter.

Last June, the UK government pledged to pass legislation in Westminster to break the impasse between Sinn Fein and the DUP over its introduction to the Stormont Assembly.

However, the government failed to submit a bill before a self-imposed deadline of October last year.

On a visit to Northern Ireland on Monday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson pledged to deliver on the culture package in the coming weeks. -PA

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