Irish language speakers and activists took to the streets of Belfast on Saturday in protest over what has been described as the government’s “failure” to protect the Irish language.
Over 4000 people marched through Belfast city centre, demanding a “rights-based Irish language act” including a comprehensive Irish medium education system and adequate resources for the Irish-speaking community in Northern Ireland.
Organisers Conradh na Gaeilge (The Gaelic League) said in a statement “The ongoing failure to protect and promote the language in the courts, in public signage and in the education sector continues to unravel the promises made in the Good Friday Agreement.”
Saturday’s demonstration was one of many across both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, after a report by the Council of Europe that claimed the promotion of the Irish language in Northern Ireland is hindered by a lack of support.
An Lá Dearg campaign committee member Caoimhe Ní Chathail said “Today we are making a stand, but tomorrow we will be engaging with our elected representatives to compel them to act to keep their promises in the hope of a better and brighter future for the language – free from hostility, discrimination and demonization”.
Gerry Adams, President of Irish Republican Party Sinn Féin was also in attendance, commending Culture Minister Carál Ni Chuilín and Education Minister John O’Dowd on their continued efforts to promote the Irish language, despite “considerable opposition”.
He added “All these young people are entitled to speak through Irish, it threatens no one, they are being reared through Irish anyway, we have a burgeoning Irish language sector”.