Following a story on the front page of today's Belfast Telegraph about Newry, Mourne and Down District Council's Irish Language Strategy, Sinn Féin’s Newry Mourne and Down Irish Language spokesperson, Barra Ó Muirí, said the council’s Irish language policy was about inclusion and equality.

“Firstly, let me just say that any claims being made about costs at this stage are nonsense as the council has actually yet to agree on any Irish language budget for this year,” he said.

“However, we in Sinn Féin make absolutely no apology for seeking to uphold and defend the rights of Irish language speakers. 

The Belfast Telegraph article
The Belfast Telegraph article

“The council’s agreed bi-lingual strategy follows on from the policies of the two previous legacy councils, which both recognised the need for inclusion of the Irish language in order to fulfil our own equality policies.

“It’s also in keeping with the recommendations from the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages which recognises the importance of Irish in the north and puts an onus on us to protect it.

“Irish is very much a vibrant living language in the district.  Up until the early parts of the 20th century it was still very much the main language in parts of the district while today we have thousands of children here who have been through or are currently going through Irish medium education.

“That’s not to mention the numerous Irish language groups right across the district who are very active, in fact we just had the county final of the Scór na nÓg competition here at the weekend.

“While something as integral to our history, identity and culture as our native language could never be measured in monetary terms, Irish does form a key part of the council’s tourism strategy, in particular, our efforts to have the Ireland’s Ancient East project extended up the entire east coast of the country, which would be hugely beneficial to the area.

“The Irish language is not a nationalist or republican issue.  If you look back at the history of the language you’ll see it has shared roots that belong to all of us on the island, regardless of political persuasion.  Unionists in Newry, Mourne and Down would do better to engage with the language, as they do in areas such as East Belfast, rather than seeking at every opportunity to run down a key element of their own heritage.”

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