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17,000 march in Northern Ireland to demand Irish language law on par with Wales

21 May 2022 4 minute read
Protesters at the Irish language rights demonstration in Belfast city centre.

17,000 have marched through Belfast in Northern Ireland to demand an Irish language law on par with the 1993 Welsh Language Act introduced in Wales.

The campaign network An Dream Dearg – which translates as “the red group” – demanded “language recognition, respect and rights”, as well as calling on the UK Government to implement an Irish language law.

Campaigners are calling for legislation on the model of the Welsh Language Act passed by the UK Government in the 90s which would give Irish equal rights with English.

Chants by protesters included calling for an Irish Language Act and recitals of Irish language phrases such as “tír gan teanga, tír gan anam”, which translates as “a country without a language is a country without a soul”.

Spokesman Conchur O Muadaigh said on Saturday they were “blown away” by the level of the support shown, and claimed that it was “the biggest Irish language demonstration of a generation”.

“An Dream Dearg has built a grassroots movement that has pushed the Irish language from the margins to the very centre of political and civic discourse both here and internationally, a movement that has spoken truth to power and ensured our community would no longer be treated as second class citizens, marginalised or excluded. Those days are gone for good.

“The Irish Language Act is long, long overdue. Our community cannot and must not be made to wait any longer for the same language rights enjoyed by citizens across these islands.”

Protesters at the Irish language rights demonstration in Belfast city centre.

The An La Dearg protest left from Culturlann McAdam O Fiaich and made its way to Belfast City Hall where speakers and singers addressed the crowds.

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

‘Direct message’

Tensions between Sinn Fein and the DUP over legislating for the Irish Language has in the past been one of the stumbling blocks which have left Northern Ireland without a ruling executive.

The UK Government’s Secretary of State has not ruled intervening on the issue from Westminster if there is no progress locally, as was done on the issue of granting abortions in Northern Ireland in 2020.

Irish Language rights have long been promised as part of agreements in the province, including the Good Friday Agreement, St Andrews agreement, and the more recent New Decade New Approach deal.

Legislation is however opposed by some Unionists, with TUV saying that an Irish Language Act would “open up employment opportunities exclusively to people who speak Irish, meaning that non-Irish speakers will be disadvantaged”.

Padaí Ó Tiarnaigh, an Irish language activist with campaign group An Dream Dearg, however, told Belfast Live that it was time to deliver on the long-promised legislation.

“The British Government themselves have committed time and time again to implementing these language rights and have called short,” he said.

“We have a very direct message for the British Government and indeed for the DUP and others who continue to veto and block language rights – that is we will continue to take to the streets, advocate and organise for our rights.

“Our community is no longer willing to be treated as second class citizens in our own country. It’s time our native and indigenous language was protected in law.”

The DUP last year promised to implement all outstanding aspects of the New Decade, New Approach deal, including Irish language legislation, but are now unwilling to join the executive due to the Northern Irland Protocol between the UK Government and the EU.


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Cynan
Cynan
6 months ago

Great initiative.
Next step here is a total ban on second homes in Wales. Problem is the assembly members all have them! Was looking at the register and the number of members who own second homes, for example flats in Cardiff, was astonishing.

Cynan
Cynan
6 months ago
Reply to  Cynan

Hi clone, still trying to steal my identity to back up your infantile attacks on everything Welsh?
Did you even notice the article was about the people of NI wanting to protect their language from Unionist kneelers like you?

Last edited 6 months ago by Cynan
Crwtyddol
Crwtyddol
6 months ago
Reply to  Cynan

You are obviously being mischievous and therefore you have discredited yourself. Your point is irrelevant to this issue so I suggest you button up.

Y Cymro
Y Cymro
6 months ago
Reply to  Cynan

Where you think you’re clever by adopting the Trojan Tory approach of worming your way into a forum to troll there are ones observant and aware. See your fatal mistake was not only stupidly stealing someone’s identity but also using the term “Assembly” when that name was finally abolished in 2020 replaced with Senedd Cymru or Welsh parliament that revealed to all who and what you really are.

Gill
Gill
6 months ago

Meanwhile Getting 1000 to a Cymdeithas protest is an achievement here. Why are the Cymry so apathetic and spineless ? Ah yes jobs in the public sector and welsh language ” industries”. Meanwhile our young people rather speak English as their schools groom them to do so and our ‘ heartlands’ turn English with every removal van that follows a sat nav to a country abode of substance north of Clan- dy-sil. And when we get the census 2021 result, nobody will ask the gvt funded bodies or themselves the question ” but we get paid a fat wage, what… Read more »

Iago Humphrys
Iago Humphrys
6 months ago
Reply to  Gill

One thought I had was that those of us who care, learners and cradle, could form our own settlements. Easier for some than others, though.

Peter Cuthbert
Peter Cuthbert
6 months ago
Reply to  Iago Humphrys

Good to see that the folk in Belfast are so enthusiastic. Back here in Wales we are, unfortunately, just not joining up the dots. Setting up Welsh only ‘ghettos’ as Mr Humphries and others have suggested is not the answer. The only answer is for all nursery and primary schools in Wales to be Welsh language only. If that plan were implemented we would have in 20 years or so a huge swathe of the population speaking Welsh all the way from the Valleys to Rhyl. Then as more people speak Welsh, the more it gets used throughout the country.… Read more »

Y Cymro
Y Cymro
6 months ago

Positive step forward, but seeing the DUP’s backwards attitude towards Gaelic any language equality will go down like a lead balloon.

Benjiman Angwin
Benjiman Angwin
6 months ago

Surely the way to create a lasting United Kingdom is to rebuild it as a rainbow nation of nations and languages like South Africa but with a purely Western and European flavour.

CapM
CapM
6 months ago

The first thing that needs to be established is not how the UK can last but why it should last.

British nationalists are brimming over with the how part but never seem to address the why..
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