Foster’s Acht Na Gaeilge remarks spark protest

Local politicians and representatives from various Irish language groups pictured during the protest at An Culturlann yesterday. DER3118-134KM
Local politicians and representatives from various Irish language groups pictured during the protest at An Culturlann yesterday. DER3118-134KM

Young people being educated in Irish gathered with local politicians and Irish language activists yesterday in protest after DUP leader, Arlene Foster, ruled out agreeing to a stand alone Irish Language Act for the North.

The young students held aloft posters calling for an Acht Na Gaeilge as they protested outside Cultúrlann Uí Chanáin on Great James Street following the remarks made by Mrs Foster on Radio Ulster on Wednesday of this week.

These youngsters took part in the protest at An Culturlann yesterday. DER3118-137KM

These youngsters took part in the protest at An Culturlann yesterday. DER3118-137KM

She said that a standalone Irish Language Act was ‘non-negotiable.’

“That has been explained to Sinn Fein on a number of occasions and yet they continue to persist while holding the rest of Northern Ireland to ransom,” she claimed, adding: “The rest of Northern Ireland wants a devolved administration.”

Sinn Fein President Mary Lou McDonald, however, said the DUP needed to come to terms with acknowledging the rights of all.

Speaking as she officially opened the office of Elisha McCallion MP in Derry city centre on Wednesday, she commented:“It is a matter of disgrace that we haven’t had functioning institutions now for more than a year and a half. And in order to get out of this cul-de-sac, this very dangerous cul-de-sac, there has to be an acceptance right across the political spectrum, that the rights of citizens have to be honoured, that agreements previously entered into have to be honoured and met, that we need to carry out our politics and our political discourse in a way that is respectful, in a way that acknowledges each other in a way that never diminishes each other.”

Local politicians taking part in the protest at An Culturlann yesterday. DER3118-136KM

Local politicians taking part in the protest at An Culturlann yesterday. DER3118-136KM

She said that if there were to be renewed cross-party talks in the Autumn, they had to be about delivery.

“We have no interest in talking around in circles. We need to be sure that the agreements that we have entered into will be honoured and we have to be sure and citizens have to be sure that their rights will be acknowledged and delivered. And the DUP need to come to terms with that. They need to come to terms with the fact that that’s where politics is at. Of course the two governments need not simply to convene talks, they have to demonstrate that these talks are viable; that these talks can be productive; that these talks can deliver in terms of previous agreementsand most importantly, in terms of the rights of citizens.”

Ms. McDonald also paid tribute to the “profound leadership” of the late Martin McGuinness and recalled the “great step forward” Foster’s predecessor, the late Ian Paisley had taken, working together “to make society better and to make Ireland better”.