Making Irish a political football is disrespectful of the language

I have no problem with an Irish Language Act in principle – indeed I think it rather odd that Northern Ireland lacks one, given similar legislation for Gaelic in Scotland and Welsh in Wales.

I am also sympathetic to the broad point being made by Nationalists that the disrespect shown towards Irish by particular hard-line Unionists needs to be tackled quickly. It is not unreasonable to suggest that politicians should be held accountable for being disrespectful towards the Irish language or indeed any other aspect of culture and heritage cherished by people here.

However, making the Irish language the centre of the political breakdown is also disrespectful and unhelpful to it. What is being done by some (though not all) in Sinn Féin can only end up entrenching positions and thus sectarianising the language. This shows clearly that they too are seeking to put political advantage ahead of what is genuinely good for the development and promotion of Irish.

If people have a genuine interest in the progress of the Irish language and of the devolved (including cross-border) institutions, then they will not be so crude as to make the Irish language the fundamental sticking point. The broader issue of demonstrating respect and building relationships between parties – even if to some extent represented by attitudes towards and comments about Irish – has to be tackled for what it is.

The fact is if trust in general is lacking, we need to rebuild it carefully. We should not drag languages into it, for their own sake as much as anything else.


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