Published Saturday, 12 April 2014
Campaigners marched from the Falls Road to Custom House Square. (© Samuel Severn)
On Saturday campaigners called for the introduction of an Irish Language Act in the region, a comprehensive Irish-medium education system as well as adequate resources for the Irish-speaking community.
Police said up to 4,000 people marched from An Chultúrlann, the Irish language and cultural centre located in west Belfast, to Custom House Square in the city centre.
An Lá Dearg campaign committee member Caoimhe Ní Chathail said that the event was "just the beginning".
"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," she said.
"The language threatens no one and enriches us all. We ask only for the legal protections of our rights and that the promises we have heard are made real in practice."
Saturday's demonstration and others across Ireland, including a 10,000 strong march in Dublin, come in the wake of a damning Council of Europe report that claimed promotion of the Irish language in Northern Ireland is being hampered.
Attending the rally was Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams, who said: "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."
He added that Culture Minister Carál Ni Chuilín and Education Minister John O'Dowd had been working to ensure the Irish language receives funding, "against some considerable opposition".
© UTV News