Published Monday, 03 February 2014
George Chittick claimed the Irish language had been politicised by republicans. (© Presseye)
It comes after Belfast District Master George Chittick, speaking at a loyalist protest in north Belfast over the weekend, said Irish was part of the "republican agenda".
His remarks were criticised by the SDLP, Sinn Féin and Alliance parties.
Ms Ni Chuilín said: "In 2014, Irish does not belong to a single person or one community, it belongs to us all. We use it every day in surnames and place names, and in the many words which have Irish roots. This continues a shared tradition which can be traced back through history.
It is perhaps a sign of how inclusive the Irish Language is today that people from all communities have refuted these remarks.
Culture Minister Carál Ní Chuilín
"The Irish Language has been part of the fabric of our society for centuries. But it is lighting up the path to our shared future."
Mr Chittick's remarks were made on Saturday as loyalists held their weekly protest over the Parades Commission's decision to restrict an Orange march in north Belfast last July.
He told the crowd at Twaddell Avenue: "A word of warning to Protestants who go to learn Irish - it's part of the republican agenda".
A statement from the Orange Order later explained that it has "no formal policy or guidelines for members regarding the learning of the Irish language".
It continued: "Rather, such a decision is instead a matter of individual conscience.
"While we are opposed to the Irish language being used as a political weapon, as opposition to our parades is used by republicans in the same way, the Orange Institution remains committed to a truly shared future. However, this must include respect and tolerance for our British culture and heritage, as well as minority viewpoints."
What is not widely known is that some Orangemen throughout the history of the Institution have actually been fluent, or familiar, in the use of the Irish language.
Dominic Bradley of the SDLP, who was "saddened" by Mr Chittick's comments, said the Irish language should be part of the heritage of all people and should be preserved.
He told UTV: "The SDLP has always believed and stated that the Irish language is part of the heritage of all the people on this island and indeed, historically, Protestants have been to the fore in the preservation and promotion of the language.
"I have worked with Protestant people on a various Irish language projects down through the years and they are the most knowledgeable, dedicated and genuine people on the matter.
"I think Mr Chittick's remarks do not reflect the attitude of the Protestant people."
Stewart Dickson, Alliance MLA, said: "The Irish language belongs to everyone in Northern Ireland and with that comes the right of anyone who chooses to embrace the many opportunities on offer to learn it.
"These types of careless comments must be criticised as they only result in increasing fears and creating further tensions among different communities.
"Rather than fear the Irish language as a direct attack on the future of Protestantism, it should be celebrated as part of our shared past."
© UTV News