Published Sunday, 02 February 2014
George Chittick claimed the Irish language had been politicised by republicans. (© Presseye)
The party's spokesman on the Irish language, Dominic Bradley, made the comments after the head of Orange Order in Belfast said Protestants should avoid learning the Irish language.
Belfast District Master George Chittick, at the weekly protest over the Parades Commission's decision to restrict an Orange march in north Belfast last July, told the BBC that the Irish language was part of the republican agenda and, as such, had been politicised.
Mr Bradley said he was "saddened" to hear the comments.
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 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."
He added: "I visited the Skainos Centre in east Belfast only last week and saw for myself the interest that there is in the language among people in that part of the city.
"I am confident that that interest will continue to grow despite the views expressed by Mr Chittick.
"I think it would be appropriate for Mr Chittick to reconsider his remarks, withdraw them, and apologise to Irish speakers from across the community."
© UTV News