Culture Minister says Irish is for all

Published Monday, 03 February 2014
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Culture Minister Carál Ní Chuilín has rebuffed a comment from a leading member of the Orange Order warning Protestants about learning the Irish language.

Culture Minister says Irish is for all
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.

Orange Order

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
Comments Comments
21 Comments
s magowan in belfast wrote (78 days ago):
I certainly believe in the right of anyone to embrace Gaelic,but unlike Stuart Dickson,i equally believe that Mr Chittick has the right to an opinion and a right to criticise something which he perceives to be a threat to his community.
Mark in Belfast wrote (79 days ago):
Its a dead minority language, there would be no benefit to me in business or commerce or socially by learning it.
Mark in Belfast wrote (79 days ago):
Irish langauge for all ? Aye right not a chance
steven in coleraine wrote (79 days ago):
This so called leading orange man is by far the most secterian and uneducated man I have heard from in a long time. The orange order need to get people who can actually talk in public and who actually know what thry are talking about. Your wee man there just needs to keep his secterian views to himself because the real people in this country are more worried about where there next pay is coming from, not the irish language or bloodly flags. For once can we focus on the real issues please!!!
Brian in Belfast wrote (79 days ago):
Most people these days don't take any heed of old dinosaurs like George Chittick. Most have us have moved on.
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