Conradh na Gaeilge called on parties in support of the Good Friday Agreement to refocus their efforts on the delivery of an Irish language act following DUP MLA Gregory Campbell’s comments in Stormont on Monday. The Irish language advocacy organisation is also calling on him to meet with them in order for the Conradh to explain to him the offense he has caused to members of both communities in the North who have an interest in or who use the Irish language regularly in their daily life. This would also be an opportunity to raise his awareness of the value and the intrinsic link between the Irish language and our shared heritage on the island of Ireland.
Ciarán Mac Giolla Bhéin Manager of Language Protection and Representation with Conradh na Gaeilge, said:
“This latest offensive, anti-Irish outburst, whilst discriminatory and damaging to community relations, comes as no surprise to the Irish language community. This is not the first time that Mr Campbell has used his elected position to engage in offensive and racist mockery of the Irish Language community.
“As was the case when he first used this phrase in 2007, Mr Campbell is in breach of ‘Article 73’ of the assembly regulations, but also the spirit and letter of the Good Friday Agreement and the European Charter for Regional and Minority languages, both of which guarantee the right to speak, use and learn Irish in the public domain.
“Such inflammatory and racist behaviour would not be tolerated by any other linguistic or ethnic minority. The Irish language community is no different and deserve a complete retraction and apology from Mr Campbell. DUP leader and First Minister; Peter Robinson should also publically distance his party from these deeply offensive comments.
“The use of indigenous languages is an internationally recognised right and instances such as this highlight the necessity of a rights-based Irish language Act. Such legislative protection already exists in the Welsh and Scottish assemblies to the detriment of no one.
“Irish is the native language of Ireland and has been spoken in this country for over two thousand years. Its rich heritage is reflected in the place names and surnames of this island, including that of ‘Mr Campbell himself.”
Many thousands of young people are being educated through the medium of Irish and speak Irish on a daily basis as a language of choice. How are they to feel when they view a public representative using his office to attack their language culture, education and identity?
Niall Comer, the Tanáiste of Conradh na Gaeilge, added:
”With the upsurge in racist attacks in recent times, the racism on display at Stormont on Monday should act as a catalyst for our society, especially elected representatives, to stand together and actively promote cultural, religious and linguistic diversity.
“Unfortunately, the cause of promoting good relations and a shared future for all was undermined by yesterday’s debacle and the Irish Language community will take little comfort in Mr Campbell’s one day ban from speaking.
“In April of this year 10,000 Irish speakers marched through Belfast demanding equality, rights and justice - to be treated with respect and dignity.
“16 years after the signing of the Good Friday Agreement and 8 years after the promise of an Irish Language Act in the St Andrews Agreement, the Irish language community deserves better.
All of our political representatives need to now refocus their efforts on the delivery of long standing promises of robust protection and promotion for the Irish language. There is no better opportunity than the ongoing talks which the Irish language community will follow with interest.
It is only with the realisation of such legal protections that acts of racism with impunity by political representatives such as Mr Campbell can be confined to the past.”