Hundreds of people, families and local Irish-language students gathered outside Newry town hall (Saturday 18 February) as part of a public demonstration calling for an Irish Language Act.
The event, organised by Irish Language movement An Dream Dearg, an open and inclusive campaign for all, came to Newry to call for respect, recognition and rights for the Irish-language community through the provision of rights-based legislation in the form of an Irish-language Act.
Aoife Nic Con Midhe, local spokesperson for An Dream Dearg said: “As the election draws near, it is important for the Irish language community to be as vocal as possible. The failure of Stormont to deliver on promises made to us makes it imperative that our rights are delivered prior to the resurrection of any executive.
“The continued intransigence and opposition of political unionism, reiterated again recently, illustrates the impossibly of this being resolved locally. Our rights cannot be held hostage to ‘political consensus’ and we call on all political parties who support us to affirm their commitment that they will not be part of any future arrangement that facilitates the active discrimination of Irish speakers.’
Sara Ní Chuireáin from South-Down Irish language community said: “Our community is vibrant, inclusive and growing. The state must remove the obstacles and give us the respect and recognition we deserve. This can only be delivered through the provision of rights.
“We have learnt recently, in this area, of the intervention of our former first minister to prevent the erection of bilingual signs, in contravention of the expressed wishes of the local community. This highlights the need for legislative protection. We will continue to agitate and organise until our rights are delivered. We ask all of those who support an inclusive, respectful society where diversity is celebrated to stand with us. There can be no return to the status quo.”