22nd February 2003
Irish Language central concern in talks with Irish and British governments
Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams MP this morning opened Slógadh Shinn Fein in the Slieve Gullion Courtyard in South Armagh. Before the opening Mr. Adams took part in a puc fada competition with local children. Speaking in South Armagh this morning Mr. Adams said OESinn Fein has made the question of the Irish language a central concern in the ongoing talks with the Irish and British Governments. Our task is to turn people s love of Irish into active support and active use of the language. Mr. Adams said:
It is a great pleasure for me to be back at the Sinn Fein Slógadh. I want to extend a warm welcome to all of you. Slógadh is an important opportunity for Gaeilgeoirí to come together and discuss the vital issues that affect us; issues of a general political nature but more importantly issues around the Language. It is through such debates and discussions that we will develop and strengthen our ideas.
For Sinn Fein the Irish language has long been an issue of central importance and over the years Republicans have been active in its promotion. We see the Irish language as a question of central importance and have sought to promote it at every level we can. On the ground our members have been active for years both within the Irish language movement and in our own right, organising Irish language classes, helping to start and support gaelscoileanna , campaigning for rights for Irish speakers and speaking the language in public forums when possible.
Inside the prisons the Irish language played a central role in the daily lives of many republican prisoners, most notably perhaps during those dark and sorrowful days of the prison protests when the Irish language was one of the few aspects of prison life that helped the prisoners lift their spirits above the horror that was all around them and helped them resist the brutal oppression that was being inflicted upon them. And today the language is still central to our political project. We have made the question of the Irish language a central concern in the ongoing talks with the Irish and British Governments.
Martin McGuinness when he was Minister of Education introduced legislation and established Comhairle na Gaelscoilíochta and Iontaobhas na Gaelscoilíochta to put Irish medium education in the North on a firm secure footing. Bairbre de Brún, a long-time and committed Gaeilgeoir, ensured, when she was Minister of Health in the North that the status and public visibility of the language was raised by promoting bi-lingualism in her departments publications. And within the Dáil and the Assembly and on local councils and other public bodies our members use the Irish language as often as they can, according to our ability.
In survey after survey the Irish people have shown their high regard for the language. The growth of the Gaelscoileanna movement is living testimony to this fact. Despite years of failed government policies regarding the language in the south and outright hostility by the government in the north and despite the best efforts and endless attempts to marginalise the Irish language, the Irish people still maintain a grá and a support for the language. Our task is to turn this into active support and active use of the language. This means in reality that the first and most important priority must be the enabling and encouraging of people to speak the Irish language. It means Irish classes, Irish courses and gaelscoileanna wherever possible.
Behind the arguments about funding and rights and resources and equality for the Irish language and the Irish speaking community, there is a fundamental fact that we must never lose sight of: the Irish language belongs to the people of Ireland, all the people of Ireland irrespective of class or creed or background. Our priority is to give the language back to the people of Ireland, to relearn our own language, and to put that language back in the mouths of the people.
OIFIG an PHREAS SHINN FÉIN Stormont
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