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Sinn Féin response to DUP attack on Irish language

19 July, 2007

Sinn Féin Irish language spokesperson, East Derry MLA Francie Brolly responding to a statement by DUP MLA Simon Hamilton, claiming that expenditure on the Irish language is 'money down the drain' and that the language is in decline, has said that such argument are reminiscent of those who 'know the price of everything and the value of nothing'.

Mr Brolly said:

"The argument by my Assembly colleague Simon Hamilton DUP that resources spent on the Irish language are wasted reminds me of the old saying that there are people 'who know the price of everything and the value of nothing'.

"The Irish language is a treasure, as are all indigenous tongues. Yet thousands of indigenous languages have been sadly lost, largely as a result of colonists, including British, imposing their language on the defeated and demoralised native people.

"Indigenous languages are the world's treasures, to be maintained and protected by the indigenous peoples whose souls created them. This will best be done by encouraging people to appreciate, to learn, speak, read and write them. Everybody who lives on this island should be happy to be part of such a crusade.

"In this part of Ireland we spent money every year on various cultural and pseudo-cultural matters and events. I believe that future generations of Irish people, whatever their current political or ethnic preference, will thank us for having spent what was necessary to keep the beautiful Irish language alive.

"We are doing well here in the North of Ireland. The 2001 census showed that 167,000 people had some knowledge of Irish and 116,000 regularly spoke it. The Council for Irish-medium Education, Commhairle na Gaelscolaíochta has charted the massive increase in Irish medium education in the last 15 years since the first Irish-medium post-primary school opened in Belfast in 1991 with two full-time teachers. Today Meánscoil Feirste employs 32 teachers and has 363 pupils on its register. Two further post-primary schools provide Irish-medium education, Meánscoil Bhríde in Derry and Coláiste Chaitríona in Armagh. In total, there are 65 Naiscoileanna, Bunscoileanna and Meanscoileanna currently providing Irish-medium education to 3,228 children as demand from increases.

"It is a shame that things cultural, languages in particular, inevitably have become and have remained political footballs. Having shown the world what we can do politically in this part of Ireland, let us follow that with a burst of cultural enlightenment." ENDS

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