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27 Apr 2017

CAIRDE Teo Irish language development officer Seán Ó Maoilsté was amongst an Irish language delegation who met with DUP leader Arlene Foster and her colleagues today at Stormont. The group, which was led by independent advocacy organisation, POBAL, met with Arlene Foster, Edwin Poots and Christopher Stalford to appraise them of the needs and aspirations of Irish speakers in Armagh and across the north of Ireland.

Speaking at Stormont, POBAL CEO, Janet Muller, welcomed the meeting and said, ‘POBAL hosted a delegation, which included Ciarán Ó Pronntaigh, Director of An tÁisaonad which provides resources for Irish medium schools; Pól Deeds, CEO of An Droichead, the main Irish language organisation in South and East Belfast, and Seán Ó Maoilsté from Cairde Teo, which provides a range of Irish language projects and services in Armagh. The atmosphere was open and we had the opportunity to talk about the great variety of work ongoing in the Irish speaking community and how the call for a strong, rights-based Irish language act has grown from our experiences.’

She continued, ‘We made clear that we believe the best way to depoliticise the issue of language is to enact an Irish language act based on the proposals published by POBAL because they are grounded in the advice and support of the most renowned experts in language and law, and have been the subject of extensive consultations, both at community and governmental level. We look on this meeting as a useful one, but we are aware that there are a number of obstacles to be overcome. The proof of the pudding is in the eating. We have offered to continue to engage with the DUP, as we will continue to do with all, and we would encourage Irish language groups to write to Arlene Foster and invite her to meet with them.’

Commenting after the meeting, Seán Ó Maoilsté said, “The engagement provided the groups with an opportunity to make the former first minister aware of the growing Irish language community throughout the north and the need to protect the rights of those who wish to live their lives through the medium of Irish. The DUP contingent were open to learning more about the Irish language in Armagh city and elsewhere and it is a most welcome and positive development for those of us who want to promote the benefits of the language for all of our community.”