Irish language debate continues in Council
AN IRISH language officer will liaise with Ballymena council’s Equality working Group with a view to setting up further meeting with local councillors.
At November’s meeting of council, SDLP representative Declan O’Loan advised that he had attended a seminar on the development of the Irish Language. Cllr. O’Loan suggested a workshop be held with Ballymena Council, which he recently accused of ‘being afraid’ of the Irish language.
As a result, Chief Executive Anne Donaghy provided three methods of addressing the issue.
One suggestion was for the council’s Equality Working Group to meet with an Irish Language Officer who specifically works in East Belfast.
She said: “After Councillor O’Loan suggested that this would be beneficial, council officers met this official and believed that a workshop would be very beneficial.”
Councillor O’Loan explained that he believed the language is an important cultural asset.
He said: “I would be keen that as a council we would make a submission to the draft strategy on the language which is currently being compiled. If a policy emerges it will have implications on the council, for me it is better that the council have their say at the early stage. I know there would be different views so I am happy with the workshop in order to get all views across. Offering our views would be a sign of our maturity.”
DUP MLA Paul Frew told members that he believed there is merit with the language in terms of a historical and educational perspective but would draw the line at letterheads and policies in two languages.
He said: “I don’t think there is merit in producing a report that says some think this and others think that. One thing I don’t want is for this subject to be bogged down and turn septic. We have done great work over the years as a council and we have raised some burning issues. If there is a way forward that this council could do something about this it should be looked at.”
Councillor Frew highlighted historical figure Rose Young of Galgorm Castle, who taught and promoted the Irish language despite being from a Unionist background.
He added: “Rose Young came from a very important affluent family. I believe there is merit in the education and historical aspect.
“If we have history and education together then this could do a great service to the people of Ballymena. However if we are talking about double letter heads and policies (in Irish), we have a serious problem with the language being used as a divisive tool.”
Sinn Fein Councillor Monica Digney told members that this was an opportunity to show that Ballymena is mature.
Councillor James Currie explained that he had no problem with people wanting to explore the Irish Language but believes that finances and resources need to be spent on other issues.
He said: “There is already well documented evidence about Rose Young and if people want to find out about her, it’s available. In my opinion I have no problem with people wanting to learn Irish but in these days we have the likes of Patton going out of business.
“I don’t think money should be spent on this project. If people want to learn then they can go to the Northern Regional College and get going, but we are in dire straights and in six years of a recession.”
Councillor Jane Dunlop said she didn’t believe this issue would be a financial burden on the council, adding: “There is a danger of almost predicting what will be said before a discussion has been held. I don’t see it taking us down a financially expensive route. It is a current language.”
Councillor O’Loan added: “It is clear that a proposal wouldn’t have the support of the council and I regret that, but I believe that it would show maturity of the council. I do note the positive comments regarding history.”
Councillor Currie wanted to make it clear that he was not being divisive in the subject.
All members agreed that the Equality Working Group will meet the Irish Language officer, except for Councillor Roy Gillespie who was against the proposal.
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Weather for Ballymena
Sunday 19 May 2013
Temperature: 10 C to 15 C
Wind Speed: 8 mph
Wind direction: South
Temperature: 8 C to 14 C
Wind Speed: 17 mph
Wind direction: North west