Abuse of Irish language regrettable: new Presbyterian moderator

Rev Noble McNeely of First Holywood Presbyterian Church will be the next moderator

Rev Noble McNeely of First Holywood Presbyterian Church will be the next moderator

The new leader of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland – whose members played a crucial role in saving the Irish language when it was in danger of becoming extinct in the 18th century – has expressed concerns it has been abused “for political purposes”.

Speaking following his election as moderator-designate, Rev Noble McNeely said it was “regrettable” that Irish was not always affored the respect it deserves.

‘Regrettably, I think that the language has been used for political purposes in some cases’

Moderator-Designate Rev Noble McNeely

“Regrettably, I think that the language has been used for political purposes in some cases.

“I would prefer that that wasn’t the case and that the language was received and respected for what it is,” he said.

The refusal of Northern Ireland’s largest political party to support a wider promotion of Irish was cited as one of the factors which led to the collapse of the power-sharing executive at Stormont last month.

Launching her party’s election campaign in Lurgan on Monday, DUP leader and outgoing first minister Arlene Foster angered many nationalists when she said she would never support the introduction of an Irish language act.

Alluding to Sinn Fein’s demands for one, Mrs Foster said: “If you feed a crocodile, it will keep coming back for more.”

Mrs Foster also said a “Polish language act” could be more appropriate.

On the same day, the NI Direct government information website, under the control of Sinn Fein finance minister Mairtin O Muilleoir, was amended to include an Irish heading alongside the one in English.

“Historically, Presbyterians played an important part in the role of the Irish language and it’s often said that the Presbyterians helped to save the language. I think it’s important to give it proper respect and to value it,” said Rev McNeely.