Clergyman slams ‘cultural fascism’ in Irish language row

Linda Ervine
Linda Ervine

A Belfast clergyman who speaks Irish has come out in defence of three UUP councillors who walked out of a Down District Council meeting earlier this week.

East Belfast Irish teacher Linda Ervine was about to give a talk on Protestant use of the Irish language when Robert Burgess, Desmond Patterson and Walter Lyons left the council chamber.

Mr Lyons said his walk-out was in protest at the council policy of “imposing” Irish against the will of unionists.

Yesterday, Belfast clergyman Chris Hudson, who is from the Republic but who works closely with the loyalist community, defended the UUP trio.

“This is an important debate and remember it is also taking place in the Republic because not everybody is happy with the enforcement of the Irish language,” he said on Facebook. “I fully support Linda Ervine and indeed use some Irish myself but the Irish language should not be used as a political weapon or cultural tool to divide people.

“It is important that those who wish to see greater use of Irish, that they should promote it in an inclusive and attractive way – that has not always been the case.

“The policy over the years in the Republic was, as one person described, ‘cultural fascism’, which made many of us despise the language.”

He said an open debate will serve the Irish language “better than narrow, political goal-scoring”.