Irish speakers from south of the border do not even understand Sinn Fein when they stand up and speak Irish, a Church of Ireland cleric has said.
Rev Alan Irwin from Lack Parish Church in Fermanagh was speaking after Communities Minister Paul Givan performed a U-turn on his decision to cut £50,000 funding to take children on Irish language field trips.
“I have cousins who live south of the border who cannot grasp Sinn Fein members when they stand up and speak Irish,” Rev Irwin said.
“They are concerned it is being used as a political tool.
“I believe it needs to be taken out of the political arena. There are so many people from so many countries now living here, speaking so many languages. So why is it that Irish requires special legislation and they do not?”
He noted that the Provisional IRA constitution requires the dissemination of the Irish language as one of its key aims.
The fifth of the organisation’s key objectives requires the terror group to “promote the revival of the Irish language as the everyday language of the people” he noted.
But Linda Ervine, sister-in-law of the late PUP leader David Ervine and a passionate Irish language speaker, had a different view.
“The sad thing is that there is this perception about the Irish language and the media is partly to blame,” she said.
“Most people associate the Irish language with Sinn Fein but in fact very few people in the Irish language community are Sinn Fein. In fact they often criticise Sinn Fein over things like funding.”
Irish speakers she knows come from the SDLP, Alliance or People Before Profit.
“For me Gaelic is a language of the British Isles that unites us. We have Gaelic in Ireland and Scotland and a different version in Wales and Cornwall.”
She believes the language has been “abused” by republicans to say “we are separate”.
“But I am Irish in a British context, just like others are Scottish or Welsh in a British context. I am also a Presbyterian.”