New Presbyterian moderator calls for ‘common sense’ over Irish language act

The new moderator-elect of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland has said “common sense” needs to be considered when it comes to an Irish language act.

Rev William Henry, who will take up the post in June after a vote by Presbyterians this Tuesday, was asked about the issue by the News Letter in an interview at Assembly Buildings, the church’s headquarters, in Belfast.

Reverend William Henry, the minister of Maze Presbyterian Church

Reverend William Henry, the minister of Maze Presbyterian Church

The Presbyterian church has put its name to a number of statements about the Stormont impasse, voicing concerns about the lack of a devolved government and urging politicians to resolve their differences.

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One of the main stumbling blocks has been Sein Fein demands for a language act.

Rev Henry said: “Presbyterian historically have had a role in the Irish language, going back to the 18th century – they were part of making the Irish language survive.”

He said: “Certainly we ’d want to believe that since the Irish language is important to a sector of our community it should be valued. But also we recognise that it has been politicised in many ways, and we think that discussion needs to be depoliticised for the benefit and the good of the whole of our land.

“I think we need to be sensitive, particularly if getting an Irish language act was too costly and bureaucratic and we need to measure that against hospital beds and all those aspects. So from that point of view, I think we need a little bit of common sense in the discussion.”

He went on to add: “I think we just need to be careful within the breadth of what that encompasses.

“Certainly we’ve to value the Irish language in a way that those who do think it’s important [are able to] recognise that and can see that.

“But I think there have to be constraints and there has to be a bit of common sense in just how much it actually costs, and that I suppose is the other angle other people come at it from.”