I don’t agree with Arlene Foster on much but she is right about scare-mongering over Irish language

Letter to the editor
Letter to the editor

I am unsure whether the News Letter editorial of October 13 (‘Welcome comments from Rev Gibson against an ILA’) was the most outrageous or the most bizarre in the history of the paper; it was certainly unbefitting of its heritage.

Along with many whose close relatives served in the security forces to defeat terrorism, the paper should be reminded that the “IRA’s goal” was a united Irish Republic (and Brits out).

The IRA’s campaign of violence caused misery and grief across the community and failed comprehensively to the extent that those who once supported their campaign of violence are now left to resort to constitutional fantasy.

I am one of many who is proud of the role my own relatives played, at significant cost, in delivering a victory for democracy over terror.

It is precisely as a democrat that I argue for comprehensive Irish language legislation, provided this does not come at significant cost or with any compulsion on those who wish to take no interest in the language.

I do this partly because I recognise its symbolic value of the language to many of my fellow citizens, partly because I recognise it as part of our common heritage, and partly (indeed not least) because it brings Northern Ireland largely into line with equivalent jurisdictions, notably Scotland, in providing a legislative basis for promotion of Celtic languages.

These languages are an innate part of the UK’s heritage, and it is noteworthy that since partition the UK has been more successful at maintaining them as living languages than Ireland has.

Therefore, while I am not prone to agree with her or her party on much, Arlene Foster is absolutely correct to refer to fellow Unionists “scaremongering”.

If Northern Ireland’s future is to lie within the UK, which is frankly my own preference, then it must be as an inclusive society which is willing to learn from good practice in the rest of the UK.

A good start would be to seize back ownership of the Irish language from narrow partisanship, and instead provide it with an appropriate platform to be part of our common cultural wealth across the British Isles.

If the talks arrive at such an outcome, it will be another good day for democracy and another decisive move away from the dark days of the past.

Ian James Parsley, Newtownabbey