A leading Orangeman has said Sinn Fein’s attitude towards the Irish language is serving to alienate unionists and increase division.
Speaking in Enniskillen on Thursday night, Dr David Hume said the onus was on the republican party to earn respect for the language rather than forcing it on to people.
Dr Hume, the director of services of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, told the annual dinner of the Enniskillen District LOL that unionists remain sceptical of Sinn Fein’s motives in promoting new Irish language legislation.
“They believe the Irish language is viewed by Sinn Fein as a Trojan horse to help alienate unionists and take us further along the road to their eventual political aim of a united Ireland.
“If Sinn Fein are genuine about their desire to preserve and protect the Irish language then they should seek to win respect for the language. You cannot force people to respect something. You have to earn respect. That cannot be done by proscriptive measures.
“Seeking to enshrine the Irish language in a legal framework with implications for government, the courts, schools and everyday life will only serve to cause increased division. It will ultimately be to the detriment of the Irish language,” he said.
Last month, Culture Minister Caral Ni Chuilin published draft proposals for an Irish language bill in the Assembly and launched a 12-week public consultation.
If passed, it will require Stormont business to be translated into Irish and for an Irish language commissioner to be appointed.
Dr Hume added: “The Culture Minister and the Education Minister [John O’Dowd] are both dedicated to the Irish language, as they are entitled to be. But legislation to enshrine Irish as the official language alongside English is not the way forward.”