The proposed Irish Language Bill will not increase respect for the language, a prominent Ballycarry Orangeman has claimed.
Dr David Hume, who is director of services for the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, suggested unionists remained sceptical of Sinn Fein’s motives in promoting the Bill.
“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,” he told the annual dinner of Enniskillen District LOL.
“If Sinn Fein are genuine about their desire to preserve 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.”
While acknowledging the efforts of genuine enthusiasts to preserve Irish, the majority of unionists did not see it as their language, Dr Hume added.
“In the 2011/12 survey of the Irish language conducted in the Northern Ireland Continuous Household Survey, 98 per cent of Protestant respondents and 71 per cent of Roman Catholics declared that they had no knowledge of Irish,” he said.
“In a pluralist society it is perfectly acceptable for people to engage with the Irish language and to seek to promote it. But the figures do not then stack up in terms of why it should be legislated for as proposed.”
Dr Hume continued: “As an organisation whose past Grand Master in Belfast, Rev Dr Rutledge Kane, was a man who helped preserve the Gaelic tongue in the city at the turn of the 20th century, I would say, in all charity, think again. Remember that respect must be won.”
Meanwhile, a roadshow highlighting the archives of the Orange Institution and plans for a new Museum of Orange Heritage visited Ballycarry last week.
Members of the public were invited to come along and hear more about the impending opening of two new Orange interpretative centres in Belfast and Loughgall this summer.
Both facilities, currently undergoing development, are part of the REACH Project (Reaching out through Education and Cultural Heritage), which received £3.6 million from the EU’s PEACE III programme, managed by the Special EU Programmes Body.
The museums will provide a unique and unprecedented showcase of Orange history and culture; and the roadshow included a presentation of the many artefacts which will go on permanent display at both sites.
Attendees also had the opportunity to meet with museum staff and view a number of new shop products.