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First Minister visits Our Lady's on Irish language exploration

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

First Minister visits Our Lady's on Irish language exploration thumbnailDUP Leader, Arlene Foster, shakes hands with Fiona McAlinden, principal of Our Lady's Grammar School.

THE leader of the DUP Arlene Foster has described as "wonderful" her visit to Newry last Wednesday.

Mrs Foster was the guest of Our Lady's Grammar School, where she met Irish students in an interaction billed beforehand as an effort by the former First Minister to meet people with a love of the Irish language.

The current talks at Stormont, aimed at restoring power sharing in the north are stalled over a number of issues, one of which is the insistence by nationalists that provision must be made for an Irish Language act.

Mrs Foster has previously stated that such an act would never be supported by the DUP.

However, in what has been widely welcomed as a positive move, Mrs Foster, during the two hour visit used the Irish for thank you - "go raibh maith agat" - to staff at the school, and met 30 Irish language students.

She also listened to songs and drama performed in Irish.

Speaking after emerging from the school, the DUP leader said: "One of the very strong things that came across was the passion that the girls had for the language and it is really good to strip away all of the politics out of this issue.

“And just to listen in a very clear way as to how Irish and the language has helped them in their studies of other languages, and indeed to give them a head start in relation to some of their job opportunities as well, so it's been wonderful."

Asked whether her visit had made her think more positively about the introduction of an Irish Language act, Mrs Foster replied: "I think what has happened is that an Irish Language act, and we all recall what I said back in the campaign... I think context for that is very important, because it had become very much a political demand.

“And as we talked about Irish, its culture, its affirmation of identity through the talks, I felt that it would be good to step back from Irish language as a political demand and to actually listen to people who loved the language and who wanted to use it in their every day lives.

“I'm on a journey of doing that."

School principal, Fiona McAlinden, said an invite had been issued to Mrs Foster after she had said that she wished to talk to Irish speakers.

"It was a very positive experience," she added. "We had past and present pupils along for the visit - it was a wonderful experience."

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