Irish language students stage protest at Stormont

Pupils from Irish language schools have demonstrated at Stormont ahead of a meeting between campaigners and the Northern Ireland Secretary.

The colourful and noisy protest saw primary and secondary school children call for legislation to protect Gaelic speakers in the region.

An impasse over Sinn Fein's demand for an Irish Language Act is at the heart of the powersharing crisis at Stormont, with the Democratic Unionists standing firm in their opposition to a stand-alone piece of legislation that does not incorporate other cultures, such as Ulster Scots.

Irish language activists will meet Secretary of State Karen Bradley at Stormont House on Thursday afternoon. It is their first such meeting with the UK Government in the year-long political stand-off.

Irish language act campaigners, including pupils from Irish-medium schools across Northern Ireland, take part in a protest at Stormont parliament buildings in Belfast, ahead of a meeting with Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley.

Mrs Bradley is also due to meet campaigners pressing for the introduction of same-sex marriage on Thursday. The ban on gay marriage is another vexed issue on the table in the negotiations to restore the devolved institutions.

Katy-Rose Meade, an A-level student from Colaiste Feirste secondary school in Belfast, addressed the rally on the steps of Parliament Buildings.

"The community has organised and mobilised for over 12 months, and will continue to do so until our rights are delivered, as was promised more than 12 years ago (in the St Andrews Agreement)," she said

"I was six when that promise was made and during my lifetime I have witnessed obstacle after obstacle placed before the growth of our community-led revival.

"That community has had enough. Nothing other than a stand-alone rights-based Irish-language Act, as is afforded to other minority language communities on these islands, will do," Katy-Rose added.

"We have enough of the attacks, of the discrimination and we are finally fighting back. We call on all parties to continue to stand with us as we stand together to ensure equality for Irish speakers."

Sinn Fein and SDLP politicians took part in the protest, including Sinn Fein Stormont leader Michelle O'Neill.

- PA

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