Belfast City Council agrees to post Irish tweet commemorating founding of Conradh na Gaeilge

Belfast City Hall lit up for Irish language.
Belfast City Hall was lit up to mark the Conradh na Gaelige anniversary.

By Michael Kenwood, Local Democracy Reporter

A Belfast Council dispute over whether an official tweet on the local authority's X/Twitter account should be allowed to go out in Irish has been resolved.

The DUP had held up the posting of a tweet on the council's account marking the 130th anniversary of Conradh na Gaelige on July 31 as well as the lighting of City Hall in green to mark the event.

Last Friday, August 18th, at the council's Strategic Policy and Resources Committee, elected representatives during a discussion on "corporate communications language policy," finally agreed that a tweet in Irish could be posted - weeks after the event had happened.

Council officers will publish the City Hall's upcoming draft language strategy next month.

Translated to English the tweet states "Here is City Hall lit up in green and navy recently to mark the 130th anniversary. We love seeing your pics of City Hall illuminated in various colours. Share your snaps with us using #BelfastLightsAtNight @ForasnaGaeilge" The English translation was posted below the Irish original.

Conradh na Gaeilge, founded in 1893, is a social and cultural organisation which promotesthe Irish language in Ireland and around the world.

The League's first president, Douglas Hyde, was the son of a Church of Ireland Rector in Roscommon, and many unionists were originally attracted to the organisation, including the Reverend Richard Kane, Grand Master of the Belfast Orange Lodge.

Sinn Féin Councillor Ronan McLaughlin said at the S,P and R committee meeting on Friday: "Conradh na Gaeilge made a perfectly reasonable request when City Hall was being lit for that anniversary for a tweet to be put out in Irish.

"The problem is that there is no overarching policy to allow officers to do that. It had to go to party group leaders and unfortunately one or more of the other parties decided that they didn't want that to happen."

Alliance Councillor Michael Long added: "I agree there is a real need for an Irish language policy, which I would be very supportive of. I see no reason why something shouldn't be tweeted in the Irish language from this council.

"I find it ridiculous that there was opposition to this."

Sinn Féin Councillor Ciaran Beattie proposed to put out the tweet immediately after the meeting.

He said: "This is a storm in a teacup. It was a request about an anniversary, and it was silly to oppose it.

"But now we are going to have to bring in a policy to solidify this, and have no further occasions where this happens.

"If you look at the sign for births, deaths and marriages, they are in English, Spanish, German, Chinese, every language but Irish, even though half the population of this city are Irish.

"It's bizarre. We need to resolve all those issues, and we need to put that tweet out as soon as possible."

He said the failure to send out the tweet had "damaged relationships with Irish language groups."

SDLP Councillor Séamas de Faoite said: "This building has been nominated for the 40th anniversary of the Polish Solidarity movement.

"Similarly Polish Independence day in November is something we have commemorated. Chinese New Year also - there are a range of different languages that represent the very colourful makeup of this city now.

"And it is important we don't allow any kind of negativity around the Irish language."

DUP Councillor Sarah Bunting said: "The issue we had around this was the timing of the request. It was asked that the tweet went out a couple of hours after the request came in. I didn't see the email straight away if I was to be totally honest.

"I have no issue with various messages in languages when we have the City Hall being lit to support events or significant days in the calendar. But it is the timing around these things being requested."

City Solicitor Nora Largey said: "We have carried out our free consultation engagement with the various stakeholders in June in relation to our language action strategy plan.

"Because of leave we were not able to bring it to this month's committee but we are bringing the final version to language stakeholder groups in September.

"The action plan will also be taken to this committee in September. That will include actions about social media tweets in all languages."

She added: "It may seem we tweet about every illuminate request, but we don't, because there are so many that come through."

DUP Alderman Frank McCoubrey questioned putting out the English language version of a message second, after the other language version. He stated: "when we are putting up sign language it is the English first, and the other language underneath."

The City Solicitor said that under the Convention of Minority Languages it was "standard practice" to put out the minority language first, then the English translation.

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