DUP leader Arlene Foster speaks Irish in Northern Ireland Assembly chamber
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DUP leader Arlene Foster speaks Irish in Northern Ireland Assembly chamber

BABY STEPS-- it's Seachtain na Gaeilge after all.

The subject of the Irish language is one that is, sadly, highly contentious in Northern Ireland.

Where the Republic has road signs in both English and Irish-- and the same can be said for Welsh in Wales, a part of the United Kingdom-- most areas in Northern Ireland use English alone.

English is the most-spoken language in the north, although parts use Irish or Ulster-Scots, and a previously proposed Irish Language Act would have given the Irish language equal status to English in the six northern counties.

The Act was supported by Sinn Féin, Alliance, SDLP and the Green Party but opposed by the Ulster Unionist Party and the Democratic Unionist Party, and in 2020 a compromise was reached which would see both Irish and Ulster-Scots granted official status, as well as a range of new amendments to the Northern Ireland Act of 1998 rather than see a new official Irish Language Act introduced.

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In the Northern Ireland Assembly chamber yesterday, First Minister of Northern Ireland and the leader of the Democratic Unionist Party Arlene Foster was questioned by independent MLA Trevor Lunn as to whether the Irish language legislation would be introduced before the end of the year.

Ms Foster replied that it was "part of a package of cultural and identity pieces that we will be bringing forward" ... "it is our intention that that will come forward and will be completed by the end of this mandate."

She continued-- to some surprise-- "I'm almost tempted now to say sin é,"-- the Irish for 'that's that'.

She added however "But maybe not."

A clip of the moment has been doing the rounds on Twitter, and the reaction has been mostly positive, with one person saying it was "great to see" as "the Irish language belongs to everyone here, it should not be a cultural weapon as it is our shared history.

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"No one should fear others speaking it."

One man wrote that it was "Almost a 'well done Arlene' moment, but then she begrudgingly took it back. Still. It's progress of a sort."

Another person, replying to this message, said he "thought it was quite nice. Showed the language respect, at the same time indicating that speaking Irish isn't for her."