Northern Ireland

Thousands of Irish language activists at march and rally

People are marching along the Falls Road into Belfast city centre
Image caption The march began on the Falls Road and continued into Belfast city centre

Thousands of Irish language activists have attended a march and rally in Belfast.

They called for the introduction of laws which would give Irish equal status with English.

Saturday's demonstration drew supporters from Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

They walked along the Falls Road into the city centre, before holding a rally in front of city hall.

An Irish language act has been high on the Stormont agenda for months.

Image caption It is thought between 4,000 to 5,000 people attended the event

Organisers of the march and rally say that an act has to be central to any political settlement.

It is thought between 4,000 to 5,000 people attended the event which was organised by An Dream Dearg.

Spokesperson Ciarán Mac Giolla Bhéin said there was "comprehensive and widespread support" for a rights-based Irish language Act.

He said those who had attended had done so to express their support in a clear, positive and unequivocal manner.

Image caption Saturday's demonstration drew supporters from across the island of Ireland

"All those who believe in diversity, language rights and human rights have come together as we demand that this state acts now and implements an Irish language act that was promised over ten years ago in the St Andrews Agreement," he said.

"There is no doubt that the Irish language is now at the very centre of the current political crisis in the north and An Dream Dearg are stating clearly that no political institutions or future political arrangement are tenable in the absence of a rights based Irish language act.

"Extensive public support for an Irish language act has been endorsed by the overwhelming majority across the community in successive public consultations; a clear majority of newly elected MLAs in the assembly support our demand, as does the United Nations and the Council of Europe."

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