The East Antrim MLA was speaking out against comments made by the Orange Order’s George Chittick who claimed the language was being used for political purposes by republicans.
Stewart Dickson said: “The Irish language belongs to everyone in Northern Ireland and with that comes the right of anyone who chooses to embrace the many opportunities on offer to learn it.
“These types of careless comments must be criticised as they only result in increasing fears and creating further tensions among different communities. Rather than fear the Irish language as a direct attack on the future of Protestantism, it should be celebrated as part of our shared past.
“There is a clear interest in the language with many new classes opening in recent weeks – including at Dundonald High School in Belfast. These should be encouraged, not politicised by those seeking to stall Northern Ireland moving forward. It is a key element in building mutual respect as we seek to build a shared and diverse future for everyone in Northern Ireland.”