Irish language failures rightly damned: MLA

A young Irish speaker at an Irish language protest outside Cult�rlann U� Chan�in, Great James Street, last month.
A young Irish speaker at an Irish language protest outside Cult�rlann U� Chan�in, Great James Street, last month.

A damning Council of Europe report says “sectarian-driven policy making” has blocked the enactment of an Irish Language Act.

The human rights organisation’s Advisory Committee on the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities has urged the British Government to work to create the political consensus necessary to secure the delivery of legislation.

In a report on the United Kingdom’s treatment of national minorities, which was published on Thursday, the committee, stated: “The apparent gridlock in the Irish power-sharing arrangement has prevented adoption of the Irish Language Bill. The lack of progress on language rights of persons belonging to a national minority is emblematic of a wider practice of sectarian-driven policy making that appears to dominate the political process, pushing the protection of the rights of other national and ethnic minorities to the fringes.”

It recommended the immediate adoption of “appropriate legislation protecting and promoting the Irish language and take measures to ensure progress on language rights of persons belonging to the Irish minority”.

It said London “should engage in a dialogue to create the political consensus needed for adopting legislation” and lamented the “little progress” made on an Irish Language Bill.

It said: “Notwithstanding public support, the Northern Ireland Executive rejected the competent minister’s proposal for the Irish Language Bill and strategy.

“The Advisory Committee understands that the main reason not to introduce the draft documents in the Assembly is the lack of political consensus, in particular among unionist politicians who openly indicated that they would oppose the proposals.”

Sinn Féin Foyle MLA Raymond McCartney said the report highlighted the British Government’s failures to the Irish Language community.

He said: “The British Government have once again been internationally criticised for their neglect of the Irish Language and for their lack of action to secure the rights of Irish speakers.

“The report rightly points out the British Government’s shortcomings on issues of legislation, strategy and provision.

“We support the call in this report, and from the Irish Language Community, that the British Government must take immediate action.

“The British government made a commitment to bring forward an Irish Language Act and has failed so far to honour its agreement.

“This failure was compounded by the DUP blocking an Irish Language Act at the Executive and an Irish Language Strategy, a Programme for Government commitment.

“If the current political talks are to have any value then agreements need to be implemented.

“Legislation for an Irish Language Act should be brought forward now.”