Ireland: Democratic Unionists set to block Irish language legislation

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Sat Sep 1 15:46:00 UTC 2007

Democratic Unionists set to block Irish language legislation

Brussel - Bruxelles, Monday, 27 August 2007 by Davyth Hicks

The Democratic Unionists will try to block any bid to have an Irish
Language Act passed in the Northern Ireland Assembly, their leader
Reverend Ian Paisley has said. In a two-page letter (15th August) to
colleagues marking the first 100 days of the Stormont executive, Mr
Paisley said that: "The DUP will not support the creation of any such
legislation", referring to an act enshrining the rights of Irish
speakers. "This was a proposal made by the two governments [British
and Irish at the St Andrews talks] and was never agreed to or even
discussed with us."

"As a result of the changes we secured on the decision-making process
in the Assembly, the Irish language legislation would require unionist
support in the Executive." Said Mr Paisley. Earlier this year the
Council of Europe called on the British government to develop a
comprehensive Irish language policy, including measures to meet the
increasing demand for Irish-medium education "as a matter of
priority", as part of the British government's implementation of the
European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages.

The Charter commits the British government to safeguard and promote
Welsh, Scottish Gaelic, Irish, Scots, Ulster-Scots, Cornish and Manx
Gaelic. There has also been a strong campaign, along with
demonstrations, for an act from the Irish-speaking community itself.
Speaking to Eurolang today, Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brun said that:
"An Irish Language Act is important to ensure that services are
provided through the medium of Irish for Irish speakers. Effective
language legislation could also help de-politicise the language issue
and make the provision of services for Irish speakers an
administrative matter rather than a political matter.

"Minister Edwin Poots should bring forward proposals for a strong
Irish Language Act for the North of Ireland without delay. I would
hope that such legislation could find support from all sides." Over
the summer break the DUP Minister Edwin Poots appeared to give no
ground to Sinn Féin demands for legislation despite a meeting with the
party president Gerry Adams. The issue now threatens to be the first
major row of the power-sharing administration led by the two parties.
Sinn Féin pointed out that the legislation was part of the deal it
signed up to in last year's St Andrews agreement.

But Poots denied he was now "cherry-picking" from the agreement,
saying it was not agreed by his party but the previous Prime Minister
and Northern Ireland secretary. "Ultimately we have to achieve
cross-community consensus and cross-community support to win this
one," he told the press. However, Gerry Adams said: "There needs to be
an act, and there will be an act." Adding that.  "Even the word Ulster
comes from the Irish language. Numerous place names we use [such as]
Shankill, Ballymena, Ballymoney, Belfast, Malone. You could go on
forever and ever and ever."

The St Andrew's agreement states that the: "Government will introduce
an Irish Language Act reflecting on the experience of Wales and
Ireland and work with the incoming Executive to enhance and protect
the development of the Irish Language". (Eurolang 2007)

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