[lg policy] Political deadlock in Northern Ireland

Harold Schiffman haroldfs at gmail.com
Fri Feb 16 11:12:46 EST 2018

 Political deadlock in Northern Ireland
about 16 hours ago

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Sir, – What puzzles me is why the Taoiseach cancelled a planned visit with
the First Minister of Wales Carwyn Jones, scheduled for Monday in Dublin,
rather than invite him to attend informally in Belfast, where his silent
presence might have signalled the amicable relations between ourselves and
our British neighbours; and, who knows, he might even have had a chance to
whisper into the paranoid ears of backbenchers that not speaking English
exclusively had no negative effect on his Welsh countrymen’s British

Mr Jones is on record as wanting a soft border between Wales and the
Republic, post-Brexit. It appears, as I suspected when first hearing of the
cancellation, to have been another missed opportunity to apply a nanogram
of political imagination to this constipated “debate”.

One thing is for sure, the whole fiasco indicates that when it comes to
begrudgery, the DUP are surely “more Irish than the Irish themselves”. –
Yours, etc,



Co Galway.

Sir, – With regard to Northern Ireland, Brexit is the elephant in the room,
and everyone up there knows that they are up the creek if that happens,
whether it is said in English or Irish.

Sinn Féin would be well advised to forget about the Irish language question
and get into government immediately. – Yours, etc,


Dublin 14.

Sir, – Equality has been achieved in Northern Ireland. Sinn Féin collapsed
the executive and the DUP collapsed the talks to restore it. If that isn’t
parity, I don’t know what is. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 15.

Sir, – The spectacular collapse of the Stormont talks by the DUP was
clearly orchestrated by its eight MPs in Westminster. They will welcome
direct rule which would give them unprecedented influence on how it would
operate. The next step for them would be to try to undermine the
power-sharing Belfast Agreement. From a tactical viewpoint, Sinn Féin
should consider a compromise on the Irish language and expose the DUP
strategic plan. The Irish Government should pay attention to long-term
implications, in addition to the present situation. – Yours, etc,
inRead invented by Teads <http://inread-experience.teads.tv>



A chara, – What is important is that we all clearly understand the
importance of an Irish Language Act in the context of Anglo-Irish and
indeed international relations as a whole.

All parties who signed the Belfast Agreement of 1998, including the British
government, agreed among other things that: “in the context of active
consideration currently being given to the UK signing the Council of Europe
Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, the British Government will in
particular in relation to the Irish language, where appropriate and where
people so desire it: take resolute action to promote the language;
facilitate and encourage the use of the language in speech and writing in
public and private life where there is appropriate demand; and seek to
remove, where possible, restrictions which would discourage or work against
the maintenance or development of the language”.

The United Kingdom signed the European Charter for Regional or Minority
Languages on March 2000 and ratified it in 2001. The charter is an
international convention which aims at protecting and promoting Europe’s
regional or minority languages as a threatened aspect of Europe’s cultural

In its instrument of ratification, the UK extended Part III cover (measures
to promote the use of regional or minority languages in public life) to
three languages – Welsh in Wales, Scottish Gaelic in Scotland and Irish in
Northern Ireland. It extended Part II (Objectives and Principles) cover to
Scots in Scotland and to Ulster-Scots in Northern Ireland. (Part II cover
was later extended to Cornish in Cornwall and Manx Gaelic in the Isle of

The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, as far back as 2010,
on examining the Committee of Experts report recommended that the UK “adopt
and implement a comprehensive Irish language policy, preferably through the
adoption of legislation”.

In its fourth examination cycle its Committee of Experts (Comex) in 2014
observed that: “There is still no legislative basis for the use of Irish
due to the lack of political support. Unjustified restrictions on the use
of Irish in some fields covered by the Charter, including in courts, still

In the St Andrew’s Agreement of 2006 the UK government freely agreed 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”.

In the absence of a Northern Ireland Executive, the Westminster parliament
could and should enact an Irish Language Act for Northern Ireland as it did
in the case of Welsh in Wales.

It is imperative that the Irish Government and the international community
as a whole state bluntly that the UK must honour its freely agreed
international obligations.

If Britain is allowed to make international agreements when it is
expedient, and then disregard them when it is opportune to do so, it will
render all future negotiations meaningless and the source of cynical
derision. – Is mise,


An Nás,

Co Chill Dara.

Sir, – If Arlene Foster is honestly worried about an Irish language Act, I
would advise her to look south of the Border for some comfort. Irish is the
first official language of the Republic and is seldom used. – Yours,etc,




 Harold F. Schiffman

Professor Emeritus of
 Dravidian Linguistics and Culture
Dept. of South Asia Studies
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6305

Phone:  (215) 898-7475
Fax:  (215) 573-2138

Email:  haroldfs at gmail.com

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