[lg policy] Council of Europe calls for Irish language act

Harold Schiffman haroldfs at gmail.com
Tue May 15 10:24:17 EDT 2018

 Council of Europe calls for Irish language act
By Robbie Meredith BBC News NI Education Correspondent


   - <http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-northern-ireland-44116786#>
   - <http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-northern-ireland-44116786#>
   -   <http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-northern-ireland-44116786#>
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Image caption Dr Aleksandra Oszmiańska-Pagett is the head of the delegation

The head of a delegation from the Council of Europe (CoE) has renewed calls
for an Irish language act.

Dr Aleksandra Oszmiańska-Pagett was speaking during a visit to Belfast by a
committee of language experts from the council.

They were finding out how the Irish and Ulster-Scots languages are being
promoted and protected in Northern Ireland.

The council is Europe's top human rights watchdog with 47 member states.

The Strasbourg-based organisation reports on how states comply with the
European Charter for Regional and Minority Languages.

However, the UK has failed to provide information on Irish and Ulster-Scots
for the council's latest report.

   - NI Assembly divided by Irish language
   - DUP: 'No stand-alone Irish language act'
   - Sign language act 'bigger priority' than Irish language?

'Core and crux of the problem'

Members of the council's committee of experts, who write the language
reports, were in Belfast on Monday where they met a number of language

They also visited pupils at Bunscoil Phobail Feirste, the largest
Irish-medium primary school in the city with more than 350 pupils.
Image caption The delegation visited Bunscoil Phobail Feirste on Monday

Speaking there, Dr Oszmiańska-Pagett said language legislation was vital.

"That is the core and the crux of the problem," she said.

"To have the legislation in place is one of the most important obligations
stemming from the charter, from just the legal point of view.

"But from a practical point of view this is essential because then
education, culture and media are not held hostage to political tensions."

She added: "If there is an Irish language bill then catering for children
who would like to learn through the medium of Irish would be a statutory
duty rather than a matter of atmosphere."
'Dysfunctional treatment'

The Council of Europe had previously called for Irish language legislation
in their 2014 report.
Image caption Janet Muller said there was a "specific problem" between the
Irish language and politics in Northern Ireland

It called on the UK "to adopt and implement a comprehensive Irish language
policy, preferably through the adoption of legislation".

Janet Muller from the Irish language organisation Pobal said she was
frustrated that no progress had been made since then.

"The way that the Irish language has been treated here is dysfunctional,"
she said.

"And that's in comparison with all the other countries of Europe and all
the other languages.

"There is a very specific problem here in relation to the political
situation and the way that the Irish language is dealt with.

"I think that they want to see that resolved and they want to see the
British government act to do that."
Image caption Anne Smyth says there has been "precious little progress" in
terms of the progress of Ulster-Scots over the life of the assembly 'Not
enough support'

Anne Smyth from the Ulster-Scots Language Society also met the visiting
experts and also expressed frustration at the lack of progress in advancing

"We have made precious little progress over the life of the assembly," she

"That's not for want of will from native speakers and organisations like my

"We're just not getting the support that we need in terms of capacity
building or resources."

However, the council cannot force the UK government or the Northern Ireland
executive to implement the recommendations in its reports.

That has previously led some critics to accuse the council of being a
talking shop with little power, other than diplomatic pressure.


 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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