Issue 2 - 2024 200dpi

23 August 2007 Edition

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Irish provides opportunity to move society forward

A Language Act is a key demand of Irish language advocates in the Six Counties who point out that Irish deserves the protection granted to other minority languages across Europe.
However, unionist politicians are now opposing any legislation that would enshrine the rights of Irish language speakers. The Democratic Unionist Party is seeking to block any bid to have an Irish Language Act passed in the Six County Assembly.
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”.
The Strasbourg-based Committee of Ministers backed the findings of an 86-page report from a Council of Europe watchdog, monitoring the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, which came into force in Britain in July 2001.
The Charter commits the British Government to safeguard and promote Welsh, Scottish Gaelic, Irish, Scots, Ulster-Scots, Cornish and Manx Gaelic.
In the North demands for an Irish Language Act, similar to the 26 County Official Languages Act, have been branded by the DUP as divisive and discriminatory and “sponsored by Sinn Féin”. Such views are utterly at odds with the new political dispensation on this island following the Good Friday and St Andrews Agreements. They are also in conflict with the spirit of hope and confidence engendered by the restoration of political institutions in the North and the advances already made by the new and inclusive power-sharing Executive.
In the North, in particular, the revival of Irish is a real cultural success story. More and more people there are using Irish in their daily lives. Young children in particular are being educated in increasing numbers through the medium of Irish. The future of those children and their rights must be secured through legislation.
The DUP and particularly Ian Paisley as First Minister, has an obligation to make provisions for Irish speakers in the North. The political agreement made at St Andrews last year, which promised a new dawn based on equality and respect for the identity of all on this island, must be implemented in full.
The Irish language is not the property of one section of the Irish people. It belongs to everyone. It threatens no one. It provides Sinn Féin and the DUP with a unique opportunity to move forward together and in so doing to help move society in the North itself forward.

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