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18 October 2007 Edition

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Irish Language Bill will be enacted

No-one should underestimate the significance of the decision of DUP Culture Minister Edwin Poots not to proceed with the promised Irish Language Act. This commitment was made as part of the outcome of the St. Andrew’s negotiations and the DUP is refusing to fulfil it.
Edwin Poots has used the most spurious of reasons to justify his refusal to legislate for the rights of Irish speakers. He and his DUP colleagues, backed by the UUP, have tried to present the Irish language as a Sinn Féin project, as divisive and costly and as some kind of affront to unionists. This is patent nonsense. The Irish language belongs to everybody. It has never been the sole preserve of republicans or even of nationalists. Indeed in previous eras the English regime in Ireland sometimes used the Irish language to pursue their own ends. At other times they tried to suppress it.
By the same token Ulster Scots is not the sole preserve of unionists, as they themselves try to present it. But it has been put forward in a ‘them and us’ manner with the mentality “if they have a language we must have one too”.
As the Sinn Féin Assembly members have pointed out, the DUP has lost an opportunity to show that they are capable of being Ministers for all of the people. The DUP and UUP have complained that the Irish language is being politicised. But in refusing to legislate for language rights they have done more than anybody to politicise Irish. A cross-party consensus in support of legislative rights for Irish speakers would take the language out of the realm of party politics.
This week’s decision should spur Irish language campaigners to step up their strong lobby for an Irish Language Act.
Bealach amháin nó bealach eile beidh Acht Teanga sna Sé Chontae. Tá a leithéid de reachtaíocht san Sé Chontae is Fichid agus luath nó mall beidh sé ann ar an taobh eile den teorainn. Agus ina dhiaidh sin beimíd ag súil le Aire de chuid an DUP – b’fhéidir Edwin Poots! – ag labhairt i nGaeilge sa Tionól.

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