St Andrew's Agreement was signed in October 2006. As part of the agreement, the British government promised to enact an Irish-language act for the north in Westminister if it did not come about through the Assembly.
But Irish speakers in the north are still waiting for legislation to protect their language rights.
Conradh na Gaeilge has campaigned for many years for a comprehensive, rights-based Irish-Language Act for the north. There has long been Welsh-language legislation in Wales, Scots Gaelic-legislation in Scotland, and Irish-language legislation in the south of Ireland. The north of Ireland is the only place on these islands that does not have internal legislation to protect the primary native language.
We want an Irish-Language Act NOW!
We recently published a discussion document detailing the potential proposed costs associated with the introduction of an Irish-Language Act. This document includes a breakdown of the different sections that would be involved in an Irish language Act, with an explanation of these sections, and particular proposals that are workable to implement them.
11 sections are proposed as part of an Irish-Language Act, including provisions which concern:
- the Official status of the language;
- Irish in the Assembly;
- Irish in Local Government;
- Irish and the BBC;
- Irish in the Department of Education;
- the role of a Language Commissioner; and
Costs for the different sections can be surmised in two parts:
- One off costs to bring in an Irish-language act = £8.5 - £9million over 5 years
- Annual implementation cost = £2million per annum
The total cost over the initial 5 years would be £19million = equivalent of £3.8million per year over a 5-year lifespan of an Executive.
Furthermore, these proposals represent an investment in the economy and for the people of the North in general. It is estimated that there would be an additional income of £8 million generated for the economy if the BBC fully fulfilled its obligations to Irish-language programming.
Crossparty & Community Support
Five parties and a majority 50 of the 90 newly-elected MLAs already support protective legislation for the Irish-language in the form of an Act.
Over 94% of the submissions received for the DCAL consultation on a draft Irish-language Bill were in support of an Irish-Language Act in the north. Moreover, over 12,000 people took to the streets of Belfast calling for an Irish-Language Act at An Lá Dearg organised by the campaign An Dream Dearg on 20 May 2017.
We are calling on the parties now to come together and support these proposals, and to implement Irish-language legislation, as recently recommended by both the Council of Europe and the United Nations, and as was promised over ten years ago in the St Andrew’s Agreement.