Welsh Language Commissioner Meri Huws launches new research auditing Local Council compliance with Irish Language framework

Research compiled by Conradh na Gaeilge, CAJ and Ulster University shows both good and bad examples of compliance by local councils.

Conradh na Gaeilge, alongside the Committee for the Administration of Justice (CAJ), and Ulster University today (Thursday 14 March 2019) launched an audit of Local Council compliance with a newly compiled Irish Language Framework. The research, carried out since the introduction of the new “super-councils” queries compliance with both local and international treaties in relation to the Irish language.

Obligations in relation to the protection of the Irish language have been enshrined into a number of these treaties since the 1990s. Internationally, these include: The European Convention for Regional and Minority Languages, 2001; The Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities; International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights 1976; and locally these include The Good Friday Agreement, 1998 and the St. Andrew’s Agreement, 2006.

A framework for compliance was derived from those duties detailed in these treaties, which is centered on five overarching measures:

1: Irish language Policy

2: Resourcing the promotion and safeguarding of the Irish language

3. Tackling prejudice and promoting tolerance and understanding of the Irish language

4. Service provision in the Irish language

5: Preventing discrimination, retrogression and barriers

Despite the range of treaty-based commitments and some examples of good practice, issues of non- compliance with treaty-based undertakings, which have regularly been identified by the United Nations (UN) and Council of Europe (CoE) oversight committees tasked with monitoring implementation of the state’s obligations, have once again been highlighted by this report.

Meri Huws, Welsh Language Commissioner, commented at today’s launch:

“Mae deddfu ar yr iaith Gymraeg wedi bod elfen greiddiol wrth ddatblygu’r defnydd o’r Gymraeg mewn cymunedau ledled Cymru.  Mae deddfu ieithyddol yn cael ei gydnabod ar draws y byd fel elfen allweddol i warchod a hyrwyddo ieithoedd.  Mae deddfu ieithyddol yn sicrhau fod cynghorau lleol yn chwarae rhan allweddol wrth ddarparu gwasanaethau i gymunedau sydd â iaith leiafrifol.  Mae’r ddogfen hon yn cynnig arweiniad gwerthfawr i’w gwneud hi’n haws i gymunedau a llywodraeth leol gydweithio er mwyn cynnig gwasanaethau yn y Wyddeleg.”

“Legislation for the Welsh language has been central to the development of the use of the language in communities throughout Wales. Language legislation is recognised across the world as a key component to protect and promote languages. Language legislation ensures local councils play a key role in providing services to minoritised language communities. This document offers a valuable roadmap to facilitate co-operation and collaboration between communities and local government in providing services through Irish.”

Dr Niall Comer, President, Conradh na Gaeilge, said:

Local councils have a particular importance in fulfilling the state’s duties to the Irish language community. Councils have authority over matters such as street signage and community development, they have a role in cultural and heritage activities, and through their own branding and services in local areas have significant potential to promote the language. Following continuous reports from both the United Nations and Council of Europe monitoring bodies condemning compliance with international treaties, this research identifies the strengths and weaknesses of Irish Language provision and support across the 11 councils. We hope that going forward we can continue to support the councils as they seek to adhere to the obligations clearly laid out in this report.”

Launching the Conradh na Gaeilge research, Advocacy Manager Ciarán Mac Giolla Bhéin said:

“Meri Huws, the Welsh Language Commissioner, clearly emphasised the importance of legislation and highlighted the central role of local government in positively promoting the language. This research shows us how, in certain councils, best-practice leads the way in helping to promote the Irish language, tackling discrimination and preventing prejudice. The research also reveals, however, huge gaps in community support and provision across several councils. The research clearly shows that there are several councils that have failed to recognise or implement their duties relating to the Irish Language, as detailed in both local and international law. We want to work with those councils going forward through drawing on the best-practice approach of other councils.”

“Without an Executive, communities are looking to our councils for direction and leadership. Moreover, without overarching language legislation enacted here, local councils have a legal duty to comply with the treaties previously signed and ratified by the British Government. Conradh na Gaeilge will continue to monitor and challenge non-compliance, as we look to ensure the Irish language community is given the “resolute action” promised in the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.”

Daniel Holder, Deputy Director, CAJ, concluded today:

“This report is a piece of work that draws together what can realistically be expected from international standards that the state has already signed up to that our local councils should be doing to promote the Irish language. The results are patchy; some councils have very good practice but some councils do nothing. These standards are rules and we need officials to start reminding elected representatives who do not support the language that whatever their views that they need to work within the rules.”

Associated Organisations of Conradh na Gaeilge