High-Court Grants Leave for Irish Language Strategy Judicial Review against Executive

10th June 2021

Honourable Mr Justice Scoffield decided case against Executive “comfortably surmounts threshold” for leave, four years after previous High-Court Ruling on Executive failure to implement Irish language Strategy as per Section 28d of 1998 legislation. 

The High-Court has granted leave for Conradh na Gaeilge to apply for a Judicial Review regarding the Executive’s continued failure to implement an Irish language Strategy, leaving them in breach of Section 28d of the 1998 NI Act. Conradh na Gaeilge issued the Executive with a pre-action protocol notice (PAP) concerning the ongoing failure to adopt an Irish language strategy at the end of March 2021. The Executive Office, however, failed to respond to the notice, breaching its legal duties to do so. 

On the 3rd March 2017, Justice Maguire gave a declaration in the High Court stating the Executive had failed to fulfill their duty to adopt an Irish language strategy as set out in Section 28D of the NI Act 1998. That ruling came as a result of a Judicial Review taken by Conradh na Gaeilge. The Irish language Strategy was promised as part of the 2006 St Andrew’s Agreement, which made amendments inserting Section 28D into the NI Act 1998, and was also promised as part of the Executive’s Programme for Government 2011-2015. 

The Irish language Strategy was also promised again as part of the 2020 New Decade New Approach Agreement, and the Strategy was to be brought forward within 6 months of the Agreement. In addition to this, the New Decade New Approach deal also committed the parties (at 4.6.3) to publish within 3 months a comprehensive timetable for development and delivery of the Irish Language Strategy. More than 500 days have now passed and neither the Strategy, nor the timetable for developing a Strategy, have been progressed by the Executive. In the meantime, a series of other Strategies have been progressed, their timetables published, and their delivery mechanisms implemented, with the support of the Executive.  

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

“More than four years on from a historic High-Court ruling declaring the Executive had failed to fulfill its duties regarding the Irish language strategy and we have once again been granted leave to Judicial Review the same ongoing failure. We are more than 15 years on since the commitment to an Irish language strategy was made in law at St Andrew’s. Furthermore, the failure to implement the strategy as per New Decade New Approach once again highlights the ongoing exclusion of our community, in clear breach of their legal duties. New Decade New Approach included a time-bound agreement to produce a timetable for development of the strategy within 3 months, alongside the delivery of Strategy itself within 6 months. Conradh na Gaeilge regrets having to go back to court on this same issue, but we believe the progress of the Irish language strategy is being blocked politically and frustrated on a weekly basis, as the papers sit for approval to the Executive agenda with the Executive Office. There is no legitimate or reasonable excuse for this delay. This issue, and the outstanding Irish language legislation also committed to in both St Andrew’s and NDNA, are now an immediate litmus test for the DUP in the coming weeks”

Acting on behalf of Conradh na Gaeilge, Attorney Mícheál Ó Flannagáin commented: 

“In March 2017 following proceedings taken by my client, the High Court declared that the Executive had failed in its statutory duty to adopt an Irish language strategy.  It is a matter of some regret that four years later my clients have had to initiate fresh proceedings against the Executive.  It is noted that in granting my clients leave to apply for judicial review that the judge accepted that the test for intervention by the courts had been “ comfortably met”.

FURTHER INFORMATION & APPLICATION DETAILS

Full details of the 2017 case and other references to this issue can be accessed below:

  • Section 28d of NI Act 1998: https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1998/47/section/28D 

  • Full Ruling of Justice Maguire, High-Court, 3 March 2017: https://bit.ly/3v4JouC 

  • Council of Europe, Committee of Experts (COMEX) Recommendations for Immediate Action, 5th Monitoring Round on European Charter for Regional Minority Languages (1/7/2020):  https://search.coe.int/cm/Pages/result_details.aspx?ObjectId=0900001680948544#_Toc7705761 

  • Official Response from the UK Government (4/1/2021) on COMEX Recommendations (1/7/2020)  https://rm.coe.int/ukiria5rev-en/1680a0eef6 

  • News Release updating progress of other ‘Social Inclusion’ Strategies under Department for Communities (DC): https://www.communities-ni.gov.uk/node/50255 and the published agreed timetables for progress by DC: https://www.communities-ni.gov.uk/articles/social-inclusion-strategies   

  • 2015-35 Draft Irish Language Strategy (DCAL):

https://www.communities-ni.gov.uk/publications/irish-language-strategy-2015-2035 

CONTACT

Conchúr Ó Muadaigh

Bainisteoir Abhcóideachta, Conradh na Gaeilge

+447596520262 | This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  

Pádraig Ó Tiarnaigh

Bainisteoir Cumarsáide, Conradh na Gaeilge 

+447716690237 | This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  

Twitter: @cnag 

 

EDITOR’S NOTE:

Conradh na Gaeilge is the democratic forum for the Irish-speaking community. The Conradh has over 200 branches and numerous individual members registered around the world, members that work hard to promote the use of Irish in their own areas. Conradh na Gaeilge’s main aim is to promote the use of Irish as the standard language in Ireland. Conradh na Gaeilge was established by Douglas Hyde, Eoin Mac Néill, and their colleagues on the 31st of July 1893. The organisation runs Irish-language courses; advocates for the language rights of Irish-speakers; raises awareness about the language; hosts the international Irish-language festival Seachtain na Gaeilge; manages the Irish-language information hub PEIG.ie and the Irish-language bookshop An Siopa Leabhar; supports Raidió Rí-Rá; and much more. More information: www.cnag.ie

Associated Organisations of Conradh na Gaeilge