Conradh na Gaeilge and its Ulster assembly Comhaltas Uladh have welcomed the Council of Europe’s observation that the Government in the north has not been able to justify banning the use of Irish in the courts, and is calling on the Northern Ireland Executive to enact legislation to protect the language rights of Irish speakers in the Six Counties as a matter of extreme urgency.
The report – a review of minority languages in the UK published by The Council of Europe today (Thursday, 16 January 2014) – said that the growth and promotion of the Irish language in Northern Ireland is being blocked by hostile attitudes in Stormont, and a lack of support for its use in the courts and in education, which has in turn "hampered the process of timely and effective application" of the European Charter for Regional and Minority Languages across the UK.
Niall Comer, President of Comhaltas Uladh of Conradh na Gaeilge says:
"Conradh na Gaeilge and Comhaltas Uladh welcome the support of The Council of Europe for the use of Irish in the courts in Northern Ireland, on bilingual street names in the north, and in allowing people to take citizenship tests in the Irish language in the Six Counties, and are urging the Northern Ireland Executive to act immediately to rectify the situation.
"The lack of political consensus on the Irish language, and the "persisting hostile climate" in the Stormont Assembly as noted in the report of The Council of Europe, has long hindered the development of a much-needed Irish Language Act to protect the rights of Irish speakers on this island."
The Council of Europe’s report has highlighted the possible breach of the European Charter for Regional and Minority Languages arising from delays and attempts to block requests for bilingual street names, and it noted many impediments hampering an adequate offering of Irish-medium pre-schools in Northern Ireland. The report calls for concrete steps to be taken to meet the growth in demand for primary education in Irish, for new measures to allow for simultaneous translation in the Assembly, and for an end to the ban on the use of Irish in the courts in the north.
Julian de Spáinn, General Secretary of Conradh na Gaeilge says:
"With the recent opening of an Irish-language centre in loyalist east Belfast to cope with an increasing number of Protestant learners, and in light of the success of the Líofa campaign to encourage people from every community in Northern Ireland to learn Irish, the publication of The Council of Europe’s report is a timely indication that there is room for cross-community support on the promotion of Irish if only the political will lends itself to it."
Conradh na Gaeilge and Comhaltas Uladh are urging the Northern Ireland Assembly to repeal The Administration of Justice (Language) Act (Ireland) 1737, which forbids the use of any language but English in court proceedings, and to put the promotion of Irish before politics in order to grant Irish speakers in the north their due language rights and equality. END
President, Comhaltas Uladh
Julian de Spáinn,
General Secretary, Conradh na Gaeilge
+353 (0)86 8142757 / +353 (0)1 4757401
Date: 14 January 2014
For immediate release
NOTES FOR THE EDITOR:
Conradh na Gaeilge is the democratic forum for the Irish-speaking community working to promote the language. There are over 200 branches of Conradh na Gaeilge and since its foundation in 1893, members of the Conradh have been actively promoting Irish in every aspect of life in Ireland and especially its use in their own areas. Conraitheoirí are at the forefront of campaigns to secure and strengthen the rights of the Irish language community. It is also possible to register as an individual member of the Conradh. Conradh na Gaeilge runs Irish courses in Dublin, Galway and other locations across the country. www.cnag.ie/courses
Comhaltas Uladh is a provincial assembly of Conradh na Gaeilge, founded in 1926 to administer the work of Conradh na Gaeilge in the province of Ulster, as well as Co. Louth. The organisation's main purpose is to promote the Irish language in Ulster. Comhaltas Uladh organises branches, feiseanna, and Irish-language speaking competitions for school pupils. Comhaltas Uladh provides assistance to drama groups, preschools and other Irish language schools in the 10 counties, and works in partnership with universities and training colleges in Northern Ireland also. Comhaltas runs summer schools in Gaeltacht and non-Gaeltacht areas in the north and gives scholarship grants to learners of Irish every year.
The Council of Europe is the continent’s leading human rights organisation. It includes 47 member states, 28 of which are members of the European Union. All Council of Europe member states have signed up to the European Convention on Human Rights, a treaty designed to protect human rights, democracy and the rule of law. www.coe.int