Conradh na Gaeilge actively supports the public consultation regarding an Irish Language Act in the North, announced on 13 January 2015 by Culture Minister Carál Ní Chuilín, and beginning today, 10 February 2015. Conradh na Gaeilge notes, however, that it is not enough to simply entertain the idea of such a process and appreciates that some members of the public are concerned that this consultation will follow the path of its predecessors, in 2006 and 2007. Although huge demand was shown in support of an Irish Language Act in both of the previous consultations, they ended without further progress towards action. We now know that 54% of people in the North support the need for more services for Irish speakers and that 30 times more people than those who are currently fluent are interested in learning more Irish. These figures are hugely encouraging and emphasise the urgent need to make the choice to learn and speak Irish both inside and outside the education system more widely available. An Irish Language Act will make this possible.
President of Conradh na Gaeilge, Cóilín Ó Cearbhaill, said:
“Conradh na Gaeilge encourages the Irish Language and wider community to take an active role in this process. Submissions and recommendations can be made in a wide range of ways and the Conradh na Gaeilge team are here to help, advise and facilitate this process in any way we can. Looking at the consultation that took place in 2006 regarding an Irish Language Act, it was shown that 93% of answers were in favour of the Act, while in 2007, there were more than 11,000 responses to the consultation, and again a majority showed huge support and demand for an Act. The wider community in support of the language, of which more than 5,000 attended the Lá Dearg campaign in Belfast last year, they have shown the demand and need for language legislation, as was promised in the St Andrews Agreement nine years ago.
Ciarán Mac Giolla Bhéin, Language Protection and Representation Manager, added:
“Conradh na Gaeilge openly welcomes the need for discussion in the form of a consultation, but the implementation of the Act remains our outright goal, and we must continue to move towards that goal. The launch of this consultation comes at a very interesting time in the North. The results of the all-Ireland survey organised by Conradh na Gaeilge in January 2015, and carried out by independent researchers Millward Brown, show clear support and demand for the Irish language across Ireland. In response to the question regarding the amount of services that should be available to Irish language users, or to those who wish to avail of such services, 54% of people in the North answered that services should be available. There are also interesting statistics regarding the opportunities people have to speak Irish more often. One in every four in the North who took part in the survey said they believed there should be increased opportunities to use Irish in everyday life. These figures show that the Irish language community and movement in the North is growing and that there is cross-community interest in the language. We would like to ask everyone who has an interest in the Irish language to take notice and actively engage in this consultation process. Through active participation, the draft bill can be fully representative of the Irish language and its speakers.