“Language Rights are Fundamental Rights. We are part of a 40 million strong ‘minoritised’ European languages’ community” - Paul Bilbao

Paul Bilbao of Kontseilua with Conradh na GaeilgeInternational Language Expert Paul Bilbao consults with Irish language Community on European Languages Protocol

Over 30 delegates from across the Irish language community joined Conradh na Gaeilge today (22/3/16) at a consultation event on a European language protocol in Cultúrlann McAdam Ó Fiaich, which was chaired by the Secretary General of international language group Kontseilua, Paul Bilbao.

The consultation process, which will now travel to minority language communities across Europe, focuses on gathering opinion and perspective for a new ‘Protocol to Ensure Language Rights’ which looks to build on the 1996 Barcelona ‘Universal Declaration of Linguistic Rights’. Conradh na Gaeilge welcomed the consultation, and highlighted the significant emphasis placed on the participation of civil society organisations and grassroots bodies, alongside an international body of experts.

Ciarán Mac Giolla Bhéin, Advocacy Manager with Conradh na Gaeilge, said:

“The Protocol concept underlines the growing and continuous importance of language rights across Europe. In the north of Ireland the Irish language community has been consistently let down in this regard. Progressive language rights are central to a progressive Europe, which respects the rights and dignity of all its citizens. We have previously had general commitments to ‘promote and develop’ our language but in reality this has delivered little change in the daily lives of language users. The protocol will lay out the practical steps required to support the recovery of minoritised languages, along with indicators to measure their application.”

Neil Comer, Tánaiste of Conradh na Gaeilge, said:

“This protocol is another step forward in recognising the Irish language in an international linguistic context. Following the recent rejection of the Irish language Act and strategy at Stormont it is vital that language rights are sufficiently protected through international and European human rights standards and that the international rights frameworks relating to the Irish language, which have been ratified by the British Government, are adhered to. The British Government must also live up to its international treaties and bring about a Language Act in the north, as they committed to at St. Andrews in 2006.

“Mr. Bilbao highlighted today the four pillars of language recovery: Adequate legislation, Planning, Economic Resources, Public Interest and Support. Conradh na Gaeilge would encourage all members of the Irish language community to actively engage in this consultation process.”

Paul Bilbao, Secretary General of Kontseilua, commented:

“It seems to me that language rights do not exist, but language rights are fundamental rights. We are part of a 40 million strong ‘minoritised’ European languages’ community. It is contradictory to me that the British government, which ratified the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, implements language rights in different ways between Scotland, Wales and the North of Ireland. This could be achieved through the realisation and implementation of an Irish language Act in the north of Ireland. This protocol seeks to address the needs of language communities to ensure rights, protection and development.”

Conradh na Gaeilge and Kontseilua welcome additional proposals to the consultation process. This and further information can be accessed at www.protokoloa.eus.

Associated Organisations of Conradh na Gaeilge