The United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights has called for the adoption of an Irish language Act.
The development is understood to be as a result of lobbying by the Irish language group POBAL and has been welcomed by Gaelic speaking MEP, Bairbre de Brun.
However, the DUP’s candidate for the European elections has said her party is determined to continue to frustrate what she said was “a republican agenda”.
The UN committee said in its latest periodic report that it is concerned that there is “still no protection in respect of the Irish language in Northern Ireland, whereas the Welsh and the Gaelic languages are protected by the Welsh Language Act 1993 and the Gaelic Language (Scotland) Act 2005, respectively.”
It recommended that the British government or the devolved Stormont administration adopt an Irish Language Act “with a view to preserving and promoting minority languages and cultural heritage”. It called on the British government to provide detailed information on the progress made in its next report.
Under the 2006 St Andrews Agreement, the British Government committed to introduce an Irish Language Act. Although a consultation document on the matter was published in 2007, the restoration of devolved government meant that responsibility for language transferred from London to Belfast.
In October 2007, the then ‘Minister of Culture’, Edwin Poots of the DUP, announced to the Assembly that he did not intend to bring forward an Irish language Bill.
Irish speakers have viewed the UN stance as a vindication in what is sure to be a campaign measured in years.
Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brun said the British Government and the Stormont Executive must act following the UN call.
“This indicates the growing pressure on the British Government to live up to their responsibilities under the Saint Andrews and Good Friday Agreements as well as the European Charter,” she said.
Last month, in a separate blow for Sinn Féin’s cross-border agenda, the 26-County Minister for Education Batt O’Keeffe pulled funding for the next phase in the development of an all-Ireland centre for autism in County Armagh.
In 2002, after the first power-sharing administration at Stormont was established, it was agreed to set up the centre as a concession to nationalist aspirations towards a united Ireland.
The plan was to provide assessment and other services for children and other young people with autism from all parts of the island.
In the years since, staff were recruited, although progress stalled following unionist opposition.
Mr O’Keeffe and his Six-County counterpart, Caitriona Ruane, held a meeting at the project site on May 20th to discuss the cuts, which resulted from the Dublin government’s budget crisis.
Mr O’Keeffe said his capital allocation had been cut by O70 million. “I am a realist. You are dealt a hand of cards and I have to play the cards that are given.”
Sinn Féin TD Caoimhghin O Caolain was ruled out of order when he attempted to raise the issue in the Dublin parliament last week.
He said the best form of protest was for people to reject Fianna Fail and Green candidates in the elections and to vote for Sinn Féin.
The DUP claimed last week that it had prevented Sinn Féin from delivering on its manifesto by constantly frustrating and blocking the republican agenda.
The party’s European election candidate Diane Dodds said: “No reasonable or impartial person could seriously suggest that devolution has been beneficial to Republicanism.”
Her attack came as deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness warned that senior figures in the DUP miss playing the “Orange card” to veto political progress. The alternative, he warned, is “deadlock and stasis”.
Trumpeting the benefits of deadlock, Mrs Dodds, wife of Finance Minister and DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds, said SF’s manifesto was long on promises but had proved short on delivery.
“Using devolution we have brought the Sinn Féin agenda to a grinding halt.”