Irish Republican News · October 17, 2007
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
‘Irish language rights will not be stifled’ - Adams

The British government is under pressure to intervene after a minister in the Six-County executive ruled out plans to introduce an Irish language bill in the Belfast Assembly.

DUP ‘culture minister’ Edwin Poots argued that the native language alienated Protestants and the bill would be too costly to implement.

Mr Poots accused Sinn Féin Assembly member of politicising the language by using it in the chamber of the Assembly.

“It actually persuades other people to resist the Irish language,” he claimed.

Irish language activists said the onus was now on the British government to act because it had pledged in last year’s St Andrews Agreement there would be an Irish language act.

Janet Muller of the language organisation, Pobal stressed: “A commitment was given by the British government in an international contract, the St Andrews Agreement, to enact Irish language legislation.

“The results of two consultations on this issue have shown a vast majority not just in favour of legislation but comprehensive rights-based legislation.

“All that has been dismissed by the minister today. It is our contention, however, that this matter has always rested with the British government.

“They held a second consultation to give unionism another chance to look at it. That has now been done and now the Northern Ireland Office should go about introducing legislation in Westminster.”

Irish speakers including Gerry Adams have been campaigning for a bill to mirror similar legislation in Wales protecting the Welsh language.

The legislation would have created a commissioner to uphold the rights of Irish speakers and have established language schemes for public bodies.

However, Ian Paisley’s Democratic Unionists has warned they would veto it.

During strong exchanges in the Assembly, Mr Adams told the minister if he wanted to depoliticise the language the best way to do that was to make it official.

To cries of ‘No’ from the unionist benches, the Sinn Féin president asked: “Will the minister accept one way or another there will be an Irish language act?”

Mr Adams said Poots had been “in a unique position to show mature leadership” but had missed the opportunity.

“The Irish language threatens no one. It is not compulsory. Irish language rights threaten no one.

“The revival of the Irish language has been our country’s cultural success story. More and more people are using Irish.

“Young children in particular are being educated in increasing numbers through the medium of Irish and it is their future and their rights that must be secured through legislation.

“It is therefore unfortunate that the Minister has taken today’s course of action and this is certainly not in the spirit of a new local Assembly.

Mr Adams said that he was not surprised at the developments, but ‘bealach amhain no bealach eile’ -- one way or another -- there would be an Irish Language Act.” Despite the setback, Mr Adams said Sinn Féin would continue to press for the change through the executive.

“It is with regret that the DUP and UUP have used this issue as a political football rather than an administrative subject. The last two weeks have seen attacks in the chamber on the language ad nauseum.

“Irish language legislation is not a demonstration of strength by Sinn Féin, however, this morning is a clear sign of weakness by certain sections of Unionism.

“However I am sure that language rights, a non-contraversial issue throughout the world, will in the time ahead be achieved in Ireland. They shall not be stifled.”

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© 2007 Irish Republican News