Saturday, 11 March 2017

An Irish language strategy, an anither yin forbye

High Court in Belfast
Recently the High Court in Belfast ruled that the Northern Ireland Executive had breached its statutory duties by failing to implement an Irish language strategy.  

Judge Paul Maguire ruled in favour of a judicial review brought by the Irish language group Conradh na Gaeilge (Gaelic League), who said the Executive had not made good on a commitment to adopt an Irish language strategy as set out in the St Andrews Agreement Act and the Programme for Government 2011-2015.

This was an important decision and not just for the Irish language community because the ruling also meant that the Northern Ireland Executive had failed in its duty to implement an Ulster-Scots strategy.

The St Andrews Agreement Act included two commitments, one for Irish and one for Ulster-Scots.
The Executive Committee shall adopt a strategy setting out how it proposed to enhance and protect the development of the Irish language.
The Executive Committee shall adopt a strategy setting out it proposed to enhance and develop the Ulster-Scots language, heritage and culture.
There was also a requirement on the Executive Committee to 'keep under review each of the strategies'.

The St Andrews Agreement Act required the development of an Irish language strategy, not an Irish Language Act, and it also required the development of an Ulster-Scots strategy.  Moreover since the principle of 'equality' is so central to the governance of Northern Ireland we would expect these two strategies to be similar in their ambitions, aspirations and impact.

Caral Ni Chuilin (Sinn Fein)
Caral Ni Chuilin, the Sinn Fein Minister for Culture, Arts and Leisure, did bring forward strategies for Irish and Ulster-Scots but since these were cross-cutting and contentious they required Executive approval and they did not receive that approval.

There were two reasons why they did not receive DUP approval.  The first was that the Irish strategy included a specific commitment to an Irish Language Act and the second was that, in spite of Sinn Fein's  rhetoric about 'equality' there was no equity between the two strategies.  The Irish strategy was a gold-plated strategy whereas the Ulster-Scots strategy was lacking in scope, substance and vision.

As a result there was no endorsement from the DUP ministers and the two strategies which had been drawn up under the Sinn Fein minister were left languishing.

Therefore the legal case taken against the Executive by Conradh na Gaeilge and the ruling by Judge Maguire has implications for Ulster-Scots language, culture and heritage, as well as the Irish language.  

1 comment:

  1. "Lacking in scope, substance and vision"! So no visionaries in "the Boor o' Ulster Scotch" so? Not even a "wee skitters' pre-cchool"?


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