Monday, 16 October 2017

A false and flawed argument for an Irish Language Act

Ian Parsley & Paula Bradshaw MLA (Alliance Party)
On Saturday the News Letter published a letter by Ian Parsley in which he  set out the case for an Irish Language Act.

One of the key points was that this would bring Irish Gaelic in Northern Ireland into line with Scottish Gaelic in Scotland and Welsh in Wales.  

It was almost like saying that it is the 'British' thing to do.

However it is a flawed and false argument as I set out in the following letter, which appeared in the News Letter today.

In his letter (14 October) in which he supported ‘comprehensive Irish language legislation’, Ian James Parsley stated that this would ‘bring Northern Ireland largely into line with equivalent jurisdictions, notably Scotland, in providing a legislative basis for promotion of Celtic languages.’  He also said that we should be ‘willing to learn from good practice in the rest of the UK’.

By referring to ‘equivalent jurisdictions’ and ‘the rest of the UK’ he was suggesting that Northern Ireland is somehow out of line with ‘the rest of the UK’.  However that is not the case.  There is no single approach across ‘the rest of the UK’ and so Northern Ireland cannot be out of line with ‘the rest of the UK’.

If we look across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, there are four ‘Celtic languages’ – Cornish in England, Scottish Gaelic in Scotland, Welsh in Wales and Irish Gaelic in Northern Ireland.

There is a Gaelic Language (Scotland) Act in Scotland and a Welsh Language Act in Wales but there is no Cornish Language Act in England, just as there is no Irish Language Act in Northern Ireland.  So Northern Ireland is in line with England, whereas Scotland and Wales are out of line with both England and Northern Ireland.  The ‘out of line’ with ‘the rest of the UK’ argument simply does not stand up to scrutiny and is disingenuous.

Ian Parsley takes a keen interest in minority languages, as does his wife Paula Bradshaw, the Alliance Party MLA for South Belfast.  Indeed she was the person who represented the Alliance Party at a Conradh na Gaelige photoshoot on 30 August in support of a standalone Irish Language Act. 

Both Ian and Paula have used this ‘rest of the UK’ argument in support of an Irish Language Act.  Are they not aware of the situation in England?

The Alliance Party is entitled to argue for an Irish Language Act but then others are entitled to point out that this argument is fundamentally flawed and thoroughly disingenuous.

Nelson McCausland

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