Words: Eva O’Beirne
Long-awaited legislation to protect the Irish language and Ulster-Scots culture has taken its first step at Westminster.
Part of the 2020 New Decade, New Approach deal that restored Stormont’s institutions, the bill will provide “recognition and protection” of the Irish language.
Under the new legislation, four million pounds will be allocated to the promotion and preservation of the Irish language, as well as the founding of an Office of Identity and Cultural Expression.
The legislation is expected to be fast-tracked through the House of Lords and will take around six months to become law.
Irish language group Conradh na Gaeilge has cautiously welcomed the development
Its advocacy manager, Conchúr Ó Muadaigh, described it as an emotional and historic day to the BBC, but he also added: “We’re not naïve. This is only the beginning of a legislative journey for this bill.”
“And our own painful experience with the British government taught us to take nothing for granted here. After this becomes enacted they must appoint a commissioner who can develop best practice standards, because this will now become the immediate litmus test for the British government.”
“Having legislation is one thing, acting on it is the real test – without the immediate action this legislation won’t be worth the paper it’s written on.”
It is unlikely the DUP would ever have agreed to officially recognise the Irish language, so the introduction of this bill by the UK government removes a possible stumbling block in any future negotiations.
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