Northern Ireland

Conradh na Gaeilge calls for clarity on Irish language strategy delivery time

Speaker Edwin Poots with members of Conradh na Gaeilge (L-R): Conchubhair Mac Lochlainn, Paula Melvin, principal deputy speaker Carál Ní Chuilín. Michaeline Donnelly and Niall Comer.

Conradh na Gaeilge has called on the Department of Communities to publish a timetable for finalising an Irish language strategy.

The Irish language advocacy group made the appeal on Thursday as its members addressed the assembly’s communities committee.

The group made history as its presentation to MLAs was given entirely through the medium of Irish.

Conradh na Gaeilge communications manager Pádraig Ó Tiarnaigh said the opportunity to speak to the committee as Gaeilge was “another historic moment for the Irish language community as we work towards normalising the use of Irish in our public and shared spaces”.

During the meeting, he said there was growing concern that the Irish language strategy, agreed as part of 2020′s New Decade New Approach agreement, was being delayed.

The group is also concerned that many of the aims for promoting the Irish language included in a cross-departmental working group report may be abandoned due to spending constraints.

Mr Ó Tiarnaigh said that unlike other strategies that had been agreed as part of NDNA, the Irish language strategy had no specific timeframe.

Padraig O Tiarnaigh. Picture by Mal McCann.
Pádraig Ó Tiarnaigh. PICTURE: MAL MCCANN

He said confidence among the Irish language community was “waning” as a result of the delays in finalising the strategy.

“Without any agreed focus or agreed timeline, we fear that what may emerge from this process may be something that isn’t representative of our community’s needs and legitimate expectations,” he said.

“We hope the committee can now write to the minister seeking a timeline for publishing a new strategy, whilst ensuring adequate new resources are secured to enable suitable actions to be carried out over that 20-year period.”

Communities committee member Daniel McCrossan urged DUP minister Gordon Lyons to “deliver on all of the language provisions contained in the New Decade New Approach agreement”.

“I share the frustrations of rights campaigners who had to go through two judicial reviews to get this far,” the SDLP MLA said.

“We need to see a strategy produced with the proper resources and time-bound targets in place to implement it.”

After the committee meeting, Conradh na Gaeilge joined other groups at Parliament Buildings for an assembly event hosted by Speaker Edwin Poots to mark Seachtain na Gaelige – Irish Language Week.

The event included a short seminar on townland names and their meaning and derivation.

Mr Poots said he was “delighted” to host the event, which he said recognised the Irish language’s “importance to many in the assembly and our society”.

“However, today’s event, focussing on the origins of the names of many of our townlands, was also a chance for those with little or no knowledge of Irish to reflect on the historical influence of the Irish language around us,” he said.