Northern Ireland news

Conradh na Gaeilge says continued delay in legislating for Irish language is 'unacceptable'

More than 50 Irish language groups last week called on the British government to immediately move Irish language legislation at Westminster. Picture by Mal McCann

THE CONTINUED delay in legislating for the Irish language at Westminster is causing an "erosion of community confidence" in the British government, according to Conradh na Gaeilge.

The Irish language advocacy group was speaking as the House of Commons schedule confirmed that no time has been set aside this week to debate the cultural package legislation, which includes provisions for both the Irish language and Ulster Scots.

From the start of next week, MPs will sit for little over a fortnight before the Christmas recess.

The British government gave assurances last month that Westminster would legislate on the New Decade New Approach pledge "as soon as parliamentary time allows".

Secretary of State Brandon Lewis said in June that the necessary legislation would be delivered in October.

Last week the The Irish News carried a full-page advert in which 50 Irish language groups called on the secretary of state to "immediately move this legislation at Westminster without any further delay".

Northern Ireland Office Minister of State Conor Burns has written to Conradh na Gaeilge, saying the British government is "taking the necessary steps to introduce the legislation".

Mr Burns said the process "requires careful consideration and planning prior to introduction to minimise the the scope for amendments during passage".

However, the lack of a specific timeframe for the legislation, coupled with countless missed deadlines, has been described by Conradh na Gaeilge as "unacceptable".

“Although this correspondence attempts to assure us that the legislation 'will not be long', painful experience of 16 years of missed deadlines, unfulfilled commitments and false dawns tell us otherwise," said Conchúr Ó Muadaigh, the group's advocacy manager.

He said the Irish language community was "justifiably sceptical of the British government" on this issue.

"The response from Minister Conor Burns, whilst recommitting to implementing the legislation at Westminster, ultimately refuses to indicate a scheduled date for doing so," he said.

"This reaffirms a continued failure on the part of the British government in their role as co-guarantor of the New Decade New Approach Agreement – that is unacceptable."

Mr Ó Muadaigh said the lack of a firm commitment "added to the long term erosion of community confidence in the British government to uphold their commitments on the Irish language legislation".

SDLP Irish language spokesperson Patsy McGlone said Gaeilgeoirí had been "waiting decades for this legislation".

"The time for promising action has long since passed – the British government have committed to introducing this legislation at Westminster and they need to get on with delivering it," he said.

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access

Northern Ireland news