Northern Ireland

Secretary of state urged to appoint north's first Irish language commissioner

A group of cross-party MPs and representatives from Conradh na Gaeilge
A group of cross-party MPs and representatives from Conradh na Gaeilge A group of cross-party MPs and representatives from Conradh na Gaeilge

The secretary of state has been urged to appoint the north's first Irish language commissioner in the absence of a Stormont executive.

Regulations are now in place enabling the creation of an Office of Identity and Cultural Expression, alongside the appointment of an Irish language commissioner and a corresponding advocate for the Ulster Scots and the Ulster-British tradition.

The Identity and Language (Northern Ireland) Act 2022 received royal assent in December and on Tuesday NIO Minister Steve Baker confirmed that implementation of the legislation had begun.

However, the process of recruiting the two commissioners is likely to stall because of the absence of a Stormont minister to authorise the appointment.

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Conchúr Ó Muadaigh of Irish language group Conradh na Gaeilge said the commissioners could be in place "within a matter of weeks".

"Whilst the new Irish language legislation has been on the statute books for over six months, many within our community have been waiting and advocating for language rights here for decades," he said. 

"Now we enter into the first phase of implementation and urge the Executive Office, and the NIO, to move with haste to announce the appointment process for an Irish language commissioner."

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said: "We have a duty to protect and promote the language, culture and identity of the traditions that share our island. 

"If the executive remains paralysed then Westminster needs to act to establish these offices."