A strong Irish language act must emerge in the final stages of the talks

POBAL, the independent advocacy organisation for the Irish language has urged those political parties that say they support Irish language legislation to ensure that in the final stages of the Stormont talks what emerges is a comprehensive Act based on the expert proposals POBAL has published. POBAL’s Director, Janet Muller said, ‘There is great pressure on the parties now to come to some form of agreement and given the opposition of some to meaningful legislation there are dangers in this current phase of talks. We have been very clear in the eleven years since the British government gave its commitment to introduce the Irish language Act that weak legislation would just increase frustration. We urge the political parties to stand firm in their support for rights-based legislation which can and will create a wide range of guaranteed rights in education, the political institutions, local authorities, administration of justice and media. The work of drafting inclusive proposals with the advice of the world’s foremost experts in language law has already been done by POBAL. Politicians who wish to see the Irish language properly protected and promoted should ensure that these are the proposals on which any legislation is based.’

 POBAL has previously expressed concern that during the current rounds of talks in recent months, some parties and some Irish language groups have published very low projected costs of a couple of million pounds for the act. Janet Muller said, ‘The Act must be adequately resourced from Westminster or it will have no teeth. Public monies made available through other schemes or strategies could be subject to the kind of politicking we know all too well if they are not underpinned by actual rights in the act. POBAL is in favour of getting best value for public money, but a couple of million pounds to implement important legislation is a rather ridiculous claim when you remember that in the past, the public purse has subsidised the Stormont canteen alone to the tune of over a quarter of a million a year, and the average bill for tea and biscuits at Stormont Executive meetings has been calculated at £32,000 per year. Irish language projects have survived on a shoe string for decades. Politicians here as well as Teresa May and Leo Varadker have the chance to ensure that the Irish language Act marks a new approach, not the same old, same old tokenism.’


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