Victory in the courts on the strategy but Act is needed urgently

 POBAL the advocacy organization for the Irish speaking community has welcomed the judgement of High Court today that the executive failed in its duty by not adopting an Irish language strategy in the last ten years since the 2007 St. Andrews Act.

Janet Muller, POBAL’s Director said, ‘This is a positive judgement for Irish speakers in the case today taken by Conradh na Gaeilge a month ago for the Irish speaking community. Over a period of years now, POBAL has had considerable input into the development of a strategy for the Irish language. We worked with experts from the community in Irish language media and education, with Irish speakers and academic and legal experts to compile proposals and they influenced the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure when they were preparing their own documents. The Department then commissioned POBAL to organise a community consultation on the Department’s discussion document, and again, the results of our work can be seen in the Department’s own final proposals. This is the document which was put to and rejected by the Executive in January 2016. So, it is understandable that we would have a major interest in the court’s ruling, and we will be keeping an eye on developments from now on.’

She said, ‘The ruling today has left some questions unanswered. There is no Executive at the moment, so we must assume this issue will be part of political talks in the coming weeks. Will the strategy as it was put to the Executive previously be adopted? Will the parties that rejected it then demand major changes? Or will it be a matter of a new strategy altogether? In that case, who will be responsible for drafting it, what will their attitude be to Irish and how long will a new strategy take? Of course, a strategy is not the same as an Act. A strategy is a plan to achieve particular goals but without legislation, we will still be depending on good will. We are pleased with today’s decision, but also absolutely certain that the Irish speaking community will not accept a sop or tokenism. A strategy is not enough – we need a strong, comprehensive Act as well, and we need it urgently.’

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