European Charter

The European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages

The European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages (ECRML) is a European treaty (CETS 148) adopted in 1992 under the auspices of the Council of Europe to protect and promote historical regional and minority languages in Europe.

What will it mean for Irish?

In March 2001, the British Government ratified 36 provisions of the Charter, representing the actions they will take to promote the Irish language. The Charter came into effect in July 2001. The Charter could represent an important step forward for the Irish language, in that it outlines a range of overall principles and specific measures designed to promote the recognition and use of Irish in society.  On the other hand, the Charter is not underpinned by a strong enforcement mechanism, should states fail to implement the provisions. While there is a procedure in place to monitor the implementation of the Charter, this appears to be a relatively weak mechanism. In addition, in a number of cases, the provisions selected to apply to Irish under Part 3 of the Charter constitute the least positive option from the choices available. Despite or perhaps even because of these limitations, POBAL believes that it is important for us to monitor continuously and closely the implementation of the Charter provisions.  To this end, POBAL has ongoing contact with the Committee of Experts on the Charter at the Council of Europe, and reports our findings to them formally during each monitoring cycle.

What is the Charter?

The Charter is a convention which is designed to protect and promote regional and minority languages. This is defined to include languages traditionally spoken within a territory, but does not cover the languages spoken by ethnic minorities or immigrant groups. The Charter is divided into two substantive parts – in Part 2, the general principles which should inform language policy are outlined and Part 3 consists of a range of concrete measures to promote the designated languages.
These measures relate to the following areas:

  • education
  • judicial authorities
  • administrative authorities and public services
  • the media
  • cultural activities and facilities
  • economic and social life
  • transfrontier exchanges

In signing up to the Charter, States specify which language(s) are to be covered under the Charter and which language(s) qualify for inclusion under Part 3 (Part 2 of the Charter applies to all designated languages). Thus, Irish and Ulster-Scots are covered under Part 2 of the Charter, while Part 3 of the Charter applies only to Irish. Within Part 3, States are required to select a minimum of 35 provisions to be applied to the language(s) in question, from a total of 68 provisions. As noted previously, the British Government has ratified 36 paragraphs of the charter.  In 2007, POBAL published our detailed proposals for a strengthened ratification instrument of Part 3 of the Charter in respect of Irish.


Audio Downloads:  Description of porposals for strenghening the Charter


Did you know that you are entitled to services in Irish from councils, government and public bodies?

POBAL is spearheading a campaign, in partnership with the Irish speakers and Irish language groups, to create more efficient services for the Irish community from local councils, government departments and public bodies. Irish speakers are entitled to these services under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. You can: write letters and fill in application forms in Irish, make phone calls and speak with them in Irish, request a translator during meetings, request some official documents in Irish, use Irish language forms of personal names and use traditional versions of Irish language place names.

Here are some of the departments and agencies who have to observe the Charter: government departments, local councils, health boards, health trusts, education and library boards, NI Museums Council, Arts Council NI, Sports Council NI, Waterways Ireland, NI Consumer Council, NI Harbour Commissions, NI Housing Executive, Community Relations Council, Inland Revenue, NI Court Service and the NI Tourist Board.

POBAL is asking the Irish speaking community throughout the north to contact their local councils and government departments to demand these services. Find below a list of sample letters to help you, along with copies of POBAL’s documents Know your Rights and Your Address in Irish.

Le hÍoslódáil:  Litreacha samplacha anseo    Bíodh Eolas agat ar do Chuid Ceart    Do Sheoladh as Gaeilge

POBAL is a company limited by guarantee.
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