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21 Sep 2017
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As opposition to grant Irish speakers rights continues, Conradh na Gaeilge calls time on fake news, asking parties and both governments to honour international agreements and follow recommendations

As talks and meetings aimed at restoring the institutions intensify, Conradh na Gaeilge is calling on all the parties involved in talks, alongside the two governments, to make the “right decisions” on behalf of the Irish Language Community.

Conradh na Gaeilge calls:
– On the five parties and majority of MLAs who support stand-alone legislation to highlight the experiences and best practices of Wales in their provision of Welsh language rights for the Welsh language speaking community, as proposed by the St Andrews Agreement, and to intensify their support in the coming days for the thousands of Irish speakers, young people and families who have been denied rights for over 10 years.

– On the British Government to fulfill their role as co-guarantors of the St Andrews Agreement and to ensure the promises made by them are fulfilled. Since January 2017, Conradh na Gaeilge has requested meetings with Secretary of State James Brokenshire over 4 times, to which no response has ever been received, despite the prominence of the Irish language Act in the ongoing political stalemate.

– On the Irish Government to reaffirm their support for a stand-alone Act and to pursue this as a matter of urgency in their capacity as co-guarantors of the St Andrews Agreement. To this end, we have sought an urgent meeting with Minister for Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney.

Regarding some of the recent headlines and efforts to ‘define’ what an Irish language Act might look like, Conradh na Gaeilge would point to our own costed proposals as a potential blueprint which also helps challenge some of the misinformation surrounding the debate, including:

– An Irish Language Act will not make Irish compulsory in schools, it will however simply support those who chose to avail of Irish Medium Education and who chose to learn Irish in the English medium sector

– An Irish Language Act will not force Irish on anyone, but rather ensure the state remove existing barriers and facilitate the provision of services through Irish for those who wish to use it.

– It is not the aim of Conradh na Gaeilge or of an Irish Language Act to hollow out Britishness or indeed humiliate Unionists, the Irish language however should be seen as having a transformative function that can bring people together, whilst protecting the language community, as happens in Wales, Scotland and across Europe, and as recommended by the Council of Europe and the United Nations.

Dr Niall Comer, President, Conradh na Gaeilge, says:
“We have seen an increased number of attacks on the Irish Language and the proposals for an Irish Language Act in recent weeks. As the talks intensify, it is essential that all parties look back on what has brought us to this point and why legal protections are needed for the language: Líofa, attacks on Irish Medium Education, and many crass and insulting remarks from senior politicians which ultimately brought over 20,000 people to the streets of Belfast, Newry and Derry since January. Now is the time to deliver the change those people were promised over 10 years ago. Now is the time to make the right decisions for the right reasons.”

“Let us not forget also that a majority of elected MLAs, 50 out of 90, support the provision of a stand-alone Irish Language Act. Also, language rights and service provision arising from legislation are being provided in Wales to Welsh speakers and in Scotland to Gaelic speakers. Why should Irish speakers not have their rights recognised and services based on legislation provided for them also.”

Ciarán Mac Giolla Bhéin, Advocacy Manager, Conradh na Gaeilge, says:
“We always ask people to look at the overwhelming support that exists for a stand-alone Irish Language Act and the rationale behind that support. If we look at the Council of Europe’s 4th Monitoring Report, published 4/3/2017, the Advisory Committee on the Framework Convention for the Protection of Minorities has strongly criticised Stormont on this issue, and calls on the Executive to “adopt appropriate legislation protecting and promoting the Irish Language and take measures to ensure progress on language rights…”

“The same report from the Council of Europe continues to reiterate the importance of the roles of the co-guarantors of the St Andrews Agreements, alongside those of the British Government, who ratified the European Charter for Regional And Minority languages, calling on them to “help create political consensus needed for such adaption”.  It is clear from this, and from James Brokenshire’s refusal to engage with us, that the British Government is failing to meet its obligations. It is up to the Irish Government to ensure the British Government are held to task, and ultimately to ensure the rights of the Irish language community are finally delivered and to give concrete expression to the UK’s obligations under the European Charter.”