Belfast Telegraph

Alliance Irish language blueprint 'could break impasse and get Assembly back to work'

By Suzanne Breen

The Alliance Party says there is no excuse for political deadlock at Stormont after it presented the DUP and Sinn Fein with "workable proposals" for an Irish Language Act.

South Belfast MLA Paula Bradshaw said while an act was "not a priority" for her party, movement was needed to form an executive to deal with health, education and other pressing issues.

Alliance is proposing an Irish Language Act to "meet the requirement of past agreements as well as reflecting the fact that Irish currently has a distinct level of development and distinct need for protection in Northern Ireland".

Irish would be recognised as "an official language of public and legal authorities". Public signs in Irish would be provided in line with local demand.

Cross-community agreement would be needed in cases of traffic signs.

An Irish Language Commissioner would be appointed to "design and implement standards" for meeting the new law and to oversee the quality of Irish translating and interpreting services.

There would be a duty to respond in Irish to correspondence in Irish. Recognition would be given to Irish and Ulster Scots as "indigenous spoken languages" and of Ulster-Scots language, culture and heritage "in the education system and academia".

Alliance suggests the Executive be set up with a guarantee that the language proposals become law "swiftly upon the re-establishment of the institutions but with full Assembly scrutiny in advance".

Ms Bradshaw said: "With a deal on these language and culture issues now clearly available, there is now no further excuse whatsoever for the DUP and Sinn Fein not to proceed to nominate a First Minister and deputy First Minister early next month."

However, TUV leader Jim Allister accused Alliance of "rolling over" to Sinn Fein's demand for a standalone Irish Language Act which was "no surprise given Alliance's pro-Sinn Fein voting record".

He said the party had granted all Sinn Fein's core demands and Irish speakers would have an advantage in civil service and court jobs.

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