Belfast Telegraph

SF to continue language campaign

An Assembly bid to protect the Irish language in Northern Ireland has failed.

The Human Rights Commission wrote to Culture Minister Nelson McCausland in August this year and said the minister's failure to introduce Irish language legislation was not human rights compliant.

A Sinn Fein motion called on the minister to bring forward proposals for a strategy to protect the development of the language.

Sinn Fein MLA Billy Leonard said some members displayed "serial ignorance" during Monday's debate.

"The drive to get an Irish language act will go on regardless of the hot air and mediocrity this afternoon," he warned. "What we had today was a litany of mediocrity which actually failed to address the motion."

Mr McCausland said he planned to introduce a strategy for minority languages to enhance the protection of the Irish language and Ulster/Scots. He said that would promote understanding of the background of both languages. "I am keen that the language strategy will be grounded in the programme for government 2008-11," he said. He added lack of consensus on the language would not contribute to progress on a shared future.

SDLP MLA Declan O`Loan said he was not impressed by the standard of the debate which he branded child-like. Sinn Fein wants to hold the government to what leader Gerry Adams has said was its commitment at St Andrews to introduce an Irish Language Act following the refusal of the DUP to do so.

Mr Adams has said the government pledged £20 million for the development of the Irish language during the Hillsborough Castle talks. He said some of the money will be given to the Irish Language Broadcast Fund.

Ulster Unionist Ken Robinson said: "Embroiling the language within a narrow and romantic republican agenda does little for its development in Northern Ireland nor does it show the language adequate respect."

The 1998 political agreement included a commitment to linguistic diversity and listed three strategies to develop the Irish language. Mr Robinson added: "The use of the phrase 'shall adopt a strategy' is clear - it does not say 'will introduce an act'. Not every strategy involves an act. All that seems to me to be agreed is the need to develop suitable strategies and to keep these under review."

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