Belfast Telegraph

Sinn Fein rules out affirmative action for Irish speakers in civil service

Bilingual road signs and Irish in courts among proposals

By Jonathan Bell

Sinn Fein has confirmed a Stormont consultation on the Irish language act is the basis for its demand for an Irish language act but that it no longer is requiring "affirmative action" for the recruitment of Irish language speakers in civil service recruitment.

Questions have been asked of the party as to what an Irish language act would actually look like. Party president Gerry Adams has repeatedly stated his party will not return to the Northern Ireland Executive unless there is an act in place.

Responding on Twitter to Belfast Telegraph columnist Alex Kane, who said it didn't appear the party had a formal policy or draft legislation on the matter, former Culture Minister Ni Chuilin said draft legislation went out to full public consultation in February 2015.

When asked if the outcome of the consultation and its recommendations were in the public domain and if that was Sinn Fein policy, she responded: "I drafted the legislation. Recommendations in public domain."

The party later confirmed, to the BBC Stephen Nolan show, the draft legislation was the basis for its demands for an Irish language act but they have ruled out affirmative action for Irish speakers in civil service recruitment.

Previously it had been suggested 10% of civil service staff should be Irish speakers as a target. However, Sinn Fein dismissed the claim.

A consolation on introducing an Irish language act was launched by the then Department of Culture Arts and Leisure in February 2015.

Among its proposals were:

  • Official status for the language
  • Provision for the right to speak Irish in the courts
  • English and Irish to be equal in the Assembly
  • The creation of an Irish language commissioner
  • Public bodies to recognise status of language including "affirmative action" in favour of Irish speakers in recruitment to the Civil Service and other public bodies.
  • Public bodies to produce scheme on how language services will be provided
  • Definition of conditions for recognition of Gaeltacht areas.

  • Recognition of Irish in placenames - including bilingual road signs

  • Provision to guarantee the right to education through the medium of Irish.

  • The full consultation document can be read here.

    A follow-up report on the consultation was published in December 2015. It found that 95% of the near 13,000 responses received were in favour of legislation with the majority supporting the content of the proposals.

    The cost of translation services and the small number of Irish speakers were issues raised among the small number of objectors.

    The Department of Communities has said nothing further has been done on the matter since the report.

    The full report can be read here.

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