Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 28 December 2014

Irish language law row brewing

Stormont Minister Edwin Poots was facing a major row today as he prepared to announce his intention of scrapping proposed Irish language legislation.

The Culture, Arts and Leisure Minister was expected to tell the Assembly today he has decided against taking the legislative route.

But, due to face fierce questioning from Sinn Fein and SDLP MLAs, it was anticipated he will attempt to spell out an alternative strategy for promoting the Irish language.

Mr Poots was poised to argue that the legislation would not receive the required cross-community consensus in the Assembly.

Unionists last week failed to curtail use of Irish in the Assembly after Alliance party MLAs supported Sinn Fein and the SDLP.

In an eleventh-hour appeal, SF MLA Barry McElduff, head of the Stormont committee which monitors Mr Poots' department, urged a re-think.

"The Assembly and Minister Poots must make provisions for those Irish speaking children and all Irish speakers in general, including the following basic demands - that rights are at the heart of the legislation, adequate resources are provided to implement (it) and a commissioner shall have the power, staff and resources to oversee the act," the Mid Tyrone MLA argued.

His demand came as Stormont sources said Mr Poots has decided the time is not right for the legislation.

"The cost of passing and then implementing the legislation would be too much and too difficult to justify in the current budgetary climate.

"It is also difficult in the current political climate. There is not the cross-community consensus for an Act at this stage," he said.

Irish language enthusiasts have argued the Bill was promised during last year's St Andrews negotiations and insist it will have to be enacted through Westminster instead.

Unionists have expressed their opposition to introducing the legislation.

Minister Poots has also expressed concern about costs.

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