Belfast Telegraph

Council of Europe says it regrets lack of progress on Irish Language Act

An influential collection of European nations has said it regrets the lack of progress on an Irish Language Act.

The Council of Europe urged the UK Government to help create the political consensus necessary to adopt the law.

It is the continent's leading human rights organisation and includes foreign affairs ministers from every member state.

It said: "The advisory committee regrets that there has been little progress on the Irish Language Bill or a strategy for the development and enhancement of the Irish language."

The Stormont Executive has faced legal action over its alleged failure to comply with a St Andrews Agreement pledge to adopt an Irish language strategy.

The lack of official protection featured prominently in Sinn Fein's election campaign.

The Council received evidence that unionist opposition could be bypassed if the UK Government legislated.

It said: "The Advisory Committee sees appropriate legislation by the Northern Ireland Assembly as a necessity to protect and promote the Irish language and calls on the UK Government to help create the political consensus needed for such adoption."

About a tenth of the population have some ability in Irish.

The campaign for a law giving official protection is a touchstone equality issue for Sinn Fein.

DUP leader Arlene Foster has said more people speak Polish, and the DUP has withheld its support.

Sinn Fein's Caral Ni Chuilin said the report highlighted the British Government's failure of the Irish language community.

She said: "The report rightly points out the British Government's shortcomings on issues of legislation, strategy and provision.

"We support the call in this report, and from the Irish language community, that the British Government must take immediate action.

"We need an Irish Language Act; and we need it now."

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