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Irish Language Act can't be token gesture

As the independent Irish language advocacy group in the north, Pobal believes that it is now clear Westminster must introduce Irish language legislation.

Since the breakdown of the talks process before the deadline, comments made by various politicians show that there was no realistic discussion of this matter between those supporting the Irish Language Act and those opposed.

This is in spite of several discussion papers and costings being published by politicians and others which would, if put into effect, considerably limit the range and usefulness of the legislation.

If these were attempts to promote discussion, we welcome them.

However, as an attempt to woo opponents of Irish, they have failed.

Irish speakers have expressed concern to us that some of these documents leave out key areas, propose weak solutions to complex issues and project the costs of the Act at what may be unrealistically low levels.

Pobal believes that the Irish Language Act must represent good value for public money, but this can only be measured by cost-benefit analysis looking at the advantages and potential of the legislation to promote equality, generate wealth and improve services for all.

Weak legislation would only lead to confusion and frustration and we call on the Irish-speaking community to send out a clear message to all that we have waited long enough to be taken seriously.

Politicians who support the introduction of legislation must stand firm in the knowledge that the Irish-speaking community will not be satisfied with tokenism, however well-intentioned.

JANET MULLER

Director, Pobal

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