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Without proper safeguards, an Irish Language Act could make non-speakers virtually unemployable

Letter of the day: legislation concerns

Sinn Fein has tried to reassure unionist voters that an Irish Language Act is nothing more than something that more formally acknowledges and respects their culture within Northern Ireland.

They have referred to the experience in Wales regarding the Welsh language, suggesting that this type of legislation is nothing to fear.

Unless I have missed this, it does not seem to have been made clear that one of the most likely outcomes of making Irish an official language in Northern Ireland is to make non-Irish speakers virtually unemployable in the public sector and less employable even in the private sector.

This is an inevitable (and logical) step, where public sector staff must be able to communicate with anyone who wishes to exercise their right to speak only Irish in, for example, a court, a doctor's surgery or a police station.

If this sounds like exaggeration, your readers should look at the 'essential' criterion for many jobs in the public sector in Wales (eg, on www.careerswales.com): non-Welsh speakers need not apply.

Unless this potential discrimination is specifically forbidden by the Act, non-Irish speakers will be, in effect, barred from most public sector jobs.

Like many Protestants in Northern Ireland, I am very much at ease with the Irish language and the wide and diverse cultures we all share on this island, but perhaps Sinn Fein might want to reassure us on this particular aspect of "equality and mutual respect" in regards to the Irish Language Act.

S WILSON

Craigavon, Co Armagh

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