Belfast Telegraph

Irish Language Act to be revived

In the past Assembly, plans for an Irish Language Act were ditched
In the past Assembly, plans for an Irish Language Act were ditched

A bid to revive the scuppered Irish Language Act will be launched later this year, Stormont's Culture Minister has indicated.

Caral Ni Chuilin told an Assembly scrutiny committee she realised she would require cross-party support to secure legislative protections for gaelic but confirmed she intended to bring forward proposals.

The newly appointed Sinn Fein minister did not face any questions on the furore over her decision to appoint IRA killer Mary McArdle as her departmental special advisor as she made her first appearance before the Culture, Arts and Leisure (CAL) committee.

After the meeting, the North Belfast MLA also declined to make any further comment on the appointment of Ms McArdle, 46, who was jailed for her part in the murder of primary school teacher Mary Travers and the attempted murder of her judge father Tom in Belfast in 1984.

The meeting, instead, focused on a number of issues facing the CAL department in the coming term, with the Irish language raised on a number of occasions.

In the past Assembly, when the DUP held the culture portfolio, plans for an Irish Language Act were ditched, amid claims it would be too expensive to implement laws that would see Irish enshrined in all facets of public life, including roads signs, state documents and court proceedings.

While ministers pledged to develop a minority languages strategy to ensure Irish, Ulster Scots and languages spoken by foreign nationals were all promoted and protected, it has yet to be finalised.

Ms Ni Chuilin told the committee she would press ahead with the strategy but also refocus on a specific Irish Language Act. "I am certainly intending to bring it (Irish Language Act) forward," she said. "I am not naive, I know it is going to require cross-party agreement, but I am currently looking what consultation has happened to date, what work's been done to date, what work hasn't been done to date for that matter."

After the meeting, the new chair of the CAL committee Michelle McIlveen criticised the idea of pushing for Irish language legislation.

"Whilst pledges to attempt another move towards an Irish Language Act might play well with the republican backwoodsmen, they take no cognisance of reality," said the DUP MLA. "Any Irish Language Bill would need Executive and Assembly approval. It won't get it, therefore it won't be happening. Budgets are stretched as it is without the further expense of an Irish Language Act."

PA

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