Belfast Telegraph

Irish language campaigners welcome Stormont deal but say it falls short of 2006 commitments

Ciaran Mac Giolla Bhein
Ciaran Mac Giolla Bhein
Lauren Harte

By Lauren Harte

Irish language group Conradh na Gaeilge has said the deal put forward by the UK and Irish Governments represents an "historic advancement" on what came before.

But the advocacy organisation, which had pressed for a separate stand-alone Irish Language Act, said provisions for bilingual signage and wider visibility fall far short of what was envisaged in the 2006 St Andrews Agreement.

Under the proposals, a special commissioner will work within parameters set by Stormont's First and Deputy First Ministers, and concerns remain among some speakers about a DUP veto.

Conradh na Gaeilge president Dr Niall Comer said: "This legislation is undoubtedly an historic advancement for our community and for those who wish to use the language by providing historic official status, legal protection and an Irish language commissioner for the first time in the history of the state.

"This has only come about as the result of a tireless, inspirational and bottom-up campaign which has transformed how people here now view the language and ultimately how the state will interact with our community and shared language moving forward."

The organisation's Ciaran Mac Giolla Bhein said the proposed legislation will face huge tests in the coming days and weeks.

"These proposals fall far short of the commitments made in the 2006 St Andrews Agreement, which promised an Irish Language Act based on the Welsh legislation and does not contain provisions that are made for language in Wales or in the south, as was explicitly committed to by both Governments.

"The complete omission of visibility and signage is hugely frustrating and will undoubtedly be a source of tension and will expose major faultlines on contested cases of signage in the coming period.

"However, the possibility of the delivery of signage through language standards will be rigorously and immediately tested by our community."

He added: "We will now work diligently towards testing the glaring gaps in the legislation that prevent us from playing a fair and equal role in our society."

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