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Westminster left to ‘pick up pieces’ on Irish language legislation – Michael Long

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Westminster has been left to "pick up the pieces" after Stormont parties failed to live up to their obligations to the Irish language, Lord Mayor of Belfast Michael Long has said.

Speaking to the BBC's Good Morning Ulster programme, Mr Long said on new legislation set to be brought to parliament around an Irish Language Act this week: "It's about time we see it delivered".

Mr Long took part in a march on Saturday organised by campaign group An Dream Dearg, with thousands of activists later gathering at a City Hall rally, where they called for an Irish Language Act.

It comes after plans to legislate for the Irish language were announced in the Queen’s Speech in recent weeks. In 2020, the New Decade, New Approach (NDNA) agreement agreed a "cultural package" which would include new measures on language and culture – some of which are yet to be enacted.

But Mr Long said "we'll have to wait and see what happens" in terms of the detail of any new legislation at Westminster in the absence of the Stormont executive.

"It's quite clear that people want to see that legislation that's in place and it's about time we see it delivered," he said.

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He insisted his party is not uncomfortable that the new measures been left to London and Secretary of State Brandon Lewis to bring through the new legislation after Mr Lewis said recently he would further intervene on the commissiong of abortion services.

"If the NI Assembly had a mechanism and was reformed in the way that our party would like to see it happen , we would already have these types of legislation being brought through," said Mr Long.

"There are a majority of people who want to see an Irish Language Act being brought through, want to see the abortion legislation being brought through, and unfortunately some of the other parties haven't lived up to their obligations in terms of the NDNA. People are wanting that to be done as quickly as possible and unfortunately if the Assembly isn't there to do it, it's being left to Westminster to pick up the pieces."

Mr Long said legislation on the Irish language is needed to “ensure we have minimal standards in terms of regularising policies across councils so people are of the opportunity to learn more about Irish language across society".

He said that, while Belfast has a language strategy, many other councils across the region do not.

“The reality is that we need to those standards so Irish language can be represented in a positive way,” he said.


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