Stormont business would be translated and courts heard in Irish under draft proposals for an Irish language act.
The plans were outlined today as the Culture Minister took the first steps towards official status for Irish.
Carál Ní Chuilín said she wanted to give Irish the same protection and promotion as seen with languages in Scotland and Wales.
The consultation document contains a wide range of proposals, including:
* Official status for the Irish language;
* The use of Irish in courts and the Assembly;
* An Irish language commissioner;
* The use of Irish by public bodies;
* Provision of Gaeltacht areas
* Provision of place names in Irish;
* Guarantees for Irish language education.
Speaking at the launch of the consultation at Stormont today, Ms Ní Chuilín said the Irish language belonged to everyone.
"The Irish language is not the preserve of any particular group or of any section of the community; it is part of our shared cultural heritage and it belongs to everyone," she said.
"There is a necessity to protect the interests of Irish speakers and to put in place a solid foundation which affords everyone an equal opportunity to learn the language, should they wish to do so."
Sinn Féin MLA Rosie McCorley said the consultation was an opportunity for Irish language enthusiasts to help shape Acht Na Gaeilge.
"The Irish language is a living language with more and more people communicating through the medium of Irish and these people have a right to conduct all their business through Irish," she said.
However, unionists reacted with anger to the proposals.
TUV leader Jim Allister attacked the "aggressive plans" and said they must be steadfastly resisted by all unionists.
"It is obvious from the outset that these ideas are merely another stage in Sinn Fein’s plan to erode the Britishness of Northern Ireland," he said.
There will now be a 12-week public consultation on the proposed legislation.