Jim Allister: SF wants Irish language legislation that opens the way to endless legal challenges

The courts will be bombarded with taxpayer funded legal challenges if rights-based Irish language provision is approved
The courts will be bombarded with taxpayer funded legal challenges if rights-based Irish language provision is approved

It is not by accident, but by design, that Sinn Fein is insistent on a “rights-based” Irish language act, rather than a needs-based approach.

Such would not just create enforceable statutory duties to promote the Irish language but would embed in legislation the language rights of every wannabe Irish speaker.

TUV Leader Jim Allister MLA QC speaks to the media at Stormont.
 Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press

TUV Leader Jim Allister MLA QC speaks to the media at Stormont. Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press

The effect of making Irish language provision rights-based guarantees ever expanding parameters. That is the experience in international jurisprudence of any thing that is rights-based.

Case by case the tentacles of the rights are extended through an endless flow of legal challenges.

Every time a public authority, or public-facing service provider, disappoints an Irish speaker in their demand to be dealt with in a manner compliant with what they assert is their “right”, a publicly funded judicial review will be launched and the judiciary bombarded to defend their “rights”.

Anyone, who has observed how legally-aided, and often politically motivated, judicial reviews have become the weapon of choice of those wishing to bend the state to their will, can be in no doubt that there will be a veritable production line of judicial reviews pushing the boundaries of rights-based Irish language provision.

And, we the taxpayers, will foot the multi lingual bill!

As a lawyer Mrs Foster must know that this is precisely the scenario which will unfold if she were foolish enough to concede rights-based Irish language legislation.

On the question of need the Irish language is already generously feted. It has its own publicly funded education system, costing £20m pa, with special treatment unknown to other sectors eg a school can be established with just a dozen pupils.

It has its own costly cross-border body with executive powers.

It has had tens of millions lavished on it in recent years. It has its own Gaeltacht Quarter in Belfast. No one is prevented or discouraged from learning the language at school or elsewhere.

And all that for a language of minimal commercial value and in most instances not even the first language of those who speak it – all of whom are more than proficient in English.

So, no one should be conceding these Sinn Fein demands. They are not about meeting need, but bestowing unnecessary rights, leading to endless abuse.

To oblige would indeed be to feed the crocodile.