Sinn Fein has tried to re-assure unionist voters that an Irish language act is nothing to fear.
In support of this they have referred to the experience in Wales regarding the Welsh language.
Alas, the actual Welsh experience suggests that one of the most likely outcomes of making Irish an official language in NI is to make non-Irish speakers nearly unemployable in the public sector – and less employable even in the private sector.
If public-facing staff must by law be equipped to deal with anyone who wishes to exercise their right to communicate only in Irish at (for example) a court, a doctor’s surgery, a library or a police station, the solution for the organisation or business is obvious: employ an Irish speaker.
The logical conclusion of this is a state sector-educated Protestant (or Catholic) will have their employability massively reduced.
If all this sounds like exaggeration, your readers should look at the ‘essential’ and ‘desirable’ criterion for many jobs in the public and private sectors in Wales. For an indication of how common this Welsh language requirement is, take a look around the www.careerswales.com website.
In a great many instances, non-Welsh speakers can’t even apply. Unless this discrimination is expressly forbidden within the act, non-Irish speakers will be de facto barred from many public and private sector jobs here in NI.
Like a great many Protestants here, I am very much at ease with the Irish language and the wide and diverse cultures we all share on this island. Perhaps Sinn Fein might want, however, to re-assure us on this particular aspect of ‘equality and mutual respect’.
S. Wilson, Magheralin
• Other views on Irish language: