Karen Bradley tells Irish-speaking MP to respect devolved government

A Welsh MP has addressed the House of Commons in Irish, as she urged the secretary of state to implement an Irish language act in Northern Ireland.

As parliament debated legislation regarding decision-making powers of civil servants at Stormont, Plaid Cymru MP Liz Saville-Roberts asked Karen Bradley: “Will the minister uphold its commitment by introducing an Irish language act if power-sharing institutions are not restored within six months?”

Plaid Cymru MP Liz Saville-Roberts speaking in Irish in the House of Commons, with DUP MPs seated behind her

Plaid Cymru MP Liz Saville-Roberts speaking in Irish in the House of Commons, with DUP MPs seated behind her

From her bench directly in front of DUP MPs, she began her address with a statement in Irish, which Speaker John Bercow asked her to translate.

Offering a translation, Ms Saville-Roberts said: “Language rights are human rights and the Irish speaking community are entitled to equality.”

In response, the secretary of state said that while she supported “statutory underpinning” for other indigenous languages, she stressed that any move to introduce such legislation in NI was a matter for the Stormont Assembly.

Mrs Bradley added: “I am sure that she would not want to see this House undermining the constitutional devolution arrangements that exist across the UK and cherry picking those points that members may feel very strongly about.”

Irish language group Conradh na Gaeilge welcomed Ms Saville-Roberts’ contribution and said it was the first time an MP had addressed the Commons in Irish.

Advocacy manager Ciarán Mac Giolla Bhéin said: “As the Irish language historically echoed around the House of Commons we hope the message ‘language rights are human rights’ will be to the forefront in the mind of the British government and MPs present.”