Ben Lowry: Perhaps some nationalists will admit that using Irish signage in places where it is unwanted hinders call for a language act

The Irish language is lavishly funded in Northern Ireland by the ever generous UK state.

Saturday, 30th November 2019, 3:02 pm
Updated Sunday, 1st December 2019, 12:15 pm
A dual language sign, with Irish first and English second, above the main entrance at Saintfield Community Centre, in a majority unionist town 10 miles from Belfast

There are regular broadcasts on radio and television. Schools are opened with derisory pupil numbers while much larger state schools are forced to close.

Yet the number of people who speak the language well in the Province is tiny. This cannot be, as is claimed, the result of British suppression because the independent Irish state has for a century put the language at the heart of its culture, education and public sector, and still it is not widely spoken well.

Despite all of this, Sinn Fein have been allowed to keep down Stormont for three years until there is an act. NHS decisions that urgently need to be made in here cannot be made because there is no minister with the authority to make them.

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I made this point on BBC The View on Thursday night because otherwise an interview with Mary Lou McDonald, and commentary after, would have passed without that point being made. It is a justified source of unionist frustration. Later, someone reminded me that the DUP agreed an Irish language act last year but was unable to sell it to its base. Yes, but it does not alter my point that there will be no Stormont until the demand is met.

Meanwhile, this newspaper has been reporting on Irish language signage being imposed in places where it is not wanted, by councils in Magherafelt and South Down and soon perhaps in east Belfast.

Is there a single nationalist who is going to speak up against this provocation and recognise that it is hardly going to bolster support for a language act?

• Ben Lowry (@BenLowry2) is News Letter deputy editor

• Dermot Nesbitt: ‘Leisure facility in unionist town has Irish signage first,’ November 9).