Irish language campaigners call for implementation of legislation

Irish language campaigners have staged a demonstration to demand the implementation of language legislation.

Tuesday, 25th May 2021, 3:52 pm

The New Decade New Approach deal in 2020 committed Northern Ireland’s political parties to establish an Office of Identity and Cultural Expression, which would put in place provision for services in Irish and Ulster-Scots.

However, over a year on there has been no movement on commitments.

Campaigners gathered in front of a large screen in front of Parliament Buildings on Tuesday morning to deliver a message to MLAs.

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An Dream Dearg spokesperson Padraig O Tiarnaigh (left), and An Dream Dearg spokesperson Conchur O Muadaigh (second from right) stand with MLAs from Sinn Fein at Stormont as members of the Irish Language Community display an outdoor mobile screen with a message featuring over 70 Irish language speakers calling upon the Northern Ireland Executive along with the British and Irish Governments to implement the New Decade, New Approach (NDNA) deal, legislation regarding Irish language rights, 500 days after the agreement. Picture date: Tuesday May 25, 2021. PA Photo. See PA story ULSTER Language. Photo credit should read: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

The message delivered by recorded messages from 70 activists said a new era of equality has been promised since the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, and the St Andrew’s Agreement in 2006 had promised an Irish language act.

The 2020 New Decade New Approach deal fell “well short” according to the campaigners, but was an “important staging post in our ongoing journey towards comprehensive, rights-based language legislation”.

“Now, 500 days have passed since that legislation was promised, and still we wait,” they said.

“A majority of parties and MLAs support a rights-based Irish-language Act, as well as the language legislation agreed last year.

Martina Anderson MLA (left) stands with other MLA's watching an outdoor mobile screen at Stormont with messages featuring over 70 Irish language speakers calling upon the Northern Ireland Executive along with the British and Irish Governments to implement the New Decade, New Approach (NDNA) deal, legislation regarding Irish language rights, 500 days after the agreement. Picture date: Tuesday May 25, 2021. PA Photo. See PA story ULSTER Language. Photo credit should read: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

“Today, we say to those who continue to exclude our community that we stand united for our language rights; to those parties who support our campaign, we ask you again; stand with us, stand up for our rights; to the two Governments – you are not neutral, you are not external mediators, you are co-authors and co-guarantors of these agreements.

“No more delays, no more excuses. It is time to implement Irish language legislation.”

Sinn Fein MLA Pat Sheehan was among those who gathered.

He described cultural and language legislation as the “cornerstone” of the New Decade New Approach deal.

“That still has to be implemented despite the fact that all five parties and the two governments signed up to it,” he said.

Mr Sheehan said the incoming leader of the DUP Edwin Poots has agreed to implement the language and cultural legislation, but hasn’t said when.

“This legislation needs to be implemented before the end of this mandate,” he added.

Members of the SDLP, Alliance Party and People Before Profit also attended the demonstration.