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04 Nov 2016

A government consultation was launched last week on Stormont’s draft Programme for Government. The Programme will lay out the targets and actions to be taken by the Assembly between 2017-2020. Janet Muller, POBAL’s Director said that the organisation is ‘disappointed but not surprised that there are not more references to the Irish language in the draft document.’

She said, ‘We recognise the work that has been put in by the nationalist parties to ensure that Irish speakers get fair treatment in the Programme for Government. We welcome the references to two Irish language projects. At the same time, this is poor recognition for a language which goes back 2000 years and which is spoken by 10.65% of the north’s population, as well as being  subject to international protections. It is the duty of the Assembly to take resolute action on behalf of the Irish language but it is clear that some of the parties are not willing to accept this task. It is now 10 years since the British government gave its commitment to introduce the Irish Language Act, and up till now, the unionist parties have refused any progress on this matter. Without strong, comprehensive legislation, the Irish speaking community will have to demand each service on an ongoing basis, and to fight each complaint one after another. Without an Act like the one POBAL has proposed in The Irish Language Issue II, our children will have no guaranteed language rights. It is an absolute scandal that Irish language legislation is not mentioned in the draft programme and we are calling upon Irish language groups throughout the country to raise this demand in their responses to the consultation. Failure of Stormont to once again recognise its duties towards Irish can only result in stronger pressure on the British government to meet its own commitments.’