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04 Nov 2016

Opportunity still exists for Executive to include Irish-language Strategy in final Programme for Government 2016-21

Conradh na Gaeilge has strongly criticised the northern Executive for the omission of any reference to the Irish-language Strategy in the recently published Consultation Document on Programme for Government 2016-21, with the Strategy being fully identified and included in the previous Programme for Government for Government 2011-15. On the Executive’s website it states that ‘The Programme for Government is the highest level strategic document of the Executive – setting out the priorities that it will pursue in the current Assembly mandate, and the most significant actions it will take to address them.’

It therefore is a major setback for the development of the Irish language in the north that there is no reference to the Irish-language Strategy in this draft Programme for Government. Conradh na Gaeilge is calling on all political parties, especially those in the Executive, to prioritise the Irish-language Strategy and ensure that it will be included in the final version of the Programme for Government 2016-21.

Cóilín Ó Cearbhaill, President, Conradh na Gaeilge says:
“The omission of any reference to the Irish-language strategy is a huge setback, especially in terms of the emphasis placed on the Strategy in the Executive’s previous Programme for Government 2011-15. The Irish-language community has consistently flagged, through submissions and in a series of meetings with a range of political parties, the essential need for an Irish-language strategy to be a recognised indicator in the Programme for Government 2016-21. It is clear the Executive does not wish to support the Irish-language community nor treat us with due equality. Conradh na Gaeilge is requesting emergency meetings with every party leader to ensure the Strategy is included in the final version of the Programme for Government 2016-21.”

Ciarán Mac Giolla Bhéin, Advocacy Manager with Conradh na Gaeilge:
“This decision shows us that the northern Executive is regressing in terms of the strategic development of Irish and that they are failing to fulfil their own commitments and obligations. Almost ten years ago the St Andrews Agreement was signed and ratified, and the Irish language community are still to this day pursuing basic rights and recognition. This is in no way satisfactory nor should we as a community accept it.

The failure of the previous Executive to adopt the Irish-language Strategy is currently subject of a judicial review. We would, of course, prefer not to have to bring this case but the Executive have left us with no other choice. In the meantime, Conradh na Gaeilge is asking the Irish-language community to raise their concerns and discontent around the draft Programme for Government with their elected representatives and to submit recommendations calling for an Irish-language Strategy without delay.

Former Minister for Culture, Arts and Leisure, Carál Ní Chuilín MLA, launched the Strategy to Enhance and Protect the Development of the Irish Language 2015-2035 on 30 January 2015, but the Executive failed to adopt this Irish-Language Strategy, as was agreed in their own Programme for Government 2011-15, as per its legislative obligations. These obligations derive from the 2006 St Andrews Agreement, in which there were substantial and clear references to the Irish-language Strategy and Act. Conradh na Gaeilge is now taking a judicial review against the Executive, and has received permission for leave from Belfast’s High court, as the previous Executive failed to adopt the Strategy under Priority 4 of the Programme ‘Building a Strong and Shared Community’.

Conradh na Gaeilge is seeking emergency meetings immediately with each party leader to ensure the Strategy is included in the final version of the Programme for Government 2016-21.