The new, more co-operative, Executive?s

Mairtin reckons that there is much scope for co-operation between DUP and Sinn Fein ministries. In particular, he believes that not all is lost for the Irish Language Act. Though, as he later hints, he may be travelling more in hope than expectation.

  • Interested

    You really do have to wonder sometimes how ‘analysis’ is passed off.

    Nigel Dodds as DCAL Minister? I’d be very surprised if he goes past DETI which is seen as a much bigger Department and much higher profile.

    You do have to admire optimism though I suppose (however misplaced) DUP DCAL Minister or not there isn’t going to be any Irish Language Act. Whether its blocked by a DUP Minister, the Executive by cross-community vote or the Assembly by cross-community vote it just aint gonna happen.

  • Interesting

    Why would they want to block the Irish Language Act? Do you really thing there’s no possibility for horse-trading around the Executive table?

  • That’s the beauty of the 50:50:50 rule, no minister will be able to wield power without it passing the cross community test. And on account of that, horse trading will be essential. So I expect an Irish Language Act, though it will be watery in the extreme but it will be enacted for its symbolic value.

    It’s worth remembering that up to now, it’s been the DUP setting the tests for SF and now the boot’s on the other foot. Now the DUP have to prove they can govern for all and not just the minority of 30% odd who voted for them. The Irish Language Act is the first test of their ability and willingness to govern on somrthing other than a sectarian basis.

  • Oilibhear,

    It’s to be hoped that such ‘testing’ will result in good legislation, rather than bad. The fear has to be that such legislation is going to be tested primarily for it’s symbolic rather than its real weight.

  • observer

    he Irish Language Act is the first test of their ability and willingness to govern on somrthing other than a sectarian basis.
    Posted by Oilibhear Chromaill on Apr 03, 2007 @ 12:03 PM

    The irish language act is a sectarian device which the DUP will rightly bin forever

  • interested

    There will be no Irish Language Act because unionists don’t want it. There might be some possibility for trading if the DUP wanted to introduce some piece of ‘prod specific’ legislation which might be a trade-off against an Irish Language Act.

    However, if you’re working for the good of everyone in NI and not just one section (i.e Irish Language Act) then there is less need for trading. There will have to be common ground sought on some issues, but the Irish Language Act is not one.

  • Interesting

    “There will be no Irish Language Act because unionists don’t want it. There might be some possibility for trading if the DUP wanted to introduce some piece of ‘prod specific’ legislation which might be a trade-off against an Irish Language Act.

    However, if you’re working for the good of everyone in NI and not just one section (i.e Irish Language Act) then there is less need for trading. There will have to be common ground sought on some issues, but the Irish Language Act is not one. “

    Presumably there’s not many unionists with a gra for the language so why would they care either way? It’s not as if it’s going to force anyone to speak the language. There was me thinking the days of unionism being defined by it’s opposition to all things Irish were gone. Opposition to the Act on the grounds you have mentioned remains back in the 19th century with Allister and a rake of Ballymena councillors. The DUP could also find it’s enacted over their heads, on the grounds that it was part of the St Andrews Agreement.

  • kensei

    “There will be no Irish Language Act because unionists don’t want it. There might be some possibility for trading if the DUP wanted to introduce some piece of ‘prod specific’ legislation which might be a trade-off against an Irish Language Act.

    However, if you’re working for the good of everyone in NI and not just one section (i.e Irish Language Act) then there is less need for trading. There will have to be common ground sought on some issues, but the Irish Language Act is not one. ”

    Parties aren’t working on some fuzzy basics of “the common good”. They have manifestos and voters to answer to. In coalitions, partners negotiate and trade to get as close to what they want as possible.

    There will be an Irish Language Act. Because if there isn’t SF is perfectly capable of blocking every single piece of legislation the DUP put through. They might not do it, but they can certainly hurt the DUP on some of their important issues.

    I’m not entirely sure good legislation results when people get can 100% of what they want. Hopefully better legislation will result as part of the process, including the Irish Language Act.

  • international language

    I think we should wise up and concentrate on learning english. Lets forget about Ulster Scots & Irish. It is international business language that promises so much in our new economic future.

  • overhere

    There is also the recent EU slap on the wrist to the UK government re the Irish language situation in northern Ireland

  • Ian

    “There will be an Irish Language Act. Because if there isn’t SF is perfectly capable of blocking every single piece of legislation the DUP put through.”

    The problem for SF is that it is they, on most socio-political issues, that want to bring about change, whilst the DUP are happier with the status quo. This is why it will be a “battle a day” for SF. e.g. SF want an Irish Language Act, want to scrap the 11+, want a wider clutch of North-South bodies. The default position of Nothing Gets Done suits the DUP.

    What pressing issues do the DUP want to legislate for, that SF could block in response to DUP intransigence? The only things I can think of relate to the Justice system (e.g. harsher sentencing, scrapping of the Parades Commission), but Justice matters are currently not devolved and won’t be until the DUP acquiesce. If the DUP want something done in the Justice sphere, they can go and ask the SoS to do it.

  • kensei

    “What pressing issues do the DUP want to legislate for, that SF could block in response to DUP intransigence? The only things I can think of relate to the Justice system (e.g. harsher sentencing, scrapping of the Parades Commission), but Justice matters are currently not devolved and won’t be until the DUP acquiesce. If the DUP want something done in the Justice sphere, they can go and ask the SoS to do it.”

    So, the DUP won’t mind if SF take every DUP minister’s decision to a cross community vote and block it then? There won’t be ANY decisions in the next year that the DUP will like and SF won’t?

  • SuperSoupy

    On the Irish language the DUP cannot adopt the status quo position or they’ll find themselves in court:

    “28D Strategies relating to Irish language and Ulster Scots language etc

    (1) The Executive Committee shall adopt a strategy setting out how it proposes to enhance and protect the development of the Irish language.

    (2) The Executive Committee shall adopt a strategy setting out how it proposes to enhance and develop the Ulster Scots language, heritage and culture.

    (3) The Executive Committee-

    (a) must keep under review each of the strategies; and
    (b) may from time to time adopt a new strategy or revise a strategy.”

    That’s the law. The Executive must agree on how it will enhance and protect Irish, no ifs no buts.

  • SuperSoupy

    It is also notable that the above removes the strategy for Irish from DCAL.

  • fair_deal

    A strategy is not an act. The same phraseology has been used for Ulster-Scots and I haven’t heard too many people talking about or the government consulting about an US Act.

  • Ian

    “So, the DUP won’t mind if SF take every DUP minister’s decision to a cross community vote and block it then? There won’t be ANY decisions in the next year that the DUP will like and SF won’t?”

    Not exactly, but the balance of issues favours the DUP’s position, as Unionists by and large have opposed change whilst Nationalists generally have striven for political, economic and societal change. And if legislation or motions fail to get passed, the default position is that the status quo prevails.

    All I’m saying is that SF might have a harder time of it than the DUP. But I’m sure they’d say they’re up to the challenge!

  • Oilibhear Chromaill

    Fair Deal is still living in pre Agreement prehistory, like the rest of the DUP or Real DUP dinosaurs. The SAA refers to a strategy for the Irish language and a strategy for Ulster Scots – so you won’t get one without the other.

    However the commitment for an Irish Language Act is above and beyond that and, as its out for consultation, for the second time, at the moment and until 5 June, don’t hold your breath for it NOT to be enacted.

    It’s going to be the first item on the desk of new minister Sammy ”Irish is a leprechaun language” Wilson or whoever gets this poisoned chalice and it’s going to be a major test of DUP bona fides in proactively sharing power.

    A recent Life and Times poll, published in Fortnigh, found that over significantly over half of the population were in favour of the Irish language. That’s a figure that the 30 percenters in the DUP should take account of…..

  • SuperSoupy

    FD,

    I did not say the Executive is bound by law to create an Act.

    I said the Executive is compelled to reach agreement on enhancing and protecting the Irish language and DCAL has no responsibility over creating the strategy (though it may end up partially responsible for implementing a decision agreed elsewhere).

    The status quo is not an option for the DUP as Trimble previously found out when he tried to ignore legislation.

    It is clearly not guaranteeing as much as Irish language campaigners hoped for but it makes Unionists ‘enhancing and protecting the development of Irish’ compulsory.

  • fair_deal

    OC

    1. It is perfectly possible for a Executive to adopt a strategy for Irish that does not include an Irish Language Act. There is already an pre-existing framework the Language Charter that can be used for such a strategy with no need for legislation.
    2. If SS has kindly provided all the relevant parts from the SA Act, then the legal requirement is for a strategy not an Act.
    3. As I said on other threads I am absolutely opposed to an Irish Language Act. If republicans want an Irish Language act fine, power-sharing is permanent negotiation so just tell me what they are willing to offer in return?
    4. The DUP fails a republican test, boohoo. How will they be able to sleep at nights? It’s not like they have some disgruntlement or nervousness in their base or anything and wouldn’t dream of looking for a few issues to exercise the old right wing muscles on.

  • fair_deal

    Correction I am not absolutely opposed

  • interested

    The Executive may well be bound to “enhance and protect” the Irish Language – but that doesn’t have to be done be bringing forward an Irish Language Act.

    Irish is protected by European Law anyway, and provided a DUP Minister doesn’t cut all funding for Irish whilst spending massive amounts either way (which would be a stupid strategy) then they’re unlikely to find themselves in legal difficulties. Enhancing, can surely be done by continuing the current levels of funding (or even arguably with reduced funding) – the language is still being enhanced through that money, maybe not at as fast a pace even as currently, but if funding is there for one programme which promotes Irish then arguably the language is being enhanced.

    I don’t for one second mean to say that funding for Irish could or should be cut so only one programme operates in NI, but simply to show that the phrase “protect and enhance” could be fulfilled in many different ways – and an Irish Language Act not necessary to do so.

    There is no particular problem with DCAL supporting Irish but there are many many different ways it can be done without a specific Act which whilst not forcing us to all go and use Irish down the pub this evening, could bind Government Departments to spend money incorporating it in every aspect of their operation.

    The claim that an Irish Act would be introduced over the DUP’s head just because its in the St Andrews Agreement is complete rubbish. Firstly, the SAA has absolutely no legal basis – just as the Belfast Agreement didn’t. It gets its legal authority from the St Andrews Agreement Act which was passed through Parliament. There is nothing which binds anyone to an Irish Language Act in that piece of legislation.

    They also aren’t going to go in over the head of a UK devolved administration to legislate for a devolved matter – well not unless they want lots of very angry Scottish and Welsh MPs who see an extremely dangerous precedent being set.

    Sinn Fein also will not block all DUP legislation if there is no Irish Language Act – for 3 main reasons.

    1) Part of their push (a big part) currently is the drive for respectability in the Republic. Playing silly beggars by blocking some DUP legislation on planning isn’t going to help make them look like statesmen in waiting down in Dublin

    2) If the DUP is bringing forward some legislation on, for example, rural planning – there is no benefit to Sinn Fein voters in them blocking that legislation. If the legislation was simply aiding DUP voters, or had the effect of only benefiting unionists broadly then they might do – that would be the reverse of the Irish Language Act which is only going to be of benefit to nationalists.

    3) They, like the DUP want to see things running as smoothly as possible. Its not in Sinn Fein’s interest or the DUP’s interest to see stalemate in Government. The DUP may block this Act, and Sinn Fein may block something the DUP brings forward, but its incredibly unlikely that they will simply veto everything because “the other side” brought it forward – if they do then they’ve proven the UUP and SDLP right that the so-called ‘extremes’ can’t do business and there would undoubtedly be electoral punishment for both sides.

    Oilibhear Chromaill
    A recent Life and Times poll, published in Fortnigh, found that over significantly over half of the population were in favour of the Irish language. That’s a figure that the 30 percenters in the DUP should take account of…..”

    Yes, just over half may be in favour of the Irish language – the question didn’t mention an Irish Language Act. I don’t want to see the Irish language abolished so therefore technically I’m in favour of the language – that question is so typically wooly that it gives information on nothing, or everything, depending on your point of view.

  • interested

    I see F_D has said the same as my 3.20 in a much shorter post!

  • fair_deal

    SS

    1. An executive could argue that its existing policies would enhance and protect Irish. Although I would expect Irish (like other totem poles) to get some additional items most likely cash.
    2. I would have thought both of us would have seen enough glossy documents to realise how often the ‘status quo’ can be relaunched and repackaged ad nasueam.
    3. Law can be a dodgy foundation to build upon. Some will argue that the equal legal duty on a Executive can be interpreted as requiring equal treatment between Irish and Ulster-Scots.

  • Ian

    “All I’m saying is that SF might have a harder time of it than the DUP. But I’m sure they’d say they’re up to the challenge!”

    Having said that, hopefully I’m wrong and now that the DUP have no one of significance to out-flank them on the right, the old intransigent attitudes might give way to a new generosity of spirit.

    On the other hand, the bids within political Unionism to outdo each other in negativity will probably now continue WITHIN the ranks of the DUP, instead of BETWEEN rival parties, at least until the succession issue has been settled once Paisley retires. And Paisley’s recent “No Irish Language Act on my watch” comments don’t bode well (unless they’re to be taken with a pinch of salt a la his speech last 12th July).

  • delta omega

    I think that most unionists would not be opposed to the Irish language – however we are opposed to it being politicized and also being forced to pay a fortune for it. I as a unionist actually like the language, but get peeved when SF abuse it – especially when most of them are not fluent in it. By all means promote the language and by all means be bilingual, but can you really justify spending millions of tax payers money on translating every document from the government into Irish (and Ulster scots for that matter) when such a small percentage of the population have it as their only language. When virtually the entire population of the island speaks english and uses english as their primary mode of communication, translating into irish for the sake of it (or worse just to annoy unionists) can only be seen as political harrassment.

  • BonarLaw

    Thanks to SS for outlining the obligations the executive have in respect of language. Note the duality between Irish and Ulster-Scots. Was putting Ulster Scots on the same footing as Irish really a republican goal?

    In this as in many other areas nothing will be done to change the status quo. Which suits me fine as I am a) a unionist and b) a believer in as little government as possible.

    BTW I hear from Stormont that Reg is going to follow the lead of Adams and Durkan and be a party leader but not a minister. Anyone else hearing anything similar?

  • pete

    the issue has already been politicised and that is bad news for the language.

  • Ondine

    South of the Border, the language has been accepted-on-paper by virtually every party since the foundation of the State and it’s only gone backwards. Since the politicization of Irish north of the Border creates as much enthusiasm as it does alienation and hatred, that paradoxically means more active support and thus a brighter future for it than in the jurisdiction where it has nothing to battle against.

    Of course a major problem in the North is that the Ulster Gaeltacht outside Donegal died in the 20’s. I don’t think West Belfast counts yet.