“The Executive Committee shall adopt a strategy..”

With the NI Executive’s Culture minister, the DUP’s Edwin Poots, expected to make a statement to the Assembly [new link] on the prospects, or otherwise, of an Irish language Act, it’s possibly worth looking back in the Slugger archive at this previous post. And worth looking at how any promises made via the St Andrews Agreement were translated into legislation via the St Andrews Act. Update [new link] The expected statement has now been made And Full ministerial statement here

“The enhancement and protection of the development of the Irish language is an important matter for Northern Ireland, as is the enhancement and protection of the Ulster-Scots language, heritage and culture,” [Edwin Poots] said.

“However, I remain unpersuaded that there is a compelling case for progressing legislation, at this time.

“There is, in my view, insufficient community consensus; potentially significant costs; and a real possibility that legislation could undermine good relations and in so doing prove counter productive to those wishing to see the language developed in a non-politicised and inclusive manner.”

From the St Andrews Act

15 Strategies relating to Irish language and Ulster Scots language etc

After section 28C of the 1998 Act insert—

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 not to say that the Westminster government couldn’t impose such an Act. But, with it being a fully devolved matter, such an imposition would breach the Sewel Convention [pdf file] risking a political row with both Scotland and Wales at a time when the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, may have other things on his mind..

Adds In the Belfast Telegraph, Noel McAdam quotes “Stormont sources”

“The cost of passing and then implementing the legislation would be too much and too difficult to justify in the current budgetary climate.

“It is also difficult in the current political climate. There is not the cross-community consensus for an Act at this stage,”

More In this report.

Update Mark Devenport quotes “informed sources”

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  • interested

    So….. as predicted, no Irish Language Act. Politically divisive and expensive. No surprises there.

    Next!

  • gaelgannaire

    Thanks, Edwin. Foirfe.

  • Belfast Gonzo

    The announcement has now been made.

    “I remain unpersuaded that there is a compelling case for progressing legislation, at this time.

    “There is, in my view, insufficient community consensus; potentially significant costs; and a real possibility that legislation could undermine good relations and in so doing prove counter productive to those wishing to see the language developed in a non-politicised and inclusive manner.”

  • Nevin

    Poot’s statement, BG.

    Poots in the USA – Celtic Ball – October 12

    “Following the success of the Rediscover Northern Ireland programme and the Smithsonian Folklife Festival earlier this year, we aim to bring more of Northern Ireland’s arts and culture to America in the coming years. We want people in the United States to experience and enjoy the unique culture and variety of sports in Northern Ireland. We have much to offer!”

  • slug

    I think he also has to ditch the Maze.

  • Ballygobackwards

    slug

    Give the man time! He cant axe two republican pet projects in the space of a day! LOL!!

  • Splurge

    Much as it pains me to admit it, he is right on this. I work in an Irish Government Department and the Official Languages Act and Commissioner has been a total pain. Better putting money into TG4 and subsidising Irish language classes. It would be nice now if the DUP would be a bit magnanimous and come up with some sort of reasonable plan to support Irish and the makey-uppey Ulster Scots.

  • Elvis McParker

    I think you’ll find that it’s ‘make-it-y upp-it-y hi’ in Ulster Scots

  • gaelgannaire

    “I work in an Irish Government Department and the Official Languages Act and Commissioner has been a total pain.”

    Good.

  • Dec

    It would be nice now if the DUP would be a bit magnanimous and come up with some sort of reasonable plan to support Irish and the makey-uppey Ulster Scots.

    Depends whether or not you believe there is anyone in Unionism “to see the language developed in a non-politicised and inclusive manner” (to quote Stormont Sources Edwin Poots). Cynic as I am, I rather doubt that.

  • Good call. I think the Dingle protests show what happens when you force Gaelic on people.

    Does anyone really think that kind of thing does the language more good than harm?

    I’m sure to some it sounds like an excuse for not giving into Sinn Fein’s demands (something else that probably does more harm than good in the long run). Maybe it is, but either way I think it’s the best course for the language long-term. This sort of thing has to come from the bottom-up, not top-down.

  • gram

    I fail to see how the legislation could harm community relations when the act applies equally to both the Irish language and Ulster Scots. Unless of course everyone now agrees that Ulster Scots isn’t a language and the legislation would have be of benefit to one side of the community only.

  • chucky ha ha

    Oh dear Gerry! Mark Devenport is pointing out that GA’s belief that Westminster will ride to the rescue and establish the act is, well, totally without basis:

    “The Sinn Fein President also asked the minister to accept that the act would be passed one way or another.

    This is a reference to Sinn Fein’s view that if the Assembly won’t pass the act, then Westminster must do so. This line of argument prompted some taunts from the unionist benches that Sinn Fein has switched from “Brits Out” to “Brits In”.

    So can Westminster pick up the baton, given that cultural matters have already been devolved? Informed sources say it’s constitutionally possible, but would be highly unusual. Westminster has legislated on some devolved matters in Scotland using what are known as Sewel motions.

    However the Assembly would, as I understand it, have to consent to the use of a Sewel motion. Given the mood amongst unionists there is no way that is going to happen.”

  • An Lochlannach

    No suprises from Edwin Hootsmaun

    Irish: Cad é a dhéanfadh mac an chait ach luch a mharú?
    Ulster Scots: What wid ye expect frae a coo but a kick?

  • Splurge

    Gaelgannaire – I know you think it’s good that civil servants get annoyed by Official Language Act, but I’m coming at this from the point of view of genuine support for Irish. What is the point in providing reams of Irish translations of documents that people don’t want to read in any language? What particularly galls me is that people want side by side bilingual versions – the only reason for this is a) because they don’t actually have enough Irish to read it which might be fair enough if they are trying to learn, but I suspect other material than Government reports would be more interesting or B) they want to nit pick the translation which is more often the case.

    I just think targetted support like having genuine Irish medium schools, TV and radio, restrictions of English signage in Gaeltacht areas, support for learners, would have a more beneficial impact.

    As for Ulster-Scots, it’s an accent with some additional words and no tradition of use in writing. I heard it on Radio Ulster the other evening and it was clear the presenter was faking it. My in-laws speak genuine Ulster Scots and would never dream of trying to write the way they speak. It’s ridiculous trying to balance it against Irish.

  • Gram,

    I know how much some folk love to get a dig in at Ulster Scots (while perversely defending Gaelic), but this was an Irish Language Act which could quite possibly (and most likely) have f**k all to do with Ulster Scots.

    Nevertheless, why do you believe that any legislation on Gaelic would have to “be of benefit to one side of the community only”?

    Why couldn’t it be both? Would it actually be a benefit to either side?

  • gaelgannaire

    Splurge,

    ‘ What is the point in providing reams of Irish translations of documents that people don’t want to read in any language?’

    None. I think it should be only on request.

    But I believe in total equality as I am sure you appreciate. I am sure you also realise that this equality as an Irish speaker takes precidence over efforts to convert English speakers, that said …

    ‘genuine Irish medium schools, TV and radio, restrictions of English signage in Gaeltacht areas, support for learners, would have a more beneficial impact’

    Totally agree.

    BTW, There is one genuine Ulster-Scots speaker on Radio Ulster although it is very similar to English.

  • Darren Mac an Phríora

    According to the St. Andrews Agreement:

    “The Government will introduce an Irish Language Act reflecting on the experience of Wales and Ireland and work with the incoming Executive to enhance and protect the development of the Irish language.”

    http://www.standrewsagreement.org/annex_b.htm

  • Scot

    Loads of coverage of the ILA on BBC Radio Ulster today, including the Irish language programme Blas. Didn’t understand it all but it seemed good and there was even a Unionist comentator who supports the Act!

    Anybody know his name?

  • Bigger Picture

    Not much to say on this except well done Mr Poots complete waste of time and money

  • RG Cuan

    SCOT

    Sílim go bhfuil tú ag caint ar Ian Malcolm, colúnaí le Lá Nua, nuachtán laethúil na Gaeilge.

    I think you’re talking about Ian Malcolm, Lá Nua’s Unionist columnist. He is without doubt a voice of reason in the Unionist camp.

  • Dewi

    Shame that Unionists hadn’t the imagination to reclaim this – but there we are. Strong advice to any Irish speaker (of any standard) to only speak Irsh in court as a witness, defendant, Judge or Prosecutor. It’s medieval.

  • Séamaí

    Medieval is the word Dewi. Irish speakers are living in the 21st century, ploughing ahead with the language movement etc, but some Unionists still haven’t heard of the New World yet.

  • IJP

    To be honest, it is hard to find anything in Poots’ statement with which to disagree.

    However, an interesting follow-up issue: the UK Government also promised £12 million for an Ulster-Scots Academy, which has not yet been established (indeed, we don’t even have a business case complete with budget yet).

    Could Poots not say precisely the same thing about an Ulster-Scots Academy? Too expensive, bad for good relations?

    And will he?

  • RG Cuan

    Interesting question IJP.

    After his cost excuse yesterday he couldn’t possibily establish an ‘Academy’ for Ulster Scots.

    Indeed the benefits of such an Acajemy fur tha Hamely Tongue would be minimal compared to Irish language legislation.