Irish Language Act on Welsh model could be passed at Westminster to solve Stormont deadlock
Westminster could legislate on an Irish Language Act on the same model as the Welsh Language Act if Sinn Féin and the DUP fail to break a deadlock on the issue at Stormont.
Northern Ireland’s Social Democratic and Labour Party, which has two MPs in the House of Commons, have said that their party would seek to amend a Bill that is currently making its way through the house.
The issue is a log jam in the set up of a power-sharing government at Stormont, with Sinn Féin demanding legislation and the DUP resisting.
The Chairman of the Northern Ireland Select Committee, Simon Hoare MP, indicated that he would vote for the legislation, using the success of the Welsh Language Act as justification.
“The Welsh Language Act didn’t lead to a rise in nationalism but a cultural flowering and richness,” he said. “If it comes to the Commons I will vote for an Irish Language Act.”
Last week Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis has indicated that the UK government wanted to see new rights for Irish speakers in Northern Ireland, in the same way that speakers of the Welsh language are protected.
“I’m supportive of it. Across the United Kingdom, there is a tradition, a history and a pleasure in dialects and language. It shouldn’t be any different in Northern Ireland,” he told the Sunday Times.
SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said he had been working with others at Westminster on making amendments to the Northern Ireland (Ministers, Elections and Petitions of Concern) Bill.
“If the DUP and Sinn Féin cannot find a way to deliver the Irish language and other cultural commitments that they made last year, then we will step up, step in and seek to table amendments to legislation due at Westminster next week,” he told the Irish News.
The DUP have however warned the British Government not to intervene in devolved issues in Northern Ireland to legislate for Irish language protections.
“The Government foisted the most liberal abortion laws in the British Isles on Northern Ireland. Such actions only served to undermine devolution. To force through the latest Sinn Féin wish list will cause further damage to the credibility of the Northern Ireland Assembly,” DUP MP Sammy Wilson said.