UK Government confirms it will press ahead with enforcing Irish language law despite Unionist opposition
The UK Government has confirmed that it will press ahead with enforcing an Irish language law on Northern Ireland from Westminster.
Asked today if the government was pressing ahead with the legislation despite Unionist opposition, the Northern Ireland Office confirmed that was the case.
A UK Government spokesperson told the Belfast News Letter: “It is disappointing that the Executive has not progressed legislation to deliver the balanced identity, language and culture package as agreed in the New Decade, New Approach agreement. This legislation will recognise Northern Ireland’s rich diversity.
“In accordance with this Government’s commitments, and in the absence of progress on this matter, we will take the necessary steps to introduce the legislation through the UK Parliament.”
Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis has previously said the move would come at some point this month. The DUP have called on them not to press ahead with the legislation.
The UK Government hope the language act could resolve the log jam in the set up of a power-sharing government at Stormont, with Sinn Féin demanding legislation on the language and the DUP resisting.
However new DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has warned that passing the laws, which are a key Sinn Fein policy objective, would further undermine devolution in Northern Ireland at a time when unionists are so opposed to Brexit’s Irish Sea border.
The Chairman of the Northern Ireland Select Committee, Simon Hoare MP, said in June that the success of the Welsh Language Act could be used as justification for the move.
“The Welsh Language Act didn’t lead to a rise in nationalism but a cultural flowering and richness. If it comes to the Commons I will vote for an Irish Language Act,” the Cardiff-born MP said.
The move to legislate for the Irish language from Westminster comes after the UK government already bypassed the Northern Ireland Assembly to impose legislation which relaxed its strict restrictions on abortion and introduced same-sex marriage.