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UK Government confirms it will press ahead with enforcing Irish language law despite Unionist opposition

07 Oct 2021 2 minute read
The Sormont Assembly building. Picture by Robert Paul Young (CC BY 2.0).

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.

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Y Cymro
Y Cymro
2 years ago

Everything this Tory government does is out of agenda. They are not pro-Irish language, far from it, but intend forcing through this bill to look strong. And they think that because they gave the Unionists a £1.4 billion cash backhander last means they are forever indebted to them. And may I remind MP Simon Hoare, apt surname by the way, the Welsh language act mentioned was hard-fought by Cymdeithas yr Iaith and other campaign groups, not gifted to us by the warmhearted Conservatives, but done through gritted teeth. As if the Tories were so pro-Welsh, would allow our Welsh speaking… Read more »

Last edited 2 years ago by Y Cymro
Hedda Mulgrew
Hedda Mulgrew
2 years ago
Reply to  Y Cymro

In fairness Gaelic, Hindi, Punjabi, Urdu, Arabic, Russian, Polish and Hebrew, French and German have more speakers among MPs.

How many of those can Plaid MPs speak?

2 years ago
Reply to  Hedda Mulgrew

Gaelic (both Scots and Irish) and Welsh are all national minority languages in the British Isles. They therefore have legal protection. The other languages you cite are ethnic minority languages.

However, although to ban a national minority language is undemocratic and prejudiced, nevertheless until all MPs become profficient in Cymraeg I hardly think it reasonable to have Westminster debates conducted in that language. We have our own parliament for that, and you’ll be delighted to recall that the number of speakers of Welsh is growing while you read this.

Hedda Mulgrew MSc (Econ)
Hedda Mulgrew MSc (Econ)
2 years ago
Reply to  Wrexhamian

Minority or protected, it is irrelevant as the speakers are MPs and human beings to boot. Ergo : 3 speak Urdu; 2 speak Welsh – Urdu it is. Y Cymro is implying it as a right in Parliament. More speakers in Wales – great, I know a number of such people don’t give a s**t if it is spoken in the House of Commons or not. There comes a point where you need to look at how well the country is functioning in the here and now and if Westminster is as awful as the same five or six people… Read more »

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