Monday, 15 February 2010

All an Act?

The Andersonstown News reports that Gerry Adams has revealed £20 million for the Irish language promised by the British Government during the recent Hillsborough negotiations. However, £12 million of this merely represents the extension to 2015 of the Irish-language Broadcast Fund. This is good news, and will no doubt bring about better representation of the Ulster dialect on TG4, but it is progress only if one defines progress as the absence of reversal. In effect, language policy is now only part-devolved, because Sinn Féin did not choose DCAL under the d'Hondt procedure and because the DUP patently cannot be trusted to make fair decisions on language — as its continued adherence, on paper at least, to the notion of a white-elephant Ulster-Scots Academy shows.

The other £8 million is earmarked for capital projects. However necessary such projects are, and however spectacular the achievements of which hubs such as An Chultúrlann and An Droichead can boast, they do not represent the mainstreaming that a language Act might have secured. Rather they epitomise continued ghettoisation, and, in political terms, an even stronger link between the language and one side of the community.

Of course, were Sinn Féin, or the SDLP, or perhaps even the UUP, to take DCAL the next time d'Hondt is run and practise a more balanced language policy than we have seen from the DUP, the British Government's additional money could yet mean that Irish is doing better than under direct rule.

We shall have to wait and see.

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