Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Committee of Experts' Report

Conor Spackman of the BBC has summarised the conclusions of the Committee of Experts' report on implementation of the Council of Europe's Charter for Regional or Minority Languages in Northern Ireland. In addition to reporting on the issue with inexplicable tardiness — the document is dated 21 April — the corporation has chosen to illustrate the Irish language with a photograph of a frightening Troubles-era mural that looks about 30 years old (see above); the picture has also been cropped by someone who clearly has no regard for, or understanding of, the meaning of the Irish. One can only presume that the mural was considered "neutral" elucidation, while a picture of a smiling child in a naĆ­onra, for example, was not.

Be all that as it may, it is worth recapitulating some of the report's main points:

  • if the Unionist parties continue to veto an Irish language Act, Westminster should intervene and pass one itself;
  • a ban on speaking Irish in court is "contrary to the spirit and objectives of the Charter and the general commitment of the UK authorities to protect and promote Irish";
  • striving for parity between Irish and Ulster Scots will hold back the development of both;
  • there has been very little progress on Ulster Scots, and, as with Irish, the "de-facto standstill" dates to the restoration of devolution in 2007;
  • although the proposed Ulster-Scots Academy has been touted as an antidote to the "cultural" focus of the Ulster-Scots Agency, it is a distinct possibility that an academy too would have such a focus — meaning that the net result would simply be to circumvent the cross-border decision-making architecture of the Belfast / Good Friday Agreement.
The inevitable conclusion is that it is high time Westminster repatriated jurisdiction over the charter.

As for the BBC, let's hope that we don't need to wait until the next silly season for a report of this detail on language issues.

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