Friday, 20 January 2012

Electing to Remain Silent

The Blether Region can reveal that the Northern Ireland Assembly Commission is in the process of agreeing a language policy that does little more than copperfasten its existing discriminatory arrangements. Regular readers will know that Stormont already pays for simultaneous translation for the benefit of the Speaker but refuses to extend the service to ordinary MLAs at the cost of a pair of headsets. The result has been that elected representatives exercising their right to use Irish in the Chamber have only half the time available to English-speaking colleagues — the rest being required for a wholly superfluous consecutive translation.

Commenting on the draft, SDLP spokesman Dominic Bradley complained that "The Assembly Commission's policy totally ignores the fact that Irish is the second most frequently used language in the Assembly chamber and shows little vision around the development of services through the Irish language. In the view of the SDLP the policy falls below the standards flowing from the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, the Belfast Agreement 1998, the St Andrews Agreement 2006, and Human Rights legislation."

Last year Mr. Bradley was himself ejected from the Chamber for perceived tardiness in furnishing just such a pointless translation.

In October 2011 Holywood Irish Society submitted a Freedom of Information request asking whether the Office of the Speaker had "considered the potential for indirect discrimination against groups listed in section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 of requiring Members to translate what they have just said".

That query has yet to receive an answer.

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