Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Blue Gloss and English Glosses
















Readers will recall that late last year Holywood Irish Society submitted a detailed Freedom of Information request to the Northern Ireland Assembly regarding its practice of requiring the consecutive translation of Irish speeches into English despite the employment of a simultaneous translator — a system that quite unnecessarily penalises those who choose to use Irish by cutting their speaking time in half and consequently discourages others from exercising legitimate linguistic choice.

On 23 December the Society submitted a further request, since it felt that not all its points had been answered in the Assembly's original response. The main substance of that second request concerned whether the Assembly had taken into account the possibility that its actions were unreasonable, being indirectly discriminatory against Catholics and Nationalists — almost the exclusive users of Irish and, since the departure of the DUP's Jim Shannon for Westminster, almost the exclusive users of any minority idiom:

"In the first paragraph you confirm that the Assembly "holds the information which [we] requested". You also acknowledge that we have asked "whether the potential for indirect discrimination against section 75 groups has been considered". Unfortunately, I can identify no answer to that simple factual enquiry in your response, and I should be grateful if you could now provide us with a clear "yes" or "no"."

The Assembly replied for the second time on 25 January:

"The Northern Ireland Assembly Commission ('the Commission') does not hold information on whether the potential for indirect discrimination against groups listed in section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 occasioned by requiring Members to translate what they have said in proceedings of the Assembly has been considered."

It therefore seems quite likely that no thought has in fact been given to this important issue — a quite outrageous state of affairs.

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