Monday, 4 April 2016

Ready for a Coort

The BBC reports that Conradh na Gaeilge is to take the Northern Ireland Executive to court over its refusal to countenance not only an Irish language Act but an Irish language strategy.

The move is potentially significant because it comes not from a Northern group such as Pobal but from the Gaelic League itself, which has traditionally enjoyed a close relationship with the powers that be in Dublin and under recent reforms instituted by DCAL Minister Carál Ní Chuilín now has a quasi-statutory role in the North.

While the organisation laments the absence of a strategy, some of the measures listed — in particular bilingual courts — would clearly necessitate the amendment or repeal of primary legislation, and thus involve an Irish language Act.

A similarly meaty reform would be to enshrine in law the right to Irish-medium education, a change now being made for Gaelic in Scotland. As one way in which Unionists could attack Irish would be to change the criteria for recognising schools following the forthcoming Assembly elections, the reform could provide a defence against such steps. As an aside, the fact that one of the DUP's five key goals for the next Assembly mandate concerns education strongly suggests that it wishes to take the education portfolio.

Of course, the mere winning of a court case against a Minister may not immediatelyor at all — result in change, but it increases the pressure to bring Northern Ireland into line with everywhere else.

Although full-blown Unionists will continue to bluster, one side-effect of a judgment might be to push the Alliance Party into supporting an Act. After all, it is the rankest hypocrisy to rail against the Executive for not producing a racism or anti-sectarian strategy while blocking an Irish language Act inspired by the same concerns for equality and inclusion and already agreed to by the UK Government.

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