Éire Ghaelach – Éire Shaor
Interesting to note that David Ford, leader of the moderate Unionists of the Alliance Party, mentioned a “Languages Bill” (plural) rather than simply an Irish Language Act in a speech to his party’s annual conference in Belfast. I have been suggesting for some time that an “Official Languages Act” is the best way to by-pass the opposition of the political leadership of the British Unionist minority to civil rights legislation for Irish-speakers in the north-east of the country. Such an act would make Irish and English co-equal languages in the region, a more palatable situation for the Unionist community at large perhaps since it is in line with both the spirit and the letter of the Belfast Agreement of 1998.
One hears on the grapevine that Sinn Féin has been discussing legislation along these lines, though recently the SDLP has been more pro-active on behalf of the Irish-speaking community and such a move may well emerge from them. The only deterrent seems to be the worry that Unionists will insist on the inclusion of so-called “Ulster-Scots”, an invented mishmash dialect of English and Scots-English, alongside mainstream English in order to block the working of the Act through prohibitive costs or public ridicule.
Perhaps the AP have a similar bilingual legislative solution in mind?