So the governments of Ireland and Britain, in consultation with the members of the cross-party regional administration in Belfast, have announced the rather optimistically titled “A Fresh Start: Stormont Agreement and Implementation Plan“, as a way through the current political impasse in the north-east. Over two months of messy negotiations have bequeathed to us a sixty-seven page document outlining a number of proposals to alleviate the budgetary and socio-economic woes of the north, though a lot of them seem to represent a climb-down by Sinn Féin from its previous firm stance on social welfare matters, possibly for some soft-soaping on the vexed issue of “paramilitarism” and other potentially tricky concerns. As usual Irish language rights have been thrown to one side. Instead we are treated to the same meaningless wording that has been included in every other Irish-British agreement for the past thirty years:
“68. The UK Government and the Irish Government, recalling commitments from previous Agreements, and recognising the importance of understanding, tolerance and respect in relation to linguistic diversity, endorse the need for respect for and recognition of the Irish language in Northern Ireland, consistent with the Council of Europe Charter on Regional or Minority Languages.”
Which of course means jack-shit. Ah well, at least the Irish-haters will feel validated in their hate, the Ulster Canal will get some nice new locks and the odd information-board for tourists, and we can zoom up to Derry of a Friday afternoon (maybe!).
Less a fresh start, more reheated leftovers from the night before.