When Martin McGuinness resigned as the deputy first minister in the power-sharing executive at Stormont, he blamed not only the malfeasance and bigotry of the Democratic Unionist Party but also the lack of commitment by several recent governments in the United Kingdom to the ongoing Irish-British peace process. The failure of the DUP to adhere to the principles of the conflict-ending Good Friday Agreement (GFA) of 1998 came as no surprise, as did the eventual breaking point both for Sinn Féin and the northern nationalist community in general. However the determination of some politicians and journalists in London to turn a peace based upon a series of negotiated compromises by all sides into some sort of backdoor “victory” has also had its own corrosive effect, gradually but surely wearing away at the underpinnings of the GFA.
Though the authorities in Britain have tried to pass the buck on some “devolved matters” delegated to the regional administration in Stormont there were any number of key equality issues that London could have ameliorated. Not least of these was the issue of Irish language rights, which the UK is supposedly pledged to recognise and promote under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages (ECRML), adopted in 1992 under the auspices of the Council of Europe. However, rather than fulfilling its obligations under the peace settlement of the late 1990s, Britain continued a policy of discriminating against those speaking the indigenous language of Ireland. A recent report by Irish Legal News illustrates one of the reasons why the cross-community pact in the Six Counties has now collapsed:
“Northern Ireland’s Finance Minister Máirtín Ó Muilleoir has announced plans to challenge laws preventing the use of the Irish language in Northern Ireland courts.
Mr Ó Muilleoir has confirmed that he has instructed counsel on his intention to challenge the penal provision in the Administration of Justice (Language) Act (Ireland) 1737.
Under the provisions of the Act, court proceedings in Northern Ireland must be carried out in English.
Similar pieces of legislation introduced for England and Scotland in 1731, and Wales in 1733, were repealed in 1863.”
The banning of the Irish language from the UK-administered courts in the north-east of Ireland in the 21st century, when similar anti-Celtic prohibitions were lifted across the United Kingdom in the 19th century, says much about the utter failure of three decades of peace to bring real progress and equality to what is still, in form and function, a British colony on this island nation.
The proof of unionist intransigence and duplicity can be heard in this extraordinary and blatantly deceitful radio interview with senior DUP politician and former regional minister, Edwin Poots.