Conradh na Gaeilge, the prestigious Irish language advocacy organisation, has released a series of legislative proposals it believes will bring greater linguistic freedom and equality to the UK-administered north-east of Ireland. The thirty-five page bilingual publication, Acht na Gaeilge: Pléchaipéis – Irish Language Act: Discussion Document, estimates the total costs of the suggested regulations to be £2 million per year over five years plus £9 million over the same period as a one-off infrastructure investment. This amounts to under £4 million per year, which is considerably less than the scaremongering £100 million a year claimed by several unionist politicians during the recent northern assembly election.
Irish-language organisation Conradh na Gaeilge has launched new figures as part of a discussion document explaining proposed costs associated with the introduction of an Irishlanguage Act. The document includes a breakdown of the different sections that would be involved in an Irish language Act, with an explanation of these sections, and particular proposals that are workable to implement them.
11 sections are proposed as part of an Irish language Act, including provisions which concern the official status of the language; Irish in the Assembly; in Local Government; Irish and the BBC; Irish in the Department of Education, as well as the role of a Language Commissioner and Placenames.
Costs for the different sections can be surmised in two parts:
- One off costs to bring in an Irish-language act – £8.5 – £9million over 5 years
- Annual implementation cost – £2million per annum
- The total cost over the initial 5 years would be £19million – equivalent of £3.8million per year over a 5-year lifespan of an Executive
Dr Niall Comer, President of Conradh na Gaeilge says:
“It is our aim that this discussion-document will inform people on what an Irish-language Act involves; what proposals we are making; why we need the provisions we are recommending and what the best ways to implement those provisions are. Already, 5 parties alongside a majority 50 of the 90 newly-elected MLAs support protective legislation for the Irish-language in the form of an Act. We are calling on the parties now to come together and support these proposals, and to implement Irish-language legislation, as recently recommended by both the Council of Europe and the United Nations, and as was promised over ten years ago in the St Andrew’s Agreement.”
Julian de Spáinn, General Secretary, Conradh na Gaeilge, says:
“The Irish-language Act is now at the top of the parties’ agendas during current negotiations. We are confident that we can overcome this challenge and that the rights of the Irish-language community will finally be delivered. We believe that this document presents a realistic and deliverable framework that will meet the basic legitimate expectations of the Irish-language community.
These figures also challenge and falsify many of the unsubstantiated figures that have been presented to the media by certain parties recently. According to our own research, the annual cost of an Act would be £2 million with a one-off implementation cost of £9 million over 5 years – which is the overall equivalent of £3.8 million per annum for the initial 5 years. We believe these to be reasonable costs that are based on practical proposals, especially if the Act is implemented properly and willingly. More importantly, these proposals represent an investment in the economy and the people of the North in general and it is estimated that there would be an additional £8 million of income for the economy if the BBC fully fulfilled its obligations to Irish-language programming.”
CnaG’s draft proposals follow hard on the heels of the 4th Opinion Monitoring Report from the Advisory Committee on the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, a civil rights’ body answering to the forty-seven nation Council of Europe, which includes the United Kingdom. The committee urged the UK government and local authorities in the Six Counties to:
Adopt appropriate legislation protecting and promoting the Irish language and take
measures to ensure progress on language rights of persons belonging to the Irish minority; the UK Government should engage in a dialogue to create the political consensus needed for adopting legislation; the Northern Ireland Executive should endeavour to implement the ‘good relations’ duty as provided under the Northern Ireland Act 1998 in a manner that does not run counter to the equality duty and that does not prevent access to rights of persons belonging to all national and ethnic minorities
That demand has now been answered through Conradh na Gaeilge’s suggested legislation for the north-east. Without its full and comprehensive implementation there can be no worthwhile political progress in Britain’s legacy colony on the island of Ireland.