Irish language to be given historic official recognition
The culture, language and identity bill passed its third and final reading, paving the way to official recognition of the Irish language in the North of Ireland.
The culture, language and identity bill passed its third and final reading on Wednesday, paving the way to a historic official recognition of the Irish language in the North of Ireland.
The legislation will give the Irish language official status, allow the use of Irish in courts and see the appointment of Irish and Ulster Scots/Ulster British commissioners.
Campaign group Conradh na Gaeilge welcomed the legislation's passage but called on Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris to appoint an Irish language commissioner immediately.
Sinn Féin's Michelle O'Neill welcomed the legislation as a "defining moment" for the Irish language community.
"After many years of campaigning to guarantee Irish language rights and protections in law, today belongs to the grassroots activists who have delivered Acht Gaeilge," she said.
O'Neill, who has been prevented by a staunch Unionist veto from becoming First Minister in the North of Ireland, added: "Resistance to equality and rights has failed. Those Irish speakers who have been discriminated against, excluded and ignored in the past by the State have now secured the promise of the Good Friday Agreement for today's generation of gaelgeoirí.
Irish speakers at last will be able to access public services and use Irish in the courts as archaic laws banning its use have been repealed and consigned to history.
"An Irish language commissioner will be appointed with statutory powers to ensure compliance with new public service standards."
O'Neill added: “The official recognition of Irish in the North of Ireland, represents meaningful parity of esteem for the nationalist community who want to build a society grounded in fairness, inclusion and respect for those who are British and those of an Ulster-Scots cultural tradition. The legislation facilitates both identities and cultures and is welcome."
O'Neill said: “I hope that we can open a new chapter that allows us all to celebrate and express our equally legitimate cultures, and recognise our differences as something to be valued, not diminished.”