Political deadlock in Northern Ireland
Sir, – What puzzles me is why the Taoiseach cancelled a planned visit with the First Minister of Wales Carwyn Jones, scheduled for Monday in Dublin, rather than invite him to attend informally in Belfast, where his silent presence might have signalled the amicable relations between ourselves and our British neighbours; and, who knows, he might even have had a chance to whisper into the paranoid ears of backbenchers that not speaking English exclusively had no negative effect on his Welsh countrymen’s British identity.
Mr Jones is on record as wanting a soft border between Wales and the Republic, post-Brexit. It appears, as I suspected when first hearing of the cancellation, to have been another missed opportunity to apply a nanogram of political imagination to this constipated “debate”.
One thing is for sure, the whole fiasco indicates that when it comes to begrudgery, the DUP are surely “more Irish than the Irish themselves”. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – With regard to Northern Ireland, Brexit is the elephant in the room, and everyone up there knows that they are up the creek if that happens, whether it is said in English or Irish.
Sinn Féin would be well advised to forget about the Irish language question and get into government immediately. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Equality has been achieved in Northern Ireland. Sinn Féin collapsed the executive and the DUP collapsed the talks to restore it. If that isn’t parity, I don’t know what is. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – The spectacular collapse of the Stormont talks by the DUP was clearly orchestrated by its eight MPs in Westminster. They will welcome direct rule which would give them unprecedented influence on how it would operate. The next step for them would be to try to undermine the power-sharing Belfast Agreement. From a tactical viewpoint, Sinn Féin should consider a compromise on the Irish language and expose the DUP strategic plan. The Irish Government should pay attention to long-term implications, in addition to the present situation. – Yours, etc,
PATRICK WARD ,
A chara, – What is important is that we all clearly understand the importance of an Irish Language Act in the context of Anglo-Irish and indeed international relations as a whole.
All parties who signed the Belfast Agreement of 1998, including the British government, agreed among other things that: “in the context of active consideration currently being given to the UK signing the Council of Europe Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, the British Government will in particular in relation to the Irish language, where appropriate and where people so desire it: take resolute action to promote the language; facilitate and encourage the use of the language in speech and writing in public and private life where there is appropriate demand; and seek to remove, where possible, restrictions which would discourage or work against the maintenance or development of the language”.
The United Kingdom signed the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages on March 2000 and ratified it in 2001. The charter is an international convention which aims at protecting and promoting Europe’s regional or minority languages as a threatened aspect of Europe’s cultural heritage.
In its instrument of ratification, the UK extended Part III cover (measures to promote the use of regional or minority languages in public life) to three languages – Welsh in Wales, Scottish Gaelic in Scotland and Irish in Northern Ireland. It extended Part II (Objectives and Principles) cover to Scots in Scotland and to Ulster-Scots in Northern Ireland. (Part II cover was later extended to Cornish in Cornwall and Manx Gaelic in the Isle of Man).
The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, as far back as 2010, on examining the Committee of Experts report recommended that the UK “adopt and implement a comprehensive Irish language policy, preferably through the adoption of legislation”.
In its fourth examination cycle its Committee of Experts (Comex) in 2014 observed that: “There is still no legislative basis for the use of Irish due to the lack of political support. Unjustified restrictions on the use of Irish in some fields covered by the Charter, including in courts, still persist.”
In the St Andrew’s Agreement of 2006 the UK government freely agreed that: “The Government will introduce an Irish Language Act reflecting on the experience of Wales and Ireland and work with the incoming Executive to enhance and protect the development of the Irish language”.
In the absence of a Northern Ireland Executive, the Westminster parliament could and should enact an Irish Language Act for Northern Ireland as it did in the case of Welsh in Wales.
It is imperative that the Irish Government and the international community as a whole state bluntly that the UK must honour its freely agreed international obligations.
If Britain is allowed to make international agreements when it is expedient, and then disregard them when it is opportune to do so, it will render all future negotiations meaningless and the source of cynical derision. – Is mise,
DÓNALL Ó RIAGÁIN,
Co Chill Dara.
Sir, – If Arlene Foster is honestly worried about an Irish language Act, I would advise her to look south of the Border for some comfort. Irish is the first official language of the Republic and is seldom used. – Yours,etc,