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The body language over Irish has changed – and appointing commissioners is the next step

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The scrutiny of the Identity and Language (NI) Bill concluded in the House of Lords recently. The introduction of this piece of legislation in May was hugely significant but the fact that it isn’t the subject of much public discussion is, I hope, a sign that unnecessary battles over language are becoming a thing of the past.

It has been 16 years since the St Andrews Agreement stated that “the Government will introduce an Irish Language Act” and whilst the Bill in the Lords is a cluster of Bills meshed together it represents a significant step forward for Gaeilge and our growing Irish speaking community.

The debate so far in Westminster has been fairly non-eventful with two Conservative and Labour Lords reflecting on their great grandparents’ ability to speak Irish in Clare and Cork in the 1800s. Baroness (Kate) Hoey on the other hand referred to the potential use of Irish as a ‘political weapon’. A reference that I haven’t heard in quite some time and thankfully it is now largely redundant in its usage.

Former Secretary of State Lord (Paul) Murphy reflected on the depoliticisation of the Welsh language over the past 20 to 30 years and used his own constituency as an example: “My former constituency, which is the most anglicised constituency in Wales, has three Welsh-medium schools, everybody is taught Welsh, and the vote for Plaid Cymru is........

© Belfast Telegraph


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