Northern Ireland Secretary urged to move Irish language legislation in Westminster 'immediately'

Representatives of more than 50 Irish language groups gathered in west Belfast today to officially launch an open letter they are sending to Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis.

The call comes after the UK government pledged to press ahead with legislating for Irish language protections at Westminster after failed attempts at Stormont, with Mr Lewis saying the move would come at some point last month. The government previously faced calls from the DUP not to press ahead with the legislation while unionist concerns about the Northern Ireland Protocol remain unaddressed.

Last month, Sinn Féin vice president Michelle O'Neill said she had expected Irish language legislation to be introduced into parliament "within days".

Padraig O Tiarnaigh, spokesman for An Dream Dearg campaign for an Irish Language Act, said the groups had gathered to send a "very clear message" to Mr Lewis.

"The Secretary of State gave a very clear and unambiguous commitment in June of this year that if Stormont failed to implement Irish language legislation by September, the British Government would do so at Westminster by October," he said.

"We are now in the middle of November and to date no Irish language legislation has been moved at Westminster. We're here to send a very clear message to the Secretary of State that we've been frustrated for so so long, the groups have come together to say that our rights must be now implemented in law and that we can accept no further delay in the implementation of this legislation."

In the letter to Mr Lewis, the groups point out that over 20 years ago in the Good Friday Agreement, and in the 2006 St Andrew's Agreement, a commitment was made to take action to promote and protect the Irish language. Language legislation was also promised in the New Decade New Approach deal in January 2020.

The letter adds:

"All deadlines to date have passed, and still we wait. Community confidence is now incredibly low. The days of Irish speakers being treated as second class citizens here are now over. Today, we request an urgent meeting with you, as Secretary of State, regarding your plans to implement Irish language legislation. Above all else, we call on the British Government to immediately move this legislation at Westminster without any further delay.

Rights delayed are rights denied."




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