Irish language campaigners walk out of meeting with UK minister

Irish language campaigners cited a lack of confidence in the UK government to deliver on Irish language legislation
Irish language campaigners walk out of meeting with UK minister

By Dominic McGrath, PA

Irish language campaigners said that they walked out of a meeting with UK junior minister Conor Burns on Tuesday.

Conradh na Gaeilge met with the Northern Ireland junior minister earlier to discuss UK government plans for legislation on the Irish language.

UK Secretary of State Brandon Lewis announced earlier this month that a planned cultural package including new legislation around the Irish language would not be introduced before the Stormont elections in May.

The plans include an Office of Identity and Cultural Expression to promote respect for diversity as well as an Irish Language Commissioner and a commissioner to develop language, arts and literature associated with the Ulster Scots/Ulster British tradition.

Irish language campaigners have accused the UK of reneging on previous commitments to legislate on the issue.

Tanaiste of Conradh na Gaeilge Michaeline Donnelly said that the meeting was already “overdue”.

“We came to today’s long overdue meeting expecting some formal update on the introduction of Irish language legislation.

“We specifically requested a date in the parliamentary timetable at Westminster and unfortunately the minister refused to provide that.

“We had no choice at that stage but to bring the meeting to a close.

“This British government has had from June 2021 to prepare legislation that was published and pre-agreed in January 2020.

“The only delay is a political delay.

“We made it very clear to Minister Burns that the next time we meet it must be on the basis of the full implementation of language rights, not the denial of rights.”

Zero confidence

Conchur O Muadaigh, advocacy manager with Conradh na Gaeilge, said that campaigners now have “zero confidence” in the UK government on Irish language rights.

“This is a government that has circumvented outstanding legislation and public commitments for almost a year.

“We believe they have been deceitful in their attempts to delay this legislation.

“Following Conor Burns’ refusal to announce a parliamentary date for the introduction of language rights at today’s meeting we told the minister that there was no point in going any further until we have an official date for the Irish Language Act.”

A UK government spokesperson told the PA news agency: “The government is committed to delivering what was carefully negotiated by the parties in New Decade, New Approach, and the legislation we will bring forward will be faithful to it.”

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