1,000 sign letter calling for Irish language legislation

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More than a thousand people have signed an open letter to the UK and Irish governments and Stormont parties calling for Irish language legislation in Northern Ireland.

The letter comes after Secretary of State Brandon Lewis announced last week that a planned cultural package including new legislation around the Irish language will 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 “publicly reneging on a clear commitment given to move the legislation in Westminster by October 2021 and again by the end of the Stormont mandate”.

Conchur O Muadaigh, spokesperson for An Dream Dearg, has urged that promises are fulfilled.

“Our community was promised a new era of equality in the 1998 Good Friday Agreement,” he said.

“That ‘resolute action’ for the Irish language has never been realised.

“Time and time again our rights have been denied, vetoed and obstructed by the DUP and others who have yet to accept Irish speakers as equal members of society.

“Today’s letter is a firm display of community support for our campaign for language rights.

“People have had enough of the empty promises and false dawns.

“It is entirely reasonable for people to expect governments to keep to their word and deliver on commitments, deadlines and obligations they have given.”

He added: “Our campaign is calling time on the continuous marginalisation of our language and our community.

“The British Government must fulfil their own promises and commitments without any further delay.

“Not only are they co-guarantors of the Good Friday Agreement and St Andrews, they, alongside the Irish Government, are also co-authors of this Irish language legislation published as a cornerstone component of New Decade New Approach.

“This issue remains an urgent litmus test for the British Government and our political institutions. Language rights originally promised in 2006 must finally be delivered, implemented and respected.”

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