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Sinn Féin express disappointment at failure of local government boundary review to recognise Irish language rights

20 July, 2009

Speaking after the publication of the final report of the Local Government Boundaries Commissioner, Séanna Breatnach, Chairperson of Sinn Féin’s Cultural Department, said:

“It is with great disappointment that Sinn Féin notes the refusal of the Local Government Boundaries Commissioner to consider recognition of bilingual English and Irish ward names in his report to the D.O.E. This comes after a consultation process where Gael’s in various areas in the six counties voiced their support for such a move, with some attending the hearings where they had the opportunity to address the commission as Gaeilge. The Commissioner’s stated reasons for not giving this long overdue recognition are dubious at best. We are not told for example why the Commissioner does not consider his Commission to be an associated body under the EU Charter for Regional and Minority Languages, and on what he bases his belief that the Charter does not apply to them. Stranger still is his questioning of the demand for this recognition in the face of overwhelming demand in certain areas, like Belfast where a majority of all submissions – 82% at the first stage – included a call for bilingual ward names. The Commissioner has declined to explain how he squares this with his acceptance of the Duncairn and Blackstaff names “for reasons of history and geography/heritage of the area and the associations which local residents have with the name”
There is a vibrant and growing Irish speaking community in the north of Ireland. Place names in most areas reflect their strong and long link with the Irish language. The Commissioner’s recommendations show complete disregard for the wishes of the Irish speaking community in general and an ignorance of the nature of the areas being dealt with by the Commission.
There is an onus on government, as outlined in the Good Friday Agreement and the European Charter for Regional and Minority Languages, to actively take steps towards officially recognising the identity of Irish speakers in the north of Ireland, and the final report of the LGBC has missed a clear opportunity to facilitate that.” CRÍCOH

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