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"Do more to promote Irish" Europe tells the British government

22 March, 2007

Sinn Féin MEP, Bairbre de Brún has welcomed the Council of Europe's warning to the British Government that it must do more to meet its obligations to protect and promote the Irish language.

Ms de Brún said "We in Sinn Féin welcome the Committee of Ministers recommendations based on the report drawn up by the Committee of Experts (COMEX) stating that the British government should act to promote and develop minoritised languages "as a matter of priority".

"In particular, I welcome the call by the Council of Europe's Committee of Ministers that the British government should, as a matter of priority, develop a comprehensive Irish language policy, including measures to meet the increasing demand for Irish medium education, and that it should increase support for the printed media in Irish.  This is particularly timely given the recent highly controversial refusal to grant official status and recognition  to Gaelscoil Éanna in the Glengormley area of North Belfast, the recent difficulties faced by the Irish language newspaper Lá with regard to funding, and the resistance there is in many departments here to placing  advertising in the Irish language.

"The Council of Europe's recommendations also come hard on the heels of last week's public refusal by the British Government to fulfil its agreed St Andrews commitment to enact an Irish language act in the 6 counties following a 12 week public consultation.   We feel this is a vindication of the demands of Irish speakers here and an international recognition that the half hearted approach by the British government must end. "

The report and recommendations come as part of the monitoring of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages (ECRML), which the British government ratified July 2001.

The report also cites report from Irish speakers who are currently facing difficulties because of the failure to enact an Irish Language Act; representatives of Irish speakers had encountered problems promoting Irish because of unrealistic demands for equal treatment for Ulster Scots.  Because parity for Ulster Scots was not practically possible, it resulted in no action being taken at all to promote the Irish language.

Ms de Brún concluded "The Council of Europe report has been broadly welcomed by the Irish language community in the North as an international endorsement of their strong criticism of the British government's continued neglect of the language in many areas of public life and its disgraceful bad faith in relation to its failure to fulfil its agreed commitment to enact an Irish language Act for the 6 counties. This comes after 5000 people, young and old, took to the streets of Belfast to demand their rights." ENDS

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