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British government fail to deliver Agreement promises on Irish language

13 September, 2006

Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Culture and Language, East Derry MLA Francie Brolly has accused the British government of abjectly failing to honour commitment in the Good Friday Agreement on the Irish language and re-iterated the demand for an Irish Language Act.

Mr Brolly said:

"We see that in Scotland there is the publication of a draft plan for Scots Gaelic. Similarly in the South there has been an Irish Language Act and the appointment of a commissioner. Yet here in the Six Counties the British government have adopted a totally minimalist approach to its commitments' on the Irish language.

"It is an approach that is being mirrored across all government departments and in organisations such as the BBC that Sinn Féin have long demanded be designated under the Equality Scheme.

"For example the comparison between the most recent figures available (2003/04) for BBC expenditure and programming for Celtic languages highlights the almost absolute failure of BBC to support the Irish language. The BBC here is failing the 167,490 Irish speakers in the north when it delivers only 8 hours of TV programming, a quarter of that available for 63,444 Scots Gaelic speakers in Scotland, and less than 2% of that available in Wales. The situation is even worse when it comes to Radio.

"This huge disparity underlines the major concerns that Sinn Féin and indeed the wider Irish language community have at the approach of the BBC to Irish language programming.

"Fundamentally it also exposes the wider impact that the failure of the British government to deliver of its promises on the Irish language is having.

"Irish language speakers pay the licence fee the same as anyone else and are entitled to an Irish language service from the BBC. Yet, the Irish language is still under-resourced and marginalised.

"While the forecast for an increase in Irish language TV programming to 10.5 hours is a step forward it is still woefully inadequate." ENDS

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