Standards and Privilege

Part of Assembly Standing Orders – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 7:45 pm on 9th March 1999.

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Photo of Ms Brid Rodgers Ms Brid Rodgers Social Democratic and Labour Party 7:45 pm, 9th March 1999

The Member has had a second bite at the cherry. The Good Friday Agreement seeks

"to remove, where possible, restrictions which would discourage or work against the maintenance or development of the language".

The one thing that will work against the maintenance or development of a language is the inability of those who speak it fluently to be able to do so. The death knell of a language is the absence of the capacity for people to use it. The agreement also aims to

"encourage the parties to secure agreement that this commitment will be sustained by a new Assembly in a way which takes account of the desires and sensitivities of the community."

There is a large Irish-speaking community in Northern Ireland, and many people in Northern Ireland have learned to speak Irish. There are Irish language schools in Northern Ireland, both secondary and — [Interruption] I am not giving way again. I have given way twice and it has resulted in two speeches. I have less than two minutes left. Members can speak afterwards if they wish.

Before I was rudely interrupted I was speaking about desires and sensitivities. There are second level, first level and nursery level Irish language schools in Northern Ireland, and they are all well attended and achieve excellent results. People are interested enough in the language to send their children to learn it. There are many places in Northern Ireland where that can be done.

Today at the lunch table I spoke Irish. On my way to another table I was greeted in Irish. I finally sat down and had a chat in Irish with one of the journalists. There is much Irish here and a great deal of interest in it. If there is the same interest in Ullans, and I think that there is some interest in it, I would support anything that could be done to promote and facilitate it as well.

I should like to see Irish being facilitated in the Chamber, and should like to speak it here. As a rule, I do not speak Irish in the Chamber, although I broke the rule a few days ago, because it is a courtesy to speak in a language that everybody understands. I and my party intend to ask for translation facilities, so that we will know that those who want to hear Irish will be able to do so. Sometimes English is not heard. Those who do not want to switch on their earphones need not do so. It is a matter of giving parity of esteem to the Irish language and to Ullans. Those languages are important to all traditions in Northern Ireland.