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Irish Language Bill

Oral Answers to Questions — Culture, Arts and Leisure – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 3:00 pm on 14th September 2015.

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Photo of Dominic Bradley Dominic Bradley Social Democratic and Labour Party 3:00 pm, 14th September 2015

7. Mr D Bradley asked the Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure for an update on the Irish language Bill. (AQO 8623/11-16)

Photo of Carál Ní Chuilín Carál Ní Chuilín Sinn Féin

As a member of the Culture, Arts and Leisure Committee, the Member will be aware that my officials will brief the Committee, in its role as a super consultee, on the findings of the Bill consultation on 1 October. I will consider all comments that the Committee wishes to make regarding the content of the Bill and will publish the report of the consultation after the briefing.

I remain committed to an Acht na Gaeilge, and the consultation shows, once again, that there are huge levels of support for an Acht. Nearly 13,000 people responded to the consultation, and 95% of those support legislation for the Irish language.

I am determined to progress the Bill as far as possible, and I call on all sides of the House to show their support.

Photo of Dominic Bradley Dominic Bradley Social Democratic and Labour Party

Go raibh milé maith agat, a Cheann Comhairle. Gabhaim buíochas leis an Aire as a freagra. Is fada muintir na Gaeilge anseo sa Tuaisceart ag fanacht le reachtaíocht chuí a thabharfadh a gcearta dóibh. Tá súil agam go mbeidh deis againn an iarraidh seo reachtaíocht a thabhairt faoi bhráid an Tionóil agus cearta a thabhairt do phobal na Gaeilge.

The Irish language community in this region has been waiting for legislation that would give it the rights that it so richly deserves. I hope that the process that the Minister has initiated will eventually bear fruit and bring it that legislation. How does the Minister intend to proceed post-consultation?

Photo of Carál Ní Chuilín Carál Ní Chuilín Sinn Féin

The Member will be aware that many people have been waiting for an Acht na Gaeilge because it is very important for language rights. As part of the consultation process, I met extensively with people in that sector and different sectors. It is incumbent upon me that I receive cross-party support to bring this to the Executive. I have told people who are lobbying for this that my door is wide open, and it always has been. I am one of the advocates for this. Perhaps people — I am not suggesting that the Member does this — who have yet to be persuaded of the need for an Acht na Gaeilge could talk to the people whose parties are in the Executive about trying to convince them to support this. People would certainly see it as a sign that people have moved on politically and recognised that the language does not belong to one section of the community; it belongs to us all. I believe that an Irish language Act is well overdue. For the generations who are waiting for language rights, it would definitely be a sign that this place was moving in the right direction.

Photo of Máirtín Ó Muilleoir Máirtín Ó Muilleoir Sinn Féin

Ba mhaith liom tréaslú le Dominic as gach rud ar dhúirt sé ansin. Ach an cheist ba mhaith liom a chur ar an Aire is é go raibh mé ar Bhóthar Bhaile Nua na hArda inné agus bhí taispeántas ann i gceantar aontachtach ar chúrsaí Gaeilge. Cad é na hiarrachtaí atá déanta aici le tacaíocht a fháil ón phobal eile? I agree with Mr Bradley. The Minister talked about trying to achieve support from across the community. I was in a church community centre on the Lower Newtownards Road yesterday, where there was an exhibition on the Irish language, and we welcome that. What steps is the Minister taking to try to achieve support, right across the board, for an Irish language Act?

Photo of Carál Ní Chuilín Carál Ní Chuilín Sinn Féin

The Member rightly points out that the language is cherished, supported and enjoyed by members across the community, and that goes throughout the communities, including the different Churches. There is an unhealthy assumption that, once people hear of a percentage in support of an Acht na Gaeilge, they assume that they are all from one side of the community. I can tell the Member that responses to the consultation for an Acht na Gaeilge come from right across the community. That gave me heart because, at times, the Irish language, particularly in this place, has been the subject of some very offensive comments. Right across the community and the Churches, people are saying that an Irish language Act threatens no one; the language belongs to everybody. Within that 95%, I know that there is overwhelming support from everybody in the community for this to be brought forward. When the report is published, people will see the responses to the consultation themselves.