Westminster Language Act Receives Royal Assent and Becomes Law

Westminster Language Act Receives Royal Assent
and Becomes Law

Another historic staging post as the Westminster bill officially becomes law, but immediate implementation is paramount.

Conradh na Gaeilge has welcomed the news that the long overdue Irish language legislation promised in the New Decade New Approach has today (Tuesday, 6th December 2022) received Royal Assent and will officially become law. The bill previously passed through the House of Lords and House of Commons, where it completed its legislative journey at the end of October.

The bill will create a new office for an Irish language commissioner who will develop best practice standards for public authorities, alongside repealing the 1737 Act of Justice (Ireland) legislation which banned Irish from courts.

In the absence of an Executive, the responsibility for implementing the legislation will now remain with the SOS and the NIO, beginning with the setting up of the various offices and the appointment of an Irish language Commissioner. New powers added to the bill will allow the SOS to implement all aspects of the legislation in full. 

Speaking today, Paula Melvin, President of Conradh na Gaeilge, commented:

“The Irish language community has been fighting for these rights for decades and in that regard to see the Irish language be afforded official recognition here for the first time is indeed historic. We want to pay tribute to all of those activists and community pioneers who have been advocating for language rights down through the years. Today is but another historic staging post in this ongoing campaign for equality. 

“This Bill, however, is not our final destination. We have pushed hard on several important amendments to the legislation and we now turn our attention to both implementing and to strengthening the bill and bringing it up to international standards of language legislation in the future. But let’s be clear, we now immediately enter the implementation phase of this legislation. Painful experience with the British Government has taught us to take nothing for granted. Until we see this Bill fully enacted and indeed implemented in practice, we will continue to push ahead with the campaign.”

Conchúr Ó Muadaigh, Advocacy Manager with Conradh na Gaeilge, stated:

“Today’s milestone is testament to the 20,000 people who stood with us on  the streets of Belfast in May and actively called on the British government to honour their word on bringing forward Irish language legislation. From today on, the Irish language will exist in law for the first time in a state which historically discriminated against the language and marginalised it’s community of speakers. The significance of this should not be lost on anyone. However, having legislation is one thing. The implementation of that legislation is another. In the absence of a functioning Executive, this bill gives concurrent powers to the Secretary of State to operationalise and implement the bill in its entirety. The British Government must exercise these powers without any delay. The Irish language community have waited long enough. The appointment of an Irish Language Commissioner is the first step in that process. The Irish language community will look upon the appointment of the Commissioner as a litmus test for the British Government. The Irish language community will wait in earnest to see how this legislation will bring the legitimate, long overdue change they require to facilitate them living their lives through Irish.”

Commencement regulations signed by the Secretary of State will stipulate when each aspect of the legislation officially comes into effect.

Spokesperson for the An Dream Dearg campaign for Irish language rights Dr Pádraig Ó Tiarnaigh said:

“Today is another historic day on our long-running campaign for language rights and equality here as the Westminster bill becomes a Language Act and officially becomes law. This significant and historic milestone stems from the pioneering work of the Shaws Road Gaeltacht over 50 years ago, where the seeds of the modern Irish language revival in the north were first planted. From those small beginnings an Irish language community has flourished and grown.

Today that community has succeeded in bringing legislative change for the Irish language here. That is historic. For years Irish speakers have challenged the state as the language was marginalised and ridiculed. Today we take another step forward on our journey towards comprehensive Irish language rights. But we also have to take stock of where we are on that journey. This Act is only another milestone, another staging-post. It does not deliver the change we need, nor the change we were promised. Tomorrow the work begins to ensure this Act is fully implemented without any delay, and the campaign to strengthen the legislation remains ongoing. We now hope to see the appointment of the first Irish Commissioner in the history of the northern state early in the New Year. To all those who walked this path with us, today belongs to you. For all those willing to continue the work we have started, let us walk that path together.

Ar aghaidh linn le chéile. 

Ráiteas Nuachta
An Dream Dearg

Aontú an Rí faighte ag Acht Teangacha don Ghaeilge ó thuaidh 
Dúirt Dr Pádraig Ó Tiarnaigh, urlabhra ó An Dream Dearg:

“Is lá stairiúil eile é seo do phobal na Gaeilge go bhfuil an bille anois ina Acht oifigiúil agus curtha sa dlí ón lá inniu ar aghaidh. Is toradh é seo ar ghluaiseacht pobail a thosaigh le ceannródaithe misniúla Bhóthar Seoighe breis agus 50 bliain ó shin.

Ón tréimhse chlaochlaitheach sin amach tá muid ar aistear athbheochana teanga agus ar turas teanga a d’athraigh an domhan s’againn ó bhun. Le blianta anuas tá pobal na Gaeilge ag dul chun sráide le dúshlán an stáit anseo a thabhairt ar cheist na Gaeilge, stát a rinne imeallú agus cos ar bolg ar ár dteanga dhúcháis le fada fada an lá. Inniu, d’éirigh le pobal na Gaeilge céim a ghlacadh chun tosaigh i dtreo chearta teanga cuimsitheacha. Ach ná bíodh aon dallamullóg orainn, níl san acht nua seo ach clochmhíle eile ar an aistear mór sin.

Níl aon cheann scríbe bainte amach againn, agus tosaíonn an obair ollmhór forálacha an Achta seo a chur i bhfeidhm agus Coimisinéir Gaeilge a cheapadh, agus beidh muid ag teacht ar ais arís agus arís eile leis na dlithe nua seo a láidriú agus a neartú. Ar aghaidh linn le chéile.

Do na Gaeil uilig a shiúil an ród mór, is libhse bua an lae inniu. Agus do na Gaeil uilig atá réidh don chéad chéim eile san aistear sin, siúlfaidh muid é sin le chéile.”


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