The consolidation of the bigoted nature of the Six County state continued apace yesterday (Tuesday) with the announcement that Irish language speakers will have their rights denied for the foreseeable future.
Speaking in the Six County assembly, DUP minister for culture Edwin Poots ruled out the introduction of an Irish language act, for which cultural activists have been campaigning for a number of years.
The move came despite the fact that an overwhelming majority of respondents to two public consultations carried out by the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure were in favour of moving towards equality for Irish speakers.
Among the many spurious reasons minister Poots gave for opposing an act was “a real possibility that legislation could undermine good relations and in so doing prove counterproductive to those wishing to see the language developed in a non-politicised and inclusive manner”.
Fellow unionist David McNarry weighed in on Poots’ side saying, “Respect, understanding and tolerance in relation to linguistic diversity would have been fundamentally undermined by the proposed act”.
Just last week, the pro-British parties put a motion to the Stormont assembly which would have effectively banned the national language from the building.
The British government announced their intention to implement an Irish language act last year but then held off on passing the relevant legislation until the restoration of their Stormont institutions.
It is widely believed they instigated this delay to ensure that a unionist veto in the Six County assembly would scupper any act.
Despite yesterday’s setback Ciarán Mac Giolla Bhéin of the language campaign group ACHT was enthusiastic that Irish speakers would ultimately be successful in their struggle for equality.
“ACHT remains upbeat, confident and more determined than ever to press ahead with the campaign for a rights-based Irish language Act until it has been achieved. Mr Poots and other unionists leaders who oppose granting rights to the Irish language community have severely underestimated the resilience of the thousands of Irish speakers and supporters who have marched on the streets and wrote submissions demanding the same rights afforded to Irish speakers in the rest of Ireland, speakers of Welsh in Wales and Gáidhlig in Scotland.
“We will redouble our efforts in the weeks and months ahead, working on the ground with the Irish language community, activists, children from the Gaelscoileanna and their parents to support them and to encourage them to be active and to ‘act’ in support of the Irish language and to defend and demand their human rights.”
éirígí spokesperson Daithí Mac An Mháistír said the move by Poots was one his predecessors in Stormont would have been proud of.
“Recent census figures have shown that a significant proportion of the population in the Six County area speak Irish. Thousands of our young people are being educated through the language and cultural organisations are flourishing in Belfast, Derry and beyond.
“The response by Edwin Poots – to act as if this community does not exist – is in the finest traditions of governance in the Orange State.”
Daithí continued: “What is even more telling is the assertion by Poots and his pro-British colleagues that providing legislative equality for Irish speakers would be damaging to ‘good relations’.
“These comments expose unionism for what it is – a supremacist ideology that can only interact civilly with the majority population on this island in the context of structural inequality.
“Effectively, unionism is proposing that people shouldn’t push too hard for equality as it will offend the bigoted sensibilities of some. The rights of Irish speakers shouldn’t be subject to the veto of such bigots.
“Irish is the national tongue of people in the Six Counties as much as anywhere else in Ireland and it should be treated as such.”
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