Northern Ireland

Executive criticised for failing to provide report information

Stormont
Image caption The executive was unable to agree a common approach so no information was sent to the UK government for inclusion in their report to Europe

The Northern Ireland Executive has been strongly criticised by the UK government for failing to provide any information to a major European report on minority languages.

The executive was meant to submit details of how it is promoting the Irish and Ulster-Scots languages under the terms of a European charter.

It failed to do so.

The UK government expressed its 'concern' at the executive's inability to agree a contribution to the report.

Every three years, the Council of Europe draws up a report on how the UK is promoting and protecting the use of minority languages like Welsh, Scots, Scots Gaelic and Cornish.

The UK government and the devolved administrations provide detailed information about matters like the use of the languages in schools and on official documents.

Stormont's Department of Culture Arts and Leisure (DCAL) drew up a paper on the use and promotion of the Irish language and Ulster-Scots in Northern Ireland.

In a statement, DCAL said that the Minister Carál Ní Chuilín then submitted this to members of the executive for discussion.

Approaches

Yet the executive was unable to agree a common approach on the languages, and therefore no information was sent to the UK government for inclusion in their report to Europe.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) also said that they made a number of approaches to the executive for information on Irish and Ulster-Scots.

In a statement, the FCO said that the latest approach had been made in a letter from the Minister for Europe David Liddington to the first minister and deputy first minister in January 2013, but "a response has yet to be received".

The UK government's submission to the Council of Europe was delayed "by the difficulties in obtaining a contribution" from Northern Ireland but was subsequently published in March 2013.

It runs to 60 pages, but only contains a few paragraphs on broadcasting in Irish and Ulster-Scots, as broadcasting is a non-devolved matter.

The foreword notes that: "Despite repeated requests from the UK government, the devolved administration in Northern Ireland has been unable to agree a contribution to this report reflecting the views and actions of the Northern Ireland Executive.

"The UK government expresses its concern at this outcome."

The Council of Europe's latest report on the United Kingdom's promotion of minority languages under the European Charter for Regional and Minority Languages is due to be published by the end of 2013.

It will contain very little about Irish and Ulster-Scots.

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