Northern Ireland

International body backs Irish language role

Graffiti in Belfast calling for an Irish language act
Image caption Graffiti in Belfast calling for an Irish language act

Language commissioners from six countries have supported a similar role being established in Northern Ireland.

Members of the International Association of Language Commissioners voiced their support in a letter to the Irish language organisation, Conradh na Gaeilge.

An Irish language commissioner was a key feature of previous proposals for an Irish language act.

However, the proposals have been politically contentious.

Both main unionist parties have opposed a standalone act, but other parties have supported calls for one.

The International Association of Language Commissioners is an umbrella body for language commissioners in a number of countries.

Eleven commissioners from Canada, Spain, Wales, Ireland, Kosovo and Belgium have signed the letter of support.

Five of the signatories are from regions of Canada, while both the Basque and Catalonian language commissioners from Spain have put their name to the letter.

'Preservation of a language'

The principal role of an Irish language commissioner would be to promote and facilitate the use of the language.

They would also police the standards required of public sector bodies in delivering services in Irish.

The letter said that language commissioners brought many advantages.

"In our view language commissioners can be central in the protection and preservation of a language that is spoken by a minority," it read.

Dr Niall Comer, from Conradh na Gaeilge, said that independent commissioners were vital in protecting language rights.

"Language rights and rights-based legislation are afforded to minority and indigenous language communities across these islands and indeed across the world," he said.

"If anything we are the anomaly."

A working group on rights, languages and identity has been established as part of the ongoing talks between the political parties at Stormont.

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