Irish Language Bill Consultation
The Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure is holding a consultation to seek views on its proposals for an Irish Language Bill. The consultation document is available on the DCAL website, www.dcalni.gov.uk/consultation.
You can respond on the consultation response form, or else write a letter. If you want to respond, here are POBAL’s recommendations for points you may want to include. You can send your response to firstname.lastname@example.org or by post to: Response Co-ordinator, Irish Language Bill Consultation, Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure, Level 7, Causeway Exchange, 1-7 Bedford Street, Belfast BT2 7EG, before 5th May 2015.
POBAL recommends including the following points in your answer:
(The ‘Part’ numbers below relate to the numbering on the Department’s Response Form, but you can just use our points in a letter or other format if you prefer)
Part 1 Official Status
Question 1a - Yes
The Irish-speaking community has already agreed legislative proposals with a rights-based approach after a significant consultative process carried out by POBAL. The Bill must be based on POBAL’s proposals in the document The Irish Language Act NI Issue 2. The Bill must outline the official status of Irish in the Act’s title and text and through the wide range of guaranteed rights it creates. It is unfortunate that there is nowhere on this form for opinions about other matters. The British government has a duty to bring in the Act, and matters which fall under Westminster powers only, such as broadcasting and Crown Bodies etc must also be included in language legislation.
Part 2 Irish in the Courts
Question 2a - Yes
The following forms and certificates to be made available in Irish
- driving licences
- travel passports and visas
- birth certificates
- death certificates
- marriage / civil partnership certificates
Marriage and civil partnership services should be valid if conducted in Irish.
The Irish Language Bill must follow the model put forward in POBAL’s agreed proposals concerning the use of Irish in the courts, ie, a rights-based approach. Include POBAL’s proposals, in The Irish Language Act Issue 2, pages 64-65, Clauses 25-30
Part 3 The Assembly
Question 3a - Yes
Duties should also be placed on local councils. The consultative document gives a very limited account of services that could be available from such bodies and makes no reference to service supply from any private contractor responsible for supply of state or public sector services. There is a significant link between the duties of the political institutions and the provision of public services. This link is seen more clearly in POBAL document, The Irish Language Act N Issue 2, and the proposals in the POBAL document on pages 62-64, Parts 10-24, and on pages 66-72, Clauses 31-42 should be accepted.
The proposals on in The Irish Language Act Issue 2 on pages 62-64, Clauses 10-24, and on pages 66-72, Parts 31-42, should be accepted.
Part 4 The Irish Language Commissioner
Question 4a - Yes
We agree that an Irish language commissioner should be appointed. The Commissioner must have a very clear role as well as sufficient resources and appropriate powers. The Commissioner must be free from negative political influence. The role of the Commissioner as it is described in the consultation document is too broad. The Commissioner should not be approving language schemes with public bodies and then be expected to give judgement on them. Experiences from the south and from Wales show that this is not the best model.
If there are to be schemes, a new Board should be created with the power to compel public bodies not already mentioned on the Schedule to prepare schemes.
The proposals set out by POBAL in the document Irish Language Act NI Issue 2, regarding the functions of the Commissioner, should be accepted.
The proposals set out by POBAL in the document The Irish Language Act Issue 2 regarding the powers of the Commissioner should be accepted. See pages 82-89, clauses 74-103, as well as the proposals regarding a Schedule to the Act.
Part 5 Public Bodies
Question 5a - Yes
These are important clauses, but there are substantial gaps. The proposals relating to public bodies should complement the clauses under the political institutions, and it is not clear if this is the case in the consultation document. POBAL’s model is recommended; as laid out in The Irish Language Act Issue 2, pages 62-64, clauses 10-24, page 65, clause 28, pages 66-72, clauses 31-42
There appears to be ambiguity and gaps in this approach. It is not clear, for example, if signage is included, and if so, which type of signage and where. See POBAL’s proposals from The Irish Language Act Issue 2, pages 62-64, clauses 10-24, page 65, clause 28 (regarding the courts), pages 66-72, clauses 31-42.
A joined-up approach is needed between the various sections of the Bill. POBAL’s proposals, from The Irish Language Act Issue 2 pages 62-64, clauses 10-24, page 65, clause 28 (regarding the courts), pages 66-72, clauses 31-42, should be adopted.
Part 6 Language Schemes
Question 6a - Yes
There must be a wide range of guaranteed rights created within the Bill. There is not enough information in the consultation document about the proposed Schedule and which public bodies would be included in it. We prefer the description given in POBAL’s The Irish Language Act Issue 2. We also prefer the proposal that a new Board be created to agree schemes with those bodies not mentioned in the Schedule. This should not be the Irish Language Commissioner’s responsibility.
POBAL’s proposals regarding public services should be used. The Schedule is described in detail in The Irish Language Act Issue 2 and the bodies and departments who would be in the Schedule are listed and what their responsibilities would be under the Act. Also there is a detailed description of schemes/Irish language plans, on pages 68-72, clauses 35 – 42.
Part 7 – Gaeltacht Areas
Question 7a - No
There are no details in the document to describe by what criteria a new Gaeltacht area would be defined. Services should be available to the Irish speaking community everywhere, rather than being limited to a small number of designated areas. Which services would be available to people who work or go to school in a Gaeltacht area, but who live in another area, for example?
A ‘Gaeltacht Area’ is not the same in the Six Counties as in the 26 Counties. More information and more thought are needed on this question before these clauses are included in the Bill.
Part 8 Placenames
Question 8a - Yes
More support and appropriate resources should be made available for the Placenames Project in Queen’s University Belfast.
The legislation regarding street names needs to be amended. Provisions regarding Irish language/bilingual signage of all sorts should be included in the Bill, as well as making it easier to use Irish language names and addresses.
Part 9 Education
Question 9a - Yes
There is only one line regarding Education in the document. There should be comprehensive provision for Education in the Bill. POBAL’s proposals, in The Irish Language Act Issue 2 onpages 73-80, clauses 46-68 should be adopted as they cover every stage in the education system as well as the teaching of Irish in English-medium schools.
See the above answer: education at every level from pre-nursery to third-level; teaching Irish in English-medium schools; resources; training; provision for children with Special Educational Needs; transport systems etc. POBAL’s proposals, in The Irish Language Act Issue 2 pages 73-80, clauses 46-68 should be adopted.
We agree that a comprehensive, rights-based Irish Language bill would not have a negative influence.
POBAL propose that there be regular review of the United Kingdom’s binding commitments under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, and the interpretation of Section 75 of bodies such as the Equality Commission, to ensure their interpretation is compatible with the Irish Language Bill and the Charter. See POBAL’s The Irish Language Act Issue 2, pages 61-62, clauses 7 and 8. I agree with POBAL’s proposals.
NB Copies of the POBAL document, The Irish Language Act Issue 2 can be found on POBAL’s website, at http://www.pobal.org/uploads/images/Acht%20na%20Gaeilge%202012.pdf or ring our office on 028 90 438132, or by email, email@example.com
POBAL, Aonad 6, Teach Uí Chorráin, Ionad an Dá Spuaic, 155 Sráid Northumberland, Béal Feirste BT13 2JF Teil: +44 (0)28 90 438132 - R-phost: firstname.lastname@example.org - www.pobal.org