Sinn Féin national chairperson Declan Kearney MLA has said if Acht na Gaeilge remains undelivered it will be a serious act of deceit and another broken agreement by the Tory government.
Writing for An Phoblacht, Declan Kearney said:
“During last summer 2021, as the leadership of the DUP changed hands, those in charge explicitly told the Sinn Féin leadership their party would continue to block Acht Gaeilge being passed through the northern Assembly.
“We immediately asked the British government to move the legislation through Westminster to avoid more delay, just as we have had to do to secure marriage equality and women’s reproductive health rights.
“The Tory government agreed and promised to deliver on this commitment with accelerated passage by October 2021. That date passed without delivery.
“Then both British ministers and senior officials promised that the process would be completed before the northern Assembly dissolved by the end of this mandate on 28 March.
“Fifteen years after Acht Gaeilge, (the Irish Language Act), was promised under the St Andrew’s Agreement, it is an absolute indictment of British state policy, and the sectarianism of sections of political unionism that appropriate legislation and official recognition for the Irish language in the north of Ireland continues to be denied.
“The failure to confer legislative equality upon pobal na Gaeilge, Irish language speakers, and the Irish national identity in the north of Ireland remains a massive fault line at the core of the political process.
“The 28 March is now days away. No date has been provided. No explanation has been forthcoming.
“In a significant intervention during the Westminster debate on the Irish diaspora in Britain, on St Patrick’s Day, Scottish National Party (SNP) MP, Martin Docherty-Hughes highlighted this continued lack of progress, and challenged the Tory minister in attendance when the British government would notify a date to progress passage of the Irish language legislation. The Minister responding did not do so.
“It is clear the British government has acted with premeditated duplicity.
“Fifteen years after St Andrew’s; over two years after NDNA; and now nine months after the promise to deliver accelerated passage in Westminster the clock has been run down. The British have lied again.
“It is an obvious question to pose whether the British have ever been serious about implementing Irish language rights, and whether legislative recognition of the Irish language, and by extension the Irish national and cultural identity in the north of Ireland, is even within the political calculus or capacity of the Tories and the British state.
“If Acht na Gaeilge remains undelivered, this will amount to a new, serious act of deceit, and another broken agreement by a British government. But at its heart is a fundamental underestimation of the determination of northern Gaels, and the momentum of the Irish language and cultural revolution across the island of Ireland.
“Make no mistake, the demand for Irish language rights, legislation and official recognition will not go away. It will grow stronger, and it will continue to overshadow politics in the north of Ireland until the Irish government stands up decisively for the rights of Irish citizens in this region, and the British government meets its obligations under both internationally binding agreements and international law.”