Reference to Irish language legislation expected in Queen’s Speech – McDonald

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Michelle O’Neill and Mary Lou McDonald (Liam McBurney/PA) (PA Wire)
Michelle O’Neill and Mary Lou McDonald (Liam McBurney/PA) (PA Wire)

A reference to legislation around the culture and language in Northern Ireland is expected to be made in the Queen’s Speech, Mary-Lou McDonald has said.

The Sinn Fein president said she received assurances over the legislation during her party’s meeting with Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis on Monday.

There had been an expectation that the Westminster Government would introduce the legislation before the Stormont election last week.

Campaigners for an Irish Language act protest outside Parliament Buildings last year (Niall Carson/PA) (PA Archive)
Campaigners for an Irish Language act protest outside Parliament Buildings last year (Niall Carson/PA) (PA Archive)

It fell to the Northern Ireland Office after the Stormont parties were unable to agree to introduce cultural and language legislation in the Northern Ireland Assembly which was part of the New Decade, New Approach (NDNA) deal.

The plans include an Office of Identity and Cultural Expression to promote respect for diversity as well as an Irish Language Commissioner and a commissioner to develop language, arts and literature associated with the Ulster Scots/Ulster British tradition.

However, Mr Lewis announced in March that the legislation would not be introduced ahead of the Assembly election

Ms McDonald said her team raised the legislation with Mr Lewis during their meeting with him on Monday.

“The commitment now is that there will be reference to Acht Gaeilge in the Queen’s Speech and that legislation will be brought forward very soon,” she said.

“We don’t have a precise date but we again have a very precise commitment, and this is a long running saga and a really un necessary drama around recognising the rights of Irish language speakers and people’s cultural identity.

“The British government have an obligation to act, we have reiterated that and we have a commitment that that legislation will be brought forward soon.

“It will not be a day too soon, the delay on this has been a matter that has fuelled great anger.”

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