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Irish Language Act consultation irredeemably flawed - MEP

03 March 2007

DUP MEP Jim Allister has delivered a 97 page response to DCAL in respect of its consultation on the proposal for an Irish Language Act.  The 11 ˝ week consultation period closed on 2 March 2007.

In his response the QC and MEP launched a blistering attack on how the proposal came to be made, particularly the absence of equality screening and impact assessment, as required by Section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act, 1998, before the Government made its commitment to legislation in the St Andrews agreement.

Having identified, through internal departmental documentation – obtained by Freedom of Information Act applications by the MEP – that there was no such screening or consideration till weeks after the commitment was made, Mr Allister described this as a flagrant breach of  Section 75 and confirmation of the utterly political motivation behind the promise of legislation, which he describes as “a sop to the republican movement”. In consequence Jim Allister has asked the Equality Commission to investigate and suggested they should initiate litigation to challenge the validity of the flawed consultation process.

In his response the MEP devotes several pages to demonstrating, by reference to its historical evolution, the political affiliation of Irish to nationalism, strengthening his contention that the proposal is divisive and destructive of good community relations.  By analysing the vast range of steps already taken by the UK under the aegis of the Council of Europe’s Charter for Minority Languages, he illustrates that provisions already in place are more than enough to protect and promote Irish.

Commenting Mr Allister said, “I have never seen such a shoddy consultation document from any government department. It is irredeemably flawed. The commitment to legislate was clearly made in brazen disregard of the requirements of Section 75. Having exposed its deficiencies I am now calling on DCAL to withdraw its proposal.”

(A print out of the full document, including the annexes, can be obtained by contacting the DUP European Office on 028 90655011)


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