Irish language and Ulster Scots bill clears House of Lords – BBC News


Irish language rally backed by James Nesbitt and Linda Ervine ‘set to draw 7,000 people’ to Belfast streets | Belfast News Letter


The Battle To Preserve Irish Is Far From Over


THE welcome meeting of minds at Stormont last week set a train in motion which will see the last vestige of the Irish Penal Laws disappear.

GAEL FORCE: Irish-speaking schoolchildren bring their protest to Stormont last year

For the first time, Irish will be legally recognised in the courts in the North of Ireland. The historian Eamon Phoenix informs us that some years ago, Sir Patrick Mayhew – a former Secretary of State for the North of Ireland and an eminent barrister – attempted to do away with this anachronism, but his efforts were blocked. Under Penal Law, Irish people weren’t allowed to speak or read Gaelic or even play Irish music. These ludicrous laws were scrapped after Irish Independence. But the ban on Irish in the courts was allowed to continue in the North of Ireland until now.


To most observers, the agreement reached last week looks very like the one the DUP was unable to get over the line two years ago. This was because of a threatened backlash from strong anti-Gaelic elements in the Orange Order. The DUP may yet rue the day it decided to move forward this time without the rednecks. Certainly those connected to loyalist Paramilitaries who voted for the DUP are furious at the speed with which the party signed up to accommodating the Irish language. But my advice to Irish language activists is do not be lulled into thinking you can now rest on your laurels. Because it takes much more than mere legislation to preserve a language. It’s a never-ending battle. That said, last week was a magnificent step forward.


But the herculean efforts and sacrifices of previous generations should never be forgotten. One such incident in Derry stands out, when several young men ended up spending four years in prison for the crime of speaking Irish. For the Catholic/Nationalist majority in Derry, St Patrick’s Day 1951 was a milestone. Members of the Nationalist Party and the Anti-Partition League joined forces and marched into the walled city centre behind an Irish national flag. The RUC used this as an excuse to baton-charge the parade which was soon scattered.

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But in July of the same year, nationalist hearts lifted with the arrival in the city of Eamon de Valera to help celebrate Gaelic week. Tricolours festooned the Bogside and Brandywell areas as nationalist Derry welcomed the great hero of the independence movement. Local republicans submerged their opposition to Dev, hoping unionist attitudes had changed. But on 17th March 1952, the RUC once again baton-charged marchers displaying Irish flags. A schoolgirl, Helen Kelly, was photographed marching along Sackville Street seconds before she was hit over the head by a police truncheon.

LAW CHANGE: Sir Patrick Mayhew

The image was published in an English newspaper, causing at least some British politicians to ask questions about exactly what was going on inside the unionist North of Ireland. But it was the 1954 St Paddy’s Day march which really stood out. As the parade made its way down Shipquay Street to Guildhall Square, the RUC once again laid into marchers with batons. Among those injured were Brendan Duddy, later to become a hero in the back-channel negotiations which lead to the 1994 PIRA ceasefire. Irish Language activists Proinsias O Míanáin and Pat Leo O’Donherty also felt the ferocity of the police violence. Three years later, as the same lads were making their way home from an Irish-speaking céilí, they were accosted by three armed RUC officers demanding their names and addresses. At gunpoint, the boys duly obliged. But because they opted to do so in Irish, they were immediately arrested and taken to Victoria Barracks.


And within an hour, they were on their way to a Belfast Prison where they spent the next four years as internees under the Special Powers Act.

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As the lads had failed to return home, had failed to return home, their parents were seriously worried about them. And it was only when a bread delivery man called at the O’Doherty home they got some kind of indication about what had happened to them. The bread man had allowed a police vehicle to emerge onto Strand Road. And he spotted Pat Leo inside with both hands raised, revealing he was in cuffs. A duty sergeant later told Mrs O’Doherty he wasn’t obliged to inform her that her son had been interned! From a purely cultural point of view, I’ve never understood unionist hostility to the Irish language.

The writer Brian O’Nolan – a native of Strabane and a fluent Irish speaker – once claimed many English people have a limited vocabulary of around 400 words, while the average Irish-speaking peasant in the west of Ireland has at least 4,000. And he further claims that in some parts of Donegal, it’s a matter of family pride to use a Gaelic word only once in the course of a lifetime! Now I don’t care what you say, that’s impressive!

With many thanks to: The Sunday World and Hugh Jordan

Hugh Jordan The Sunday

for the original story

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The Late Bro Rev RR Kane LLD

◾ONE of the more interesting graves in the guide Dara Barrett’s Memory Lane Tour of Belfast City Cemetery is that of Reverend Rutledge Kane.

Kane was Church of Ireland rector of Christ Church on Durham Street and County Grand Master of the Orange Lodge in Belfast.

But he was also a fluent Gaelic speaker and, as a strong advocate of the Irish language, he was an active member of the Gaelic League.

Born in Omagh in the years preceding the Irish famine, Kane followed in his father’s footsteps in choosing the ministry as a profession. As rector of Christ Church, he served the staunchly loyalist people of Sandy Row who regularly fought pitched battles with the Catholics of Durham Street.

The Kane Memorial LOL 890 (pictured) is based in Sandy Row and is named in his honour

His memorial stone (pictured in the featured image) which was paid for by the Orangemen of Belfast, describes Kane as a ‘loyal Irish patriot’. Unlike their present day counterparts, the Orangemen of 100 years ago didn’t see the Irish language as a threat.

With many thanks to: The Sunday World and Hugh Jordan 

Hugh Jordan The Sunday

for the original story –

Follow these links to find out more:


Ciaran Boyle: Irish Language Act, Not About Road Signs or Courtrooms – it’s About Certainty

How the Stormont deal tackles language and identity issues

LANGUAGE and identity form a significant part of Stormont’s new power-sharing deal – but the compromises face a mixed reaction.

The agreement does not deliver on a standalone Irish language act, which had long been a key demand of Sinn Féin and Irish-language campaigners. Instead, the legislation is introduced as one of three bills amending the Northern Ireland Act 1998.

Of course, whether or not the legislation would be ‘standalone’ was always immaterial compared to the more important part of the deal – its content.

The measures are described by the British government as a new “cultural framework” which will “promote cultural diversity and inclusion across all identities and cultures”.

The main provisions are the creation of an Irish language commissioner, an Ulster Scots/’Ulster British’ commissioner and a new Office of Identity and Cultural Expression.

It also gives official recognition of both Irish and Ulster-Scots languages in Northern Ireland.

MLAs will be able to speak in the assembly in Irish or Ulster Scots with a “simultaneous translation system” for non-speakers.

People will also be able to register births, deaths, marriages and wills in Irish, and “when deemed necessary” speak Irish in court.

The Irish language commissioner will work to “recognise, support, protect and enhance the development of the Irish language”.

Its main function will be to “protect and enhance the development of the use of the Irish language by public authorities” by providing guidance and introducing best practice standards.

The guidance will include looking at Irish-language translations for websites of public bodies and for them to respond in Irish “where practical” to correspondence from Irish-speakers.

However, these standards must be agreed by the First and Deputy First Ministers – effectively meaning a veto for the DUP.

The reaction so far has been mixed, from both campaigners and those opposed to changes.

Conradh na Gaeilge activists hailed official status for the language as “historic” but said the proposals “fall far short of the commitments made in the 2006 St Andrew’s Agreement”. Irish-language activist Janet Muller, former director of Pobal, said the proposals are “weak and will not adequately protect and promote the Irish language”.

On the other hand, the Orange Order feels the Irish-language provisions go too far. It said it has “very serious concerns” and cannot support the deal.

In 2018’s abandoned deal, unionists sought to counterbalance acceding to Irish-language provisions by creating an Ulster Scots commissioner.

The new agreement expands on this to include the “Ulster British tradition”, saying the new commissioner will work to “enhance and develop the language, arts and literature associated with the Ulster Scots/Ulster British tradition”.

Legislation will also be introduced to place a duty on the Department of Education to encourage and facilitate the use of Ulster Scots in the education system.

However, the Orange Order remains unimpressed. It said the “references to Ulster-Scots/Ulster-British culture are ambiguous – lacking meaningful detail or delivery mechanisms”.

The Office of Identity and Cultural Expression, a new statutory body, will aim to “celebrate and support all aspects of Northern Ireland’s rich cultural and linguistic heritage”.

Although ambitious and positive in its aims, many will remain sceptical at Stormont farming out its unresolved issues to another quango.

The Office will “work closely” with the Commission on Flags, Identity, Culture and Tradition (FICT) – a panel set up under the Fresh Start Agreement more than three-and-a-half years ago which has yet to issue any recommendations.

On the British government’s part, it has made fresh commitments relating to immigration status for Northern Ireland citizens.

Taking into account the Good Friday Agreement, government policy “should not create incentives for renunciation of British citizenship” and it will change the rules on how people in Northern Ireland bring their family members to the UK.

Emma de Souza – who has been involved in a high-profile legal campaign after the Home Office rejected her application for a residence card for her US-born husband Jake when she identified herself as Irish – welcomed the “pretty monumental change”.

The campaigner from Magherafelt, Co Derry, said on Twitter the changes address “one of the most fundamentally flawed issues within the UK’s immigration policy”.

With many thanks to: The Irish News and Brendan Hughes for the original story 

Five anti-Irish language protesters outside Stormont as talks to restore devolution are back underway


ANTI-Irish language protestors made their opinions known as the small group stood outside Stormont today.

It comes as talks to restore devolution were back underway, aimed at breaking almost three years of political deadlock in the North of Ireland.

Seven anti-Irish protesters outside Stormont

A sign placed by the protesters Credit: Pacemaker Press

 Sinn Fein insists agreement to restore power-sharing in Northern Ireland can be reached in the short term.

Newry and Armagh MLA Conor Murphy made the comment following the first roundtable discussion of the new year after the talks were paused for the festive period.

He sees “no need” to draw the talks out until the January 13 deadline.

The latest process, which was initiated in the wake of the general election, was paused over the festive period after a pre-Christmas deal failed to materialise.

The Democratic Unionist Party and Sinn Fein held separate meetings with Mr Smith, before a roundtable with the other Stormont parties and the Irish Government.

He added: “We think agreement can be reached in short order, we don’t see any need to run this down to the wire to January 13 in some kind of dramatic way.”

He added that some of the issues where agreement remains to be reached, with the language provision – a major stumbling block previously – being one of them.

Sinn Féin’s Conor Murphy

A handful of protesters outside Stormont protesting against the Irish Language Act

Ten years from now Ireland will be United and strong weither Unionists or Loyalists like it or not

The detail of the talks – Why unionism must continue to stand firm

Unionist Voice can reveal some of the detail of proposals currently being discussed within the talks process.

Protest about the Petition of Concern

AThe current talks process re-starts today, with nationalism once again issuing a shopping list of demands which they require to be met in order for them to do us the honour of permitting Northern Ireland to have a working Government.

Contrary to some assertions, the talks pre-Christmas did not stretch out further into discussing the Irish Language, rather they focused almost solely on matters relating to the Petition of Concern. The proposal is for a reform of the petition which would take the required number of signatures up to 32, with a mechanism to review whether any use of the petition was appropriate.

There is no agreement on the form of this mechanism. The DUP had argued for an internal mechanism- likely anchored in the Executive Office- whilst others had been content with an external mechanism, with the matter placed in the hands of a body such as the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission.

The Irish Language element of the deal worked from the general framework of the unacceptable February 2018 proposals, with some amendments to the draft text having been made in the intervening period. This was not discussed, or put before, all of the parties around the table in the pre Christmas discussions.

However, the current proposal is for a three-stranded ‘Act’ which would encompass Irish Language, Ulster Scots and British Rights. Nationalism is demanding an Irish Language Commissioner, and Unionism is quite rightly making clear that is unacceptable. It is understood the three stranded approach would be tied up in a cultural act, but crucially the responsibility for formulating the legislative text would rest with any incoming Executive.

It is also important to note that despite some confusion online that the UUP had agreed to an Irish Language provision, they did not. This formed no part of the talks process pre-Christmas.

The efforts to bounce unionism into a bad deal are designed to circumvent any proper grassroots unionist/loyalist scrutiny of any agreement- an effort to present a fait accompli upon a community that the British and Irish Government have wrongly grown to believe are now accustomed to handing out concessions like confetti. The point has been consistently made that our community has nothing left to give.

Nationalism’s key demand has been for a stand-alone Irish Language Act, which would include a commissioner. Neither a stand-alone act nor a commissioner is ever going to be acceptable to any self-respecting unionist. This applies whether it is delivered by the front door, or the back door. Leaving aside the fact it is unnecessary and little more than pandering to a nationalist hobby horse, it would be to reward the politics of hostage- and as the ‘process’ has shown us for 20 years, once you feed the crocodile it keeps coming back for more.

Therefore the DUP, and UUP, must stand firm in opposition to any form of Act that would either overtly, or covertly, deliver an Irish Language commissioner- or a stand alone act, even if propped up by Ulster Scots and British Rights on either side.

However, if a cultural package- which did not deliver or lay the ground for an Irish Language commissioner, but opened the door to enhanced protections for British cultural rights which are genuinely under attack- parading, flying of the national flag, bonfires- then potentially unionism could stand to gain from such an approach.

If, subsequent to the above, responsibility for drafting any potential legislation flowing from a cultural package rests solely and exclusively with the Executive Office (and this is something unionism must demand) then unionism will have a veto on the text of any legislation, and an effective blocking mechanism. If this were to be the case, then nationalism has gained- and will in the future gain- nothing at all.

Nationalism enters every process with another list of demands, whilst unionism is constantly expected to hand out concessions in order to placate such insatiable demands. That has how the process was created, and that is why I wrote on this site yesterday that 2020 must be the year that unionism breaks free from the process.

In order to do that it is necessary to change and alter the parameters of our structures, and the current talks process presents a perfect opportunity to do so. Here are some suggestions of issues which unionism should inject into the talks;

(1) The responsibility for drafting any cultural act rests exclusively within the ambit of the Executive Office and approval must be given jointly by the Office of First and Deputy First Minister in order for any drafting to proceed;

(2) Any legislation on cultural issues automatically triggers the provisions requiring cross-community consent for the passage of any such legislation and any agreement makes clear that the British Government will respect the Sewell convention (will not legislate on such matters over the head of the NI Assembly);

(3) The agreement explicitly states- and is reaffirmed by a policy statement by the Secretary of State- that consent for the arrangements outlined in the Northern Ireland Protocol pertaining to Brexit are exclusively a matter for the Northern Ireland Assembly and is to be viewed within the ambit of Strand 1 (5) (d) of the Belfast Agreement.

With many thanks to: Unionist Voice and Jamie Bryson for the original story@JamieBrysonCPNI 

STORMONT TALKS: The raw material is there for a deal – By Brian Rowan – Eamonn Mallie

Sinn Féin MLAs Megan Fearon and Mairtin O Muilleoir quit Assembly

Megan Fearon and Mairtin O Muilleoir both served in the last Executive

Sinn Fein MLAs Megan Fearon and Mairtin O Muilleoir have announced they are quitting the North of Ireland Assembly.

Both were former ministers in the Executive.

Sinn Fein’s leader in the North of Ireland Michelle O’Neill paid tribute to both. She said they had worked “tirelessly to deliver for citizens and to build a new, just and united Ireland”.

“They both will remain republican activists and advocates for equality, justice and liberty,” she said.

Mairtin O Muilleoir has been one of the party’s most senior members. He was a former Lord Mayor of Belfast before becoming South Belfast MLA. He was the last finance minister Stormont had before its collapse and set up the RHI Inquiry as one of his final acts in the post.

Mr O Muilleoir had previously served on Belfast City Council for a decade up until 1997 before quitting politics to concentrate on his newspaper business.

The fluent Irish speaker wrote a book, The Dome of Delight, documenting his experiences as a Belfast councillor during the tense 1980s when there were fist fights and bitter exchanges between unionist and nationalist representatives.

He returned to politics in 2011 and became Belfast Lord Mayor in 2013. In 2014, he was co-opted onto the Assembly as MLA.

“It has been the greatest privilege of my life to represent the people of south and west Belfast for Sinn Fein in both City Hall and Stormont,” he said.

“But it is now time for me to hand over to a representative of a newer generation of republican activists.

“I want to thank all of those who have given me their support and assure them that I will remain a determined advocate of a better Belfast and a new and united Ireland.”

Following the General Election results last week which saw the DUP’s Carla Lockhart, the SDLP’s Colum Eastwood and Claire Hanna and Alliance’s Stephen Farry win seats in the Commons, there are now six free seats in the Assembly. The parties are expected to begin the co-option process later in the week.

Megan Fearon

Megan Fearon said her time in electoral politics had come to an end and it was time for a new challenge. She has represented Newry and Armagh for the past seven years.

The 28-year-old she was the youngest person ever to enter the Assembly. Prior she studied politics, philosophy and economics at Queen’s University Belfast.

She served as junior minister to Martin McGuinness in The Executive Office and was a member of the Finance, Economy and OFMDFM Committees as well as the All Party Group for Children and Young People and was Vice Chair of the All Party Group on Women, Peace and Security.

She was the party spokeswoman on equality and social justice.

“Representing Sinn Fein and the people of South Armagh has been an honour and one that I never took lightly,” she said.

“I want to thank every single activist and voter for their support and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to serve.

“It’s been a pleasure to be part of the Sinn Fein team, both locally and nationally both as an MLA and on the Executive. I want to wish my colleagues well in the future and thank them for their friendship.

“Over the years this role has allowed me to meet the most inspiring people, make friends for life and have many unforgettable experiences.

“Working towards a new Ireland based on fairness and equality is a huge part of who I am. I will always be an activist, but my time in electoral politics has ended.

“I am excited to begin a new chapter in life and I want to thank everyone who has been part of this journey.”

Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald thanked both for their work and service for the party.

“Both were excellent MLAs providing first class representation in their constituencies and also on the Executive where both served with distinction as ministers,” she said.

“I have known both for many years and they are hardworking and dedicated representatives, committed to improving the quality of life for all.

“I wish both of them well in the future and I’m confident they will continue working to build a new and united Ireland.

“I’m sure whoever is selected to replace them will provide the same high standard of representation for the people they represent.”

With many thanks to the: Belfast Telegraph and Johnathan Bell for the original story 

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