Tuesday, 25 November 2008

SDLP plan new constitution based on Irish language equality

Highlighted by Michael on Slugger, the third clause of the SDLP's proposed Irish Language Bill,

3. To the extent that any provision in any other Act of Parliament or any other Act of the Northern Ireland Assembly, or any other form of legal regulation, is inconsistent with the provisions of this Act, the provisions of this Act shall take precedence.


Without wishing to damage my liberal reputation on Irish language issues, I feel it may be a little too far to position a piece of language legislation as the supreme statutory authority governing Northern Ireland. Does the SDLP really think it can use power, devolved from Westminster, to assert precedence over all Acts of Parliament made there?

Minority languages need to be encouraged in Northern Ireland and afforded a measure of protection. We certainly do not need 'official languages' - we do not comprise a separate state - and we do not need legal impositions guaranteeing provision of a language in work, the courts and government, "irrespective of the ability of that person to speak and / or understand these languages".

I have criticised unionist hostility towards the Irish language, but this maximalist approach is the nationalist corollary.

If I were a SDLP draftsman, the broad summary of what I would be suggesting might be something like this.

Form a funded development body charged with promoting understanding and use of the Irish language.

Ask the body to develop the Irish language segment of a government Minority Languages Strategy, to be agreed by ministers.

Ask the body to perform a supervisory role as regards education. It would be required to provide guidance for authorities and schools.

An advisory function for the body as regards public broadcasting and its provision of Irish language media.

An advisory function to help public bodies, local councils and government departments which wish to develop Irish language provision in terms of services.

20 comments:

Timothy Belmont said...

While sitting outside the spa-pool in my gym today, I noticed a Chinese man reading a newspaper. Curious to know what paper he was reading, it turned out to be written in Chinese!

I had no idea Chinese newspapers could even be bought here; I wonder what sort of news he was reading...

Minority languages' legislation could be all-encompassing, including Chinese, Indian, Polish, Irish and others.

Tim

fair_deal said...

"I had no idea Chinese newspapers could even be bought here;"

They are available in a number of the Chinese supermarket outlets. AFAIK Two are Uk based. They have a mixture of UK, Chinese and international news with the non-new focusing on education, career/business development and immigration issues.

fair_deal said...

"I had no idea Chinese newspapers could even be bought here;"

They are available in a number of the Chinese supermarket outlets. AFAIK Two are Uk based. They have a mixture of UK, Chinese and international news with the non-new focusing on education, career/business development and immigration issues.

Timothy Belmont said...

Would that be Chinese news or UK News?

Tim

Kloot said...

The Irish Language act appears to be a red herring.

While I completely support efforts by people to seek support and recognition for the language, this idea of having to provide Irish versions of documents, or Irish signs, etc is rubbish. It serves no purpose other than to put an unnecessary expense on the Exchequer.

Instead, why not seek funding for Irish schools events promoting the language. Why not seek a buy in from the Dept of education to help promote the language.

>>Minority languages' legislation could be all-encompassing, including Chinese, Indian, Polish, Irish and others.<<

Last I heard, Chinese, Indian and Polish were not native to these lands.

Brian Barker said...

I think that the rights of minority languages need protection.

The promulgation of English as the world's “lingua franca” is unethical and linguistically undemocratic. I say this as a native English speaker!

Unethical because communication should be for all and not only for an educational or political elite. That is how English is used internationally at the moment.

Undemocratic because minority languages are under attack worldwide due to the encroachment of majority ethnic languages. Even Mandarin Chinese is attempting to dominate as well. The long-term solution must be found and a non-national language, which places all ethnic languages on an equal footing is long overdue.

An interesting video can be seen at http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=_YHALnLV9XU

A glimpse of Esperanto can be seen at http://www.lernu.net

Ignited said...

Kloot,

They may not be indigenous, but are widely used as a first language.

A few years ago at Queen's Uni Sinn Fein were protesting through the Student Council that the second most used language at the university should be given dual status with english. It was then pointed out to them that the 2nd most used language at Queen's was mandarin Chinese. It spoiled their fun, as of course, they assumed it would be Irish.

Kloot said...

Ignited.

Personally I couldnt give a damn what SF want to do regarding the Irish language. Ill leave the worrying over them to those that take an interest in them. Im not one.

They may not be indigenous, but are widely used as a first language.

So they are. But you see the Irish language is not just the language itself, there is also the supporting literature all of which ties in with the history and many cultures on these island. If you cannot appreciate the fact that the Irish language deserves special attention, along with the other indigenous languages in these island, due to their origins on these islands, then your Britishness is not a very inclusive nor tolerant one.

Kirk said...

If you cannot appreciate the fact that the Irish language deserves special attention, along with the other indigenous languages in these island, due to their origins on these islands, then your Britishness is not a very inclusive nor tolerant one.

I should add, that this is not to say that SF attempts to adopt an inclusive or tolerant attitude. They clearly dont. But why compare yourself to them when deciding what approach to take, can the high moral ground not be taken without always having to worry about what SF are doing, or thinking.

Kloot said...

Kirk ??

Thats why I get for visiting IMDB before posting :) damn copy/paste

Aidan said...

Neither Mandarin Chinese nor Polish needs protection, both languages are doing fine without Northern Ireland worrying about protecting them.
Irish is a minority language native to Ireland so there is a moral obligation on Irish people to protect and preserve the language. Nobody else can do that job. The Irish state pumps a lot money into protecting and encouraging the language for that amongst other reasons.
Chekov has said many times that he feels that UK can also help protect the Irish language and it is encouraging to hear this from a unionist. In this regard it would make sense for both states to pool resources (a joint television station run by TG4 and BBC NI for example à la BBC Alba). No Irish person should be threatened by the Irish language. It has got nothing to do with constitutional issues.
I agree with Kloot though that the focus should be on encouraging use of the language and not translating documents that people read in English with no difficulty. There is no point in pretending that NI has a large monolingual Irish population, it doesn't and the number of monolinguals in the rest of Ireland is very small nowadays (everybody is functionally bilingual even in the Gaeltacht areas).

Ignited said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ignited said...

If the mainstream argument was preservation of a dying language as opposed to according equal status with english then I personally have no gripes with that. Unfortunatly that doesn't appear to be the case. I'm pretty easy going on it myself, if you want to educate your child through irish medium schools then go on ahead.

My Britishness does not exclude my Irishness at all, but I think a coherent and understandable position is needed from the elected representatives ie look at the state of the SDLPs document.

Kloot said...

If the mainstream argument was preservation of a dying language as opposed to according equal status with english then I personally have no gripes with that.

You see, this is where I believe Unionist parties fail to take a chance to get one up on SF and indeed the SDLP. Both of them appear to claim that this is about the Language, even though it seems that it is about putting Nationalists view of the Irish identity on a par with the British identity in NI. This is what you all seem to be saying anyway ( or something similar)

If this is the case, and the Irish language is being used as the vehicle for this, then why are Unionist parties not trying to take the vehicle from underneath them. Why is there not a single Unionist party making its own proposal for the Irish language, one that centres on education and funding, and involvement. Is it because Unionist politicians are afraid of being labelled with the "sell out tag", that were they to seriously 'touch' the Irish language in a any way, both their fellow Unionist politicians and the electorate would abandon them ?

Regarding the 'dying' tag you added to your comment. Yes, there is no denying that the Irish language is in decline, however, that is when something as precious as a language unique to these islands needs most help. I bet your not the type to approve of bulldozing an ancient bronze age settlement for the purpose of building a new road, on the belief that there is no point in preserving the settlement because it is from the past and a long dead culture

Chekov said...

I think Ignited was acknowledging that protecting a dying language is a worthy cause. That is how I read his comment. I take on board much of what you've said kloot. It is similar to the arguments I have been making. Although i think on equality the argument is more based on pragmatism and realism than identity. English is the used language of Northern Ireland and to demand that Irish be put on a separate legal footing makes no sense and is expensive. None of your suggestions are precluded by that argument.

Chekov said...

* an EQUAL legal footing

Kloot said...

I think Ignited was acknowledging that protecting a dying language is a worthy cause.

I accept that point Chekov.

English is the used language of Northern Ireland and to demand that Irish be put on a separate legal footing makes no sense and is expensive.

I agree with you 100%, it doesn't need to be on a separate legal footing, and I can only assume that the reason this mechanism is pursued is because they ( SF and others) believe that if it was left as it currently is, no support would be received from the Unionist parties for the preservation and promotion of the language. Maybe were those types of assurances to be promised by the UUP and the DUP, then things might be different. Were both the DUP and UUP to adopt party policies favourable to the language, I think a lot of this 'crap' might prove unnecessary.

Ive read your posts on this topic and I think you are on the right track. It would be a courageous move on the part of any party to adopt this strategy in the face of opposition from the support base and elsewhere. Im not sure if its a possibility, but lets see.

There are one or two Irish speaking members of the UUP are there not ? I had it in my head that one of the McGimpsey brothers were. Duno.

Kloot said...

it doesn't need to be on a separate legal footing,

er.. what Chekov said.. "Equal" ;)

Chekov said...

I'm not too sure Kloot. You might be right.

fair_deal said...

TB

Both UK and Chinese news