Belfast City Council votes to support Irish Language Act

The issue has been one of the main sticking points in ongoing talks

Belfast City Council votes to support Irish Language Act

File photo of the Stormont parliament building in Belfast | Image: Eamonn Farrell/

There has been a welcome by interest groups, after Belfast City Council voted to support an Irish Language Act.

The issue has been one of the main sticking points in ongoing talks to restore a devolved power-sharing executive at Stormont.

A majority of councillors - 34 in favour, 22 against - gave their support to the proposal on Monday night.

Dr Niall Comer, President of Conradh na Gaeilge, said: "Conradh na Gaeilge welcomes the result of (the) vote in Belfast City Council to support an Irish Language Act.

"The range of support from different parties (Alliance, Green Party, PBP, SDLP, Sinn Féin) is reflective of the range of support in the Stormont Assembly, in which a majority of elected MLAs from five parties also support the implementation of an Irish Language Act promised over 11 years ago at St Andrews.

"Whilst some continue to exclude the Irish language community from a shared future, both local and international support for Irish language legislation tells us long overdue progress is now only a matter of time."

Former Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams warned last year that there can be no resolution to the political deadlock in the North without Irish language rights.

"The difficulty for unionism is to come to terms with the fact that this state has to embrace everybody," he said.

"You don’t have to agree with everybody, in fact you can oppose everybody if you want - but that does not mean you can deny people their rights.

"The DUP know there is going to be legislative rights on lots of issues but particularly on this issue of a stand-alone Irish Language Act and they would be better off getting on with it as opposed to what they are doing at the moment."

Speaking on the issue of an Irish Language Act last September, DUP leader Arlene Foster said: "We have nothing to fear from the Irish language nor is it any threat to the union.

"We have previously supported practical measures for the Irish language and we will do so again if we can reach a wider agreement on these matters.

"However what we cannot and will not do is simply agree to one-sided demands."

She said agreements can only be achieved "when there is recognition that the support of both unionists and nationalists is required if they are to stick."

Mrs Foster said she was prepared to do a deal on key issues like the Irish language, once power-sharing resumed.

But Sinn Féin rejected the idea, saying it did not trust the DUP to stick to its word.

In a statement on Monday, Mrs Foster said: "With little present prospect of devolution, I am now focused on delivering for Northern Ireland through Westminster.

"To that end, the Government should set a budget and also make key decisions about our roads, schools and hospitals."