Irish language organization Conradh na Gaeilge said it walked out of a meeting with a British government minister on Tuesday after he refused to give them a specific date for the introduction of promised legislation guaranteeing the language rights of Irish speakers.
Conradh na Gaeilge, who has campaigned for the introduction of an Irish language law as promised under the New Decade, New Approach (NDNA) deal, met the Minister of State for the Ireland Office of the North (NIO), Conor Burns, MP for Belfast.
Speaking after the meeting, Michaeline Donnelly, Tanáiste of Conradh na Gaeilge, said the organization had “no choice” but to end the meeting.
“We came to today’s long-awaited meeting expecting an official update on the introduction of Irish language legislation,” she said.
“We specifically asked for a date in the parliamentary calendar at Westminster and unfortunately the Minister refused to provide it to us,” she added.
She said the UK government had from June 2021 to prepare legislation which was published and pre-approved in January 2020.
“The only delay is a political delay,” she said.
“We made it very clear to Minister Burns that the next time we meet, it will be on the basis of the full implementation of language rights, not the denial of rights,” she added.
The language legislation was originally due to be introduced within 100 days of the NDNA agreement, but has been subject to repeated delays due to union opposition.
Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis was due to introduce it by the end of the Assembly’s term, but it emerged last month that the UK Government would only do so after the Stormont election in May and had cited “pressure on the parliamentary calendar”.
Conradh na Gaeilge Conchúr Ó Muadaigh said there was “no trust” in the UK government when it came to language rights.
“This is a government that has circumvented outstanding laws and public commitments for nearly a year. We believe they have been deceitful in their attempts to delay this legislation,” he said.
“Following Conor Burns’ refusal to announce a parliamentary date for the introduction of language rights at today’s meeting, we told the Minister that there was no point in going any further until we have an official date for the Irish Language Act,” he added.