Government says it pledges to table Irish language laws in Westminster


The government has confirmed its intention to move forward with legislation for the protection of the Irish language in Westminster.

He did not provide a definitive timeline for the introduction of the controversial package of culture laws, but Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis previously said the move would come at some point in October.

Since Mr Lewis made the pledge this summer, the government has faced calls from the DUP not to move the legislation forward as concerns from trade unionists over Northern Ireland’s Brexit protocol remain unanswered.

The government’s decision to intervene to break Stormont’s deadlock over blocked laws, which include legal protections for the Irish and Scots in Ulster, was a key factor in the demise of the short-lived DUP leader , Edwin Poots, this summer.

Brandon Lewis announced the government’s decision on the Irish language at a late-night press conference in June (David Young / PA)

Mr Poots’ successor Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has since warned that passing the laws, which are a key Sinn Fein political goal, would further undermine decentralization in Northern Ireland at a time when trade unionists are so opposed to the Brexit border with the Irish Sea.

Sir Jeffrey threatens to collapse Stormont within weeks if major protocol changes are not obtained.

The government agreed to table the language laws in Westminster after Sinn Fein threatened not to return to the power-sharing administration after failing to secure a firm timetable from the DUP for the implementation of the legislation in Stormont.

The cultural package was a key element of the New Decade 2020, New Approach agreement which restored decentralization.

The internal DUP revolt that impeached Arlene Foster as party leader and prime minister in early summer triggered a Stormont mechanism that required the re-appointment of a DUP prime minister and deputy prime minister Minister of Sinn Fein. A functional executive could only have been formed if both posts were filled.

The procedural mechanism gave Sinn Fein some weight with Ms Foster’s successor Mr Poots, and the party made it clear they needed a move on the Irish language before they were ready to rename Michelle O ‘Neill as Deputy Premier.

Appointment of the First and Deputy Prime Minister
Edwin Poots leaves DUP headquarters in Belfast after stepping down as leader (Brian Lawless / PA)

When Mr Poots refused to commit to passing the laws in Stormont before the end of the Assembly’s current term, Sinn Fein called on the government to step in and pass the laws in Westminster instead.

Mr Lewis agreed and said if Stormont did not table his own bill by the end of September he would move the legislation to Westminster in October.

A government spokesperson confirmed that a bill would be tabled in Westminster.

“It is disappointing that the executive has not pushed forward legislation to deliver the balanced package on identity, language and culture as agreed in the New Decade, New Approach deal,” the spokesperson said. .

“This legislation will recognize the rich diversity of Northern Ireland.

“In keeping with this government’s commitments, and in the absence of progress on this matter, we will take the necessary steps to bring the legislation forward through the UK Parliament.”

Many members of the DUP reacted angrily to the government’s decision in June, calling the decision yielding to a ransom demand from Sinn Fein.

However, Mr. Poots still decided to go ahead with the replenishment of the executive, appointing Paul Givan as prime minister.

This was despite a significant majority of its MPs and MLAs who vehemently opposed re-entering government with Sinn Fein on that basis.

The move would cost Mr Poots his leadership as he was forced to resign hours after Mr Givan was confirmed as prime minister.


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