The Irish Language Act and the provisions it might contain are at the heart of the disagreement between the DUP and Sinn Féin in their deadlocked efforts to agree on the restoration of power-sharing.
Conradh na Gaeilge, the Irish language support group, made a number of recommendations in a discussion document.
Below are some of its recommendations from that publication - Irish Language Act, Discussion Document - published on 15 March 2017:
- To establish a central translation department in the office of the power-sharing executive. This ten person unit would facilitate correspondence in Irish in the Assembly and a translation of bills and other publications. Estimated set-up cost £100,000. Yearly costs estimate for two interpreters, two law translators, five translators and a director - £500,000. (Working date - immediately)
- Any MLA or member of the public should have the right to use Irish when they are engaging in debates in gathering Assembly or as part of the work of the committees and sub-committees of Stormont (working date - immediately)
- Court Proceedings in Irish - to allow for court proceedings, such as in the Family Court etc, to be heard in Irish, if both parties agree (working date - within five years)
- Civil Actions - to allow for civil actions against the state to be taken and heard through Irish. That is, that the court proceedings in these actions are done through the medium of Irish, if that is what the complainant would like (working date - within five years)
- Road Signs - Road signs should be bilingual. It is important that Irish is visible - it should not be in a different print or smaller. (Working date - gradually with an upper limit of nine years)
- The establishment of the Office of the Language Commissioner - to ensure the implementation of the provisions set out in the Irish Language Act, the office of the Language Commissioner shall be established and a language Commissioner shall be appointed.
The Commissioner would have powers of investigation, to establish if the complaints that come through are justified; that the Commissioner have the the powers to make critical reports and statements, publicly if necessary, similar to the model in existence in Wales, that the Office of the Language Commissioner would have powers to service fines of the case of serious failings by a public body in relation to its statutory obligations. Yearly Costs £300,000 to £400,000 per year. (Working date - immediately)
- Irish Language Broadcasting on the BBC: At present ten times more money is spent on Scottish Gaelic services on the BBC than Irish language services, despite the fact that there are more Irish speakers in the north than there are Scottish Gaelic speakers in Scotland, according to the census. We estimate that the BBC would need to spend £10 million on Irish language services (up from £2m as is currently the case). This is an opportunity, as more money from the BBC would be spent in the North. Cost to come from current BBC budget. (Working date - immediately)