The principal of a post-primary Irish medium school in Dungiven says an Irish language is “essential”, and “shouldn’t be controversial”.
Gaelcholáiste Dhoire principal Diarmaid Ua Bruadair’s comments come an Irish language group Conradh na Gaeilge (CnG) produced an implementation document detailing what an act would entail.
It said introducing an Irish language act would cost an initial £8.5m, and estimates that such an act would cost £2m a year to run, in addition to the £8.5m one-off cost. It proposes 11 different sections as part of an act covering elements such as the use of Irish in the Assembly, in the courts and local government and public bodies.
Principal Diarmaid Ua Bruadair said: “We believe that an Irish Language Act is essential to provide the legislative framework within which the language can grow and develop.
“The language has been politicsed in our society, which unfortunatly occurs with many issues and proposals. However, I believe that a Language Act can depolitise the language issue.” Gaelcholáiste Dhoire opened with 16 pupils in 2015 and is one of only two post-primary Irish medium schools in Northern Ireland.
Pupil numbers have tripled and there is now a seven-strong staff supporting the 48 pupils.
Gaelcholáiste Dhoire principal Diarmaid Ua Bruadair said pupils come from Derry city and county and Strabane. He said figures show the size of the Irish medium sector will increase by 36% in seven years time, “this at a time when the numbers of students are falling in general”.
“The very simple step of recognising Irish as an official language in the North would send an important signal to Irish speakers, including the children in Gaelcholáiste Dhoire, that their language, their identity and their culture is welcomed and valued,” said Principal Ua Bruadair. “The language does not belong to any one section of our commuity. The Irish language itself poses no threat to anyone and a Language Act would go a long way in ensuring that the issue is taken out of the political arena and placed at the heart of civil society, facilitating the rights of speakers and allowing all members of society to access this wonderful treasure for themselves.”
Dr Niall Comer, President of Conradh na Gaeilge says: “Already, five parties alongside a majority 50 of the 90 newly-elected MLAs support protective legislation for the Irish-language in the form of an Act.
“We are calling on the parties now to come together and support these proposals, and to implement Irish-language legislation, as recently recommended by both the Council of Europe and the United Nations, and as was promised over 10 years ago in the St Andrew’s Agreement.”