The Identity and Language (Northern Ireland) Bill passed its third and final reading in the UK’s House of Commons on Wednesday, October 26.
The Bill will now go forward for Royal Assent and commencement dates will be issued by the Northern Ireland Office (NIO).
More than three hours were spent discussing the legislation in the House of Commons during the Committee Stage and the Report Stage on Wednesday, Tuairsic reported.
Politicians from the DUP, the Alliance party, the SDLP, the Labor Party, and Plaid Cymru proposed amendments to the legislation, but none of the significant proposed amendments were adopted.
The Irish language advocacy group Conradh na Gaeilge welcomed the passage of the "long overdue" Irish language legislation through the final stages of its legislative journey at Westminster.
According to Conradh na Gaeilge, the bill will create a new office for an Irish language commissioner who will develop best practice standards for public authorities.
The bill will also repeal the 1737 Act of Justice (Ireland) legislation which banned Irish from courts.
In the absence of an Executive in Northern Ireland, the responsibility for implementing the legislation will now remain with the Secretary of State and the NIO, beginning with the setting up of the various offices and the appointment of an Irish language Commissioner. New powers added to the bill will allow the Secretary of State to implement all aspects of the legislation in full.
Paula Melvin, President of Conradh na Gaeilge, said on Wednesday: “The Irish language community has been fighting for these rights for decades and in that regard to see the Irish language be afforded official recognition here for the first time is indeed historic.
"We want to pay tribute to all of those activists and community pioneers who have been advocating for language rights down through the years. Today is but another historic staging post in this ongoing campaign for equality.
“This Bill, however, is not our final destination. We have pushed hard on several important amendments to the legislation in recent months and although we are very disappointed the British Government did not accept them today, we look forward to strengthening the bill and bringing it up to international standards of language legislation in the future.
"But let’s be clear, we now enter the implementation phase of this legislation. Painful experience with the British Government has taught us to take nothing for granted. Until we see this Bill fully enacted and indeed implemented in practice, we will continue to push ahead with the campaign.”
Conchúr Ó Muadaigh, Advocacy Manager with Conradh na Gaeilge, said: “In the absence of a functioning Executive here [in Northern Ireland], we call on the Secretary of State to keep this legislation moving forward, and to immediately undertake the work necessary to operationalise and implement this bill in full.
"The appointment of an Irish Language Commissioner is the first step in that process. The Irish language community will look upon the appointment of the Commissioner as a litmus test for the British Government. They have given themselves the powers to step in when required, now they must be willing to use those powers without any delay. That is now the immediate litmus test for the British Government. Having legislation is one thing, acting on it is the real test.
"The Irish language community will wait in earnest to see how this legislation will bring the legitimate, long overdue change they require to facilitate them living their lives through Irish.”
Bliain ar aghaidh ó thug muid aghaidh ar Westminster & an tacaíocht thras-pháirtí seo 📸
One year on from this cross-party picture in support of Irish language rights a Westminster & today the Irish language legislation will finish it's journey through the House of Commons. 🅾️ pic.twitter.com/s9jRVITUym— Conradh na Gaeilge (@CnaG) October 26, 2022
An Dream Dearg, who organized a massive rally in Belfast in May demanding Irish language equality, also welcomed Wednesday's news.
🅾️ AR AGHAIDH LINN 🅾️
Ár mbuíochas le gach duine a sheas linn. Is libhse an lá seo.
Our thanks to everyone who stood with us. This day belongs to you.
Níl anseo ach an tús. This is only the beginning.October 26, 2022
The Identity and Language (Northern Ireland) Bill 2022-23, which was introduced to the House of Lords on May 25, 2022, will implement aspects of the January 2020 New Decade, New Approach agreement, which relate to devolved institutions in Northern Ireland.
The agreement – negotiated by the five main political parties in Northern Ireland, and by the UK and Irish governments – intended that legislation would be introduced in the Northern Ireland Assembly by the Northern Ireland Executive. When this did not prove possible, the UK Government indicated its intention to legislate at Westminster.
Speaking in Westminster on Wednesday, Colum Eastwood, head of the SDLP, said he was "sorrowful that we couldn't do it in the Northern Ireland Assembly," which has not had a functioning Executive since May.
It's a pity that legislation to protect important language and identities in Northern Ireland had to be decided at Westminster rather than Stormont, but I'm glad that we finally have good progress this evening. pic.twitter.com/yVM5MVtqAx— Colum Eastwood 🇺🇦 (@columeastwood) October 26, 2022
The Northern Ireland Office said on Wednesday that the bill will "recognise, celebrate, and protect Northern Ireland's rich tapestry of identities and cultures."
Today, the Identity and Language (NI) Bill completed its passage through @HouseofCommons. The bill will recognise, celebrate and protect Northern Ireland's rich tapestry of identities and cultures.— Northern Ireland Office (@NIOgov) October 26, 2022
Michelle O’Neill, the Vice President of Sinn Féin and First Minister-designate of Northern Ireland, said "Comhghairdeas [congratulations] to those who have campaigned for decades."
Today marks a defining moment as legislation passes to give historic official recognition of the Irish language in this State.
Comhghairdeas to those who have campaigned for decades.
Resistance to rights has failed. Let’s value, not diminish each other’s culture & identity— Michelle O’Neill (@moneillsf) October 26, 2022