The Identity and Language (Northern Ireland) Act 2022 has officially become law in Northern Ireland after the bill received Royal Assent on Tuesday, December 6.
The Irish language now has official recognition in Northern Ireland for the first time ever.
The bill will create a new office for an Irish language commissioner in Northern Ireland who will develop best practice standards for public authorities, alongside repealing the 1737 Act of Justice (Ireland) legislation which banned Irish from courts.
Conradh na Gaeilge, the democratic forum for the Irish-speaking community, has welcomed the news that the Irish language legislation promised in the New Decade New Approach has received Royal Assent and will officially become law.
The bill previously passed through the House of Lords and House of Commons, where it completed its legislative journey at the end of October.
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 Northern Ireland Office, 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.
Bill ➡️ Act
"Westminster Irish Language Legislation receives Royal Assent - Another historic staging post as the Westminster bill officially becomes law, but immediate implementation is paramount." - @CnaGDecember 6, 2022
Paula Melvin, President of Conradh na Gaeilge, said on Tuesday: “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 [in Northern Ireland] 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 and we now turn our attention to both implementing and to strengthening the bill and bringing it up to international standards of language legislation in the future.
"But let’s be clear, we now immediately 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: "Today’s milestone is testament to the 20,000 people who stood with us on the streets of Belfast in May and actively called on the British government to honour their word on bringing forward Irish language legislation.
"From today on, the Irish language will exist in law for the first time in a state which historically discriminated against the language and marginalised its community of speakers. The significance of this should not be lost on anyone.
"However, having legislation is one thing. The implementation of that legislation is another. In the absence of a functioning Executive, this bill gives concurrent powers to the Secretary of State to operationalise and implement the bill in its entirety. The British Government must exercise these powers without any delay. The Irish language community have waited long enough. 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. 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.”
Conradh na Gaeilge noted that commencement regulations signed by the Secretary of State will stipulate when each aspect of the legislation officially comes into effect.
Dr. Pádraig Ó Tiarnaigh, spokesperson for the An Dream Dearg campaign for Irish language rights, said on Tuesday: “Today is another historic day on our long-running campaign for language rights and equality here as the Westminster bill becomes a Language Act and officially becomes law.
"This significant and historic milestone stems from the pioneering work of the Shaws Road Gaeltacht over 50 years ago, where the seeds of the modern Irish language revival in the north were first planted. From those small beginnings, an Irish language community has flourished and grown. Today that community has succeeded in bringing legislative change for the Irish language here. That is historic. For years Irish speakers have challenged the state as the language was marginalised and ridiculed. Today we take another step forward on our journey towards comprehensive Irish language rights.
"But we also have to take stock of where we are on that journey. This Act is only another milestone, another staging-post. It does not deliver the change we need, nor the change we were promised. Tomorrow the work begins to ensure this Act is fully implemented without any delay, and the campaign to strengthen the legislation remains ongoing. We now hope to see the appointment of the first Irish Commissioner in the history of the northern state early in the New Year.
"To all those who walked this path with us, today belongs to you. For all those willing to continue the work we have started, let us walk that path together. Ar aghaidh linn le chéile."
Acht....... INNIU 🔥
Tá an Bille anois ina Acht oifigiúil 🚨
⭐️ The Irish Language Legislation has TODAY received Royal Assent and officially becomes law!
🅾️ 6.12.2022 - Lá eile iontach stairiúil. 🅾️December 6, 2022