British Government report on protected languages omits Irish despite over 100,000 speakers in Northern Ireland
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British Government report on protected languages omits Irish despite over 100,000 speakers in Northern Ireland

THE British Government has failed to mention the Irish language in a Council of Europe report on protected dialects in the United Kingdom.

Under the European Charter for Regional and Minority Languages of 1992, the government is supposed to provide up-to-date information on how minority languages are being promoted and protected every four years.

Details include how minority languages are being taught in schools, how widely they are spoken, how they are reflected in the media and how governments are promoting their use in public services.

But the new 90-page submission by Theresa May’s government only identifies details on Scots, Scottish Gaelic, Welsh, Manx and Cornish – while Ulster-Scots was also omitted.

That’s despite anywhere between 100,000–185,000 and 16,000–140,000 people having at least a basic knowledge of Irish and Ulster-Scots respectively in Northern Ireland.

Speaking to BBC News, the Council of Europe said no reason had been given for the omission by the British Government.

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However, the ongoing absence of local government in Northern Ireland likely played a role as it is Stormont’s responsibility to collect the relevant data.

In a statement, Stormont’s Department for Communities (DfC), said: "The periodic input in respect of Northern Ireland under the charter would have required the approval of the executive.

"This could not be obtained last year in the absence of a functioning executive."

In 2014, the Northern Ireland Executive was slammed by the Council of Europe over a lack of detail on Irish and Ulster-Scots in the previous languages report.

Despite repeated requests from the UK government, the Executive said it was unable to reach a “political consensus” on its submission regarding the two dialects.