Education Reform: Northern Ireland Good Friday Agreement

Education Reform

Rights, Safeguards and Equality of Opportunity

Economic, Social and Cultural Issues

4. In the context of active consideration currently being given to the UK signing the Council of Europe Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, the British Government will in particular in relation to the Irish language, where appropriate and where people so desire it:  place a statutory duty on the Department of Education to encourage and facilitate Irish medium education in line with current provision for integrated education.

Implementation History

1998

Intermediate Implementation

The Northern Ireland Act brought about substantial changes in terms of outlining strategies to deal with the treatment of languages, a Center Community Relations Unit was established to come up with a language use policy concerning the Irish language. 

Several measures were adopted regarding the use of the Irish language in schools. On 21 July 1998, the UK government issued Education (Northern Ireland) Order 1998 [1998 No. 1759 (N.I. 13)], devolving power to the Department of Education to support and promote Irish language education and Irish-medium schools. In December, the government of Northern Ireland also passed the Education Act.

1999

Intermediate Implementation

The Northern Ireland Act (1998) brought about substantial changes in terms of outlining strategies to deal with the treatment of languages, the North/South Language Implementation Body was established in December 1999.

2000

Full Implementation

The Northern Ireland Act (1998) brought about substantial changes in terms of outlining strategies to deal with the treatment of languages, the government signed the charter for Regional or Minority Languages in 2000.

In 2000, the Department of Education established Comhairle na Gaelscolaíochta (CnaG), a representative body for Irish-medium education. According to the CnaG, there were around 90 Irish-medium schools at the pre-school, primary, and post-primary levels as of 2012, which provided an Irish-medium education to almost 5,000 children.1 There appeared to be steady progress in the promotion of Irish-medium education. Before the agreement, fewer than 500 students were enrolled in Irish language schools.

2001

Full Implementation

No developments observed this year.

2002

Full Implementation

No developments observed this year.

2003

Full Implementation

No developments observed this year.

2004

Full Implementation

In 2004, 3,713 students attended Irish language schools. This number had remained relatively steady since 2004. 

2005

Full Implementation

No developments observed this year.

2006

Full Implementation

No developments observed this year.

2007

Full Implementation

No implementations reported in this year. 

The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) failed to introduce the Irish Language Act in June 2008.2

  • 2. “Northern Ireland,” Keesing's Record of World Events 54 (June 2008): 48648.