Minority Rights: Northern Ireland Good Friday Agreement

Minority Rights: Rights, Safeguards and Equality of Opportunity

Economic, Social and Cultural Issues

3. All participants recognise the importance of respect, understanding and tolerance in relation to linguistic diversity, including in Northern Ireland, the Irish language, Ulster-Scots and the languages of the various ethnic communities, all of which are part of the cultural wealth of the island of Ireland.

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:

- Take resolute action to promote the language;

- Facilitate and encourage the use of the language in speech and writing in public and private life where there is appropriate demand;

- Seek to remove, where possible, restrictions which would discourage or work against the maintenance or development of the language;

- Make provision for liaising with the Irish language community, representing their views to public authorities and investigating complaints;

- Place a statutory duty on the Department of Education to encourage and facilitate Irish medium education in line with current provision for integrated education;

- Explore urgently with the relevant British authorities, and in co-operation with the Irish broadcasting authorities, the scope for achieving more widespread availability of Teilifis na Gaeilige in Northern Ireland;

- Seek more effective ways to encourage and provide financial support for Irish language film and television production in Northern Ireland; and

- Encourage the parties to secure agreement that this commitment will be sustained by a new Assembly in a way which takes account of the desires and sensitivities of the community.

5. All participants acknowledge the sensitivity of the use of symbols and emblems for public purposes, and the need in particular in creating the new institutions to ensure that such symbols and emblems are used in a manner which promotes mutual respect rather than division.

Arrangements will be made to monitor this issue and consider what action might be required.

Implementation History

1998

Minimum Implementation

After the signing of the accord, the government was committed to minority rights related to the use of language. The Northern Ireland Act (1998), which came into effect on 19 November 1998, outlined strategies for promoting the Irish language and Ulster language (Article 28D). But, the government had yet to sign the Charter recognizing Irish, Scottish, Ulster and other languages.

1999

Intermediate Implementation

To promote minority languages, the government set up Center Community Relations Unit to come up with a language use policy for Irish, Ulster and the languages of other communities. In December 1999, the North/South Language Implementation Body came into effect to enforce government’s commitment to support linguistic diversity as specified in the accord.1

2000

Intermediate Implementation

The UK government signed the charter for Regional or Minority Languages on 2 March 2000. After the signing, the government recognized the Irish, Ulster, Scots, Welsh, etc. languages.2

2001

Full Implementation

The government on 27 March 2001 ratified the Council of Europe Charter and recognized Irish, Welsh and Scottish language for Part III, which suggests commitment of the government to adopt measures to promote the use of local or minority languages.3 In 2001, a pilot scheme for Irish Language TV and film production started.  

2002

Full Implementation

A minority rights provision in the accord was implemented. Between 1998 and 2001, government took various measures to promote linguistic diversity.

2003

Full Implementation

No further developments observed.

2004

Full Implementation

No further developments observed.

2005

Full Implementation

No further developments observed.

2006

Full Implementation

No further developments observed.

2007

Full Implementation

No further developments observed.