The European Charter for Regional and Minority Languages is designed to offer protection by breaking down the obstacles that prevent people from using minority languages. It is of particular importance for the Irish language in the north, which is not currently protected by a Language Act.
The Charter was brought in by the British Government in 2001, making several binding promises regarding the Irish language under Section III.
A variety of subjects are covered in the Charter, including education, contact with the government, services that are to be provided through minority languages and more.
Local councils are required to put together a Courtesy Code for the Irish language, and ensure that all members of staff are aware of this code. Section II of the Charter states that councils are required to proactively encourage the written and oral use of Irish in both public and private matters.
According to Article 7(4) of the Charter, councils must take the requirements and wishes of groups using the minority language in question into account when drafting language legislation.
Article 10 of the Charter states that local councils must:
- Facilitate speakers who send in applications through the Irish language
- Facilitate public companies in drafting documents in Irish
- Facilitate, enable and encourage the use of Irish in debates in council chambers
- Enable and facilitate the use of traditional place names and traditional family surnames
- Provide translation services when needed
With regard to events and cultural facilities, Article 12 of the Charter states that the local councils must:
- Encourage projects regarding the Irish language and support the availability of Irish language materials
- Inform groups that are organising and supporting cultural events about any requirements regarding the Irish language
- Facilitate and encourage research, exchanges and the learning of the Irish language
It has been shown in the most recent COMEX reports that more can be done to remove obstacles preventing people from using the Irish language.
A COMEX report in January 2014 showed that the British Government and the Northern Ireland Assembly failed to fulfill their duties regarding the Irish language under the Charter.
More information regarding the charter can be found at cnag.ie