• September 14, 2011

The police service in the north of Ireland is heeding the call from the Celtic League to promote Irish language classes to its police officers, amid the launch by the (NI) Culture Minister of a new project to boost the Irish language, in what could be an attempt to revive the Irish Language Act.

The General Secretary (GS) of the League wrote to the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) in January 2009 as part of a wider police `survey’ that involved corresponding with all of the police constabularies serving the Celtic countries. The aim of the `survey’ was to determine to what extent they reflected and promoted the respective Celtic culture and language, which involved calling on each constabulary to develop certain aspects of their forces’ working practice.

In the call made to the PSNI, the GS focused on the use of the Irish language in the force, including whether Irish language classes were made available to officers and questioning the number of officers who spoke Irish. In response to the letter the PSNI stated that there were only four officers who identified themselves as Irish linguists and that only 0.04% of officers within the force were Irish speakers.

During this week’s launch of the language project at the Stormont Assembly by Culture Minister Caral Ni Chuilin, which aims to create 1000 more fluent Irish speakers by 2015, the Deputy Chief Constable for the PSNI Judith Gillespie said that 150 police officers now wanted to learn Irish within the force. The Deputy Chief Constable added that the PSNI had decided to hold its own internal Irish classes, because the force wanted to reach out to all communities in the north, which is what the GS was calling for the PSNI to do.

At the launch of the project representatives of the sporting bodies for gaelic games, football and rugby were also present in what could be an attempt to revive the campaign for an Irish Language Act for the north of Ireland. Back in May 2011, the then newly appointed Minister Ni Chuilin told the Culture, Arts and Leisure (CAL) Committee at her first meeting:

“I am certainly intending to bring it (Irish Language Act) forward,” she said. “I am not naive, I know it is going to require cross-party agreement, but I am currently looking what consultation has happened to date, what work’s been done to date, what work hasn’t been done to date for that matter.”

It is possible that the launch of the project is part of the strategy by Minister Ni Chuilin to engender cross party support for plans to revise the Act, but this is likely to take some careful negotiation.

The GS is planning to revive the `police survey’ at some point in the new year to determine how, after three years, if there has been any change in the way the different forces that serve the Celtic countries promote their respective Celtic cultures and languages.



For comment or clarification on this news item in the first instance contact:

Rhisiart Tal-e-bot, General Secretary, Celtic League:

Tel: 0044 (0)1209 319912
M: 0044 (0)7787318666


The General Secretary will determine the appropriate branch or General Council Officer to respond to your query.



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