Friday, 17 July 2009

Newton Emerson sur la Irlandalingva Kazo

…de la Irish News:

In bringing this case, Irish language campaigners have scored a staggering own goal. The legal system has been cornered and forced to clarify positions which the political establishment was willing to fudge. Specifically, the principle that the state’s linguistic duty is to ensure understanding rather than deliver choice, even in a rights framework, has been given legal precedence. As there is probably no Irish speaker alive in Northern Ireland who is not equally fluent in English, all demands for official communication in Irish may now be more easily declined.
Supporters are vowing to bring the case to the European Court of Human Rights, which might take a dim view of legislation from the eighteenth century. But Strasbourg is even less likely than Belfast to undermine the principle of understanding rather than choice.

Europe is riddled with politicised linguistic disputes and its institutions are surprisingly robust in refusing to humour them.

If anything positive emerges from this fiasco, it will be a rethink by certain campaigners of their faith in top-down solutions. Neither law nor state can conjure a viable language into existence, as the experience of the Republic should already have made clear.

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