Constitutional colonialism? Examining the impact of constitutional conventions within the political marginalisation of the Irish language in Northern Ireland

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Within the sphere of cultural rights and recognition in Northern Ireland, it may be argued the Irish language endured prolonged systemic legislative discrimination under successive Unionist Governments following the creation of Northern Ireland. It has been posited this approach was part of a wider policy pathway of effective systemic state repression of Irish nationalism and its corresponding cultural expressions such as the Irish language by providing preferential legislative direction to the political and cultural priorities of Unionism. Such legislative actions and policy-making served as a means of cultural exclusion, and efforts to gain legitimacy for the Irish language appeared to have been perceived by successive Stormont Governments as undermining British cultural hegemony. The Irish language was thus perceived in political terms; its protection and use deemed a political threat - a situation that arguably continues in contemporary Northern Ireland within the devolved context.

My research submits adherence to constitutional conventions established by devolution by successive British Governments has resulted in the hindrance of the protection of minority language rights standards in Northern Ireland. The invoking of arrangements established by constitutional conventions has been particularly apparent in the absence of action by successive NI Governments to ensure compliance with international standards, the consequences of which have been inaction on delivering legislative and policy frameworks provided within successive political agreements to protect and promote the Irish language and its use. That this prolonged inaction stems from politicisation of the language means the matter of protecting the Irish language is subject to political debate within a constitutional settlement, the specific convention of which has been utilised by successive British Governments as grounds for its inability to intervene to rectify the issue of non-advancement of the protection of the Irish language, thereby producing a form of constitutional colonialism in which preferential legislative direction on the basis of cultural identity may continue.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 5 May 2022
EventLaw and Society Association Global Meeting 2022 -
Duration: 13 Jul 202216 Jul 2022


ConferenceLaw and Society Association Global Meeting 2022


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