Government 'firmly intends' to bring NI language legislation before election
The UK Government "firmly" intends to introduce legislation on culture, language and identity before the Assembly election, the Northern Ireland Office minister says.
Conor Burns was speaking at the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee at Westminster on Tuesday.
He indicated the legislation would be better passed before the poll, so it does not "become a contentious element of what is already going to be a pretty contentious election campaign".
Mr Burns said: "It is very firmly the Government's intention that we bring the legislation forward before the elections."
The Stormont parties were unable to agree to introduce the cultural and language legislation in the Assembly which was part of the New Decade, New Approach deal.
The plans include an Office of Identity and Cultural Expression to promote respect for diversity, as well as an Irish Language Commissioner and a commissioner to develop language, arts and literature associated with the Ulster Scots/Ulster British tradition.
The resignation of First Minister Paul Givan means no new legislation can be introduced at Stormont.
Conor Burns said the legislation "is pretty much ready," adding: "We're obviously disappointed it wasn't taken forward as an NDNA commitment where it sat with the Executive and the Assembly.
"I can't give you a specific time ... the secretary of state was genuine in his desire to bring it forward by the end of October, we didn't do that for a variety of reasons, other business, timing, matters politically but we remain committed to the undertaking that we've given, that were it not legislated for in Stormont, we will do it here in Westminster and that remains the case.
"I think what I can say very candidly is that it is our expectation that this is not going to be passed by Stormont before the end of the mandate and that we are absolutely expecting that we are going to have to do this in Westminster and we remain committed to bringing this legislation forward in Westminster.
"I think we can all agree, it is definitely the Government's view that it would be a good thing if this was completed and didn't become a contentious element of what is already going to be a pretty contentious election campaign."
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