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The Identity and Language (Northern Ireland) Bill 2022-23 was introduced to the House of Lords on 25 May 2022. It received its third reading there on 13 July and its first reading in the House of Commons on 14 July. The Bill’s second reading in the Commons is due to take place on Wednesday 12 October 2022.

It will implement aspects of the January 2020 New Decade, New Approach agreement, which relate to devolved institutions in Northern Ireland. These include:

  • Requiring specified public authorities to have due regard to “national and cultural identity principles” when carrying out their functions;
  • Creating an Office of Identity and Cultural Expression to promote awareness of these principles while monitoring and encouraging compliance by public authorities;
  • Providing for official recognition of the status of the Irish language (Gaelic) in Northern Ireland;
  • Appointing a commissioner for the Irish language and for Ulster Scots language, heritage and culture.

The agreement – negotiated by the five main political parties in Northern Ireland, and by the UK and Irish governments – intended that legislation would be introduced in the Northern Ireland Assembly by the Northern Ireland Executive. When this did not prove possible the UK Government indicated its intention to legislate at Westminster.

In the Northern Ireland Census 2021, 12.4% of respondents reported some level of ability in Irish (around 229,000 people) and 10.4% of respondents (around 191,000 people) reported some ability in Ulster Scots.

The text of the Bill and Explanatory Notes are available on the Bill pages on the Parliamentary website.


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