Belfast Telegraph

Arlene Foster asked to 'clarify' DUP's stance on Irish Language act in open letter from POBAL

Arlene Foster has been asked to "clarify" the DUP's stance on the Irish Language act, in an open letter from advocacy group POBAL.

An Irish Language Act is one of the major hurdles between the DUP and Sinn Fein in the crisis talks aimed at restoring the power-sharing Executive.

Read more: POBAL Open Letter to Arlene Foster: in full

The former first minister last month said she wanted to engage with Gaelic speakers who lacked political baggage and since then has met with POBAL, the independent advocacy organisation for the Irish speaking community, and she also visited Irish language students at Our Lady's Grammar School in Newry - where she said 'thank you' in Irish.

Read more: Watch: Arlene Foster says thank you in Irish during school visit 

But despite Mrs Foster's engagement with those in the Irish Language speaking community - last week fellow members of the DUP said there would be no Irish Language act.

East Antrim candidate Sammy Wilson said: "We as a party have made it clear we don’t support an Irish language act."

In an open letter, POBAL has called on the DUP leader for clarification and "reiterated the reasons for the community-based demand for legislation, reasons also explained by our recent delegation to meet with you and other party members at Stormont".

In the letter they acknowledge that it is a "complex area".

It said: "POBAL has sought to build and focus the debate so that the Irish speaking community can move forward with clear, strong and agreed proposals on what is needed."

It adds: "The experience of the last ten years has only confirmed our view and that of those who have contributed to the creation of the POBAL proposals, that legislation in the form we recommend is essential, both in terms of satisfying the needs and aspirations of the Irish language community and, also crucially, the legal obligations of the UK.

"The introduction of the Irish Language Act is an enabling action that will clarify the rights of Irish speakers and the responsibilities of public and government bodies. It will make it easier for individuals to understand and protect their rights and it will enable those working in the government and public sectors to fulfil their duties.

"It will assist in harmonising indigenous language protections throughout the UK and will help unify equality and rights legislation. In conjunction with the Irish speaking community, and with the generous support of international legal experts, POBAL has presented clear, consistent and realistic proposals.

"We believe that they will contribute to the enacting, within the near future, of a comprehensive Irish Language Act."

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