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DUP never agreed to Irish language act at St Andrews, says Edwin Poots

DUP MLA says clause was inserted as part of "side deal" between Adams and Blair and party has honoured everything it agreed to ahead of historic deal

By Jonny Bell

The DUP never agreed to an Irish language act at St Andrews, according to its MLA Edwin Poots.

Signed by the DUP, Sinn Fein and the British and Irish Governments in 2006, the St Andrews Agreement pledged "Government would introduce an Irish Language Act reflecting on the experience of Wales and Ireland and work with the incoming Executive to enhance and protect the development of the Irish language".

 

However, in an interview with Stephen Nolan, Mr Poots said that was inserted as part of a "side deal" between Gerry Adams and the then British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

He said the party had honoured "everything they agreed to do" at the negotiations, describing the insertion of the clause as a "dishonourable act" by Tony Blair.

"We have never at any point indicated a desire to bring in an Irish language act.

"We have honoured what we said we would do."

He added: "The government referred to here is the British Government. Any gripe Sinn Fein has, it is with the British Government.

"The DUP negotiated the St Andrews agreement - we never agreed to an Irish language act.

"We have done what we said we would do. We have done nothing dishonourable.

"The DUP is too strong. Sinn Fein want a weaker brand of unionism to deal with and we have no problem facing up to that.

Reacting, Sinn Fein's Conor Murphy said the comments indicated "the problem of doing business with the DUP" and they had been "hitting their heads against a brick wall for a long time".

"This shows it is not about money, it's about an antipathy toward a language. If it wasn't then the DUP would have disowned Gregory Campbell long ago.

"People what to see rights protected.

"It was in St Andrews agreement and therefore up to the parties to introduce it."

Later DUP MLA Nelson McCausland claimed an Irish language act would "break the bank of Northern Ireland".

The 2006 St Andrews Agreement states in Annex B that: "The Government will introduce an Irish Language Act reflecting on the experience of Wales and Ireland and work with the incoming Executive to enhance and protect the development of the Irish language."

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