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DUP's Arlene Foster to meet Irish Language groups 'as soon as possible'

By Claire Williamson

DUP leader Arlene Foster is set to meet with Irish Language groups "as soon as possible".

An Irish Language Act has become one of the major stumbling blocks in political talks between the DUP and Sinn Fein to restore power sharing.

The former first minister said she wanted to engage with Gaelic speakers who lacked party political baggage.

POBAL, the independent advocacy group for the Irish language, confirmed it has received a response from the DUP after they wrote to them asking for a meeting with Mrs Foster.

The group said that the party told them even though the General Election has now been called the DUP is "seeking to free up space in the diary to meet with us, 'as soon as possible'.

Janet Muller, Director of POBAL said: "When Arlene Foster announced she wanted to meet Irish language groups, we welcomed her statement and wrote immediately offering to meet her. The party has now come back to us and we are pleased that there response appears positive. It is obvious that it is worthwhile for the DUP to meet the Irish speaking community.

"It is also extremely important that political parties meet POBAL because of our expertise on Irish language legislation. We have published realistic, reasonable proposals for the Irish language Act, which should be accepted as the basis for the legislation.

"There is no other model which is capable of creating guaranteed rights for the Irish speaking community and a wide range of joined-up Irish language services. Our model would make clear the duties of the state and would help Irish speakers to understand and use their rights.

"A weak act, and a ‘Lowest Common Denominator’ approach will just create more frustration and confusion because of the particular circumstances of the north."

In a statement the DUP confirmed that Mrs Foster was continuing to arrange meetings with Irish Language groups.

A spokeswoman said: "DUP Party Leader Arlene Foster has been arranging meetings with Irish Language groups and hopes to have engagement with them in the near future."

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