Belfast Telegraph

‘Keeping score’ over language issues is pointless, says Sinn Fein

By Victoria Leonard

Sinn Fein's Northern Ireland leader Michelle O'Neill met with the Ulster Scots Agency yesterday - four days after the party was accused of failing to match the outreach work of unionist leaders.

On Saturday, DUP MP Gregory Campbell said that there was a "complete disparity between the leadership of unionism in reaching out and republicanism in not reaching out".

Last week, DUP leader Arlene Foster visited Our Lady's Grammar School in Newry, where she listened to songs and performances in Irish and thanked staff in the language.

The following day, she met with a delegation of Irish language groups at Stormont.

The move was seen as a thawing in DUP attitudes towards the Irish language.

In a statement released yesterday, Sinn Fein's former Minister for Culture, Arts and Leisure Caral Ni Chuilin, who accompanied Mrs O'Neill on the visit to the Ulster Scots Agency, said it was "the latest in Sinn Fein's ongoing engagement with the Ulster Scots community which has flourished over many years".

She added: "I am delighted that once again the Ulster Scots Agency have facilitated these meetings and we look forward to continue this valuable work on an ongoing basis."

Meanwhile, Sinn Fein's former Finance Minister Mairtin O Muilleoir said that the political parties "don't need to enter into keeping score" over outreach work.

"When it comes to outreach and bridge-building, the Sinn Fein leadership has been exemplary," he said.

"We don't need to enter into this keeping score. People may want to enter into this keeping score, but it's not where I'm coming from. I'm focused on positive bridge-building.

"Thirty years ago, I was thrown out of my first council meeting at Belfast City Council for speaking Irish - it's wonderful to see the changes.

"I have been involved in outreach and bridge-building and peace making for 20 years, and it's part of my political DNA.

"I know other people have come late to this party, but there's plenty of space for everyone and it's great to see other people stepping up and reaching out.

"I'm going to continue doing that. It would be nothing new on my part to have contacts with people from a different community."

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