Belfast Telegraph

SF adviser row surfaces at Assembly

The controversy over Sinn Fein Stormont adviser Mary McArdle has been raised at the Assembly as a hardline unionist sought to link it to the party's push for Irish language protection.

Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV) leader Jim Allister hit out at Culture Minister Caral Ni Chuilin after she told MLAs of her hopes of tabling proposals on promoting Irish, as well as Ulster Scots.

The minister was in the spotlight after it emerged her adviser, Ms McArdle, was part of the IRA gang that in 1984 ambushed magistrate Tom Travers and his family as they left Mass, shooting his daughter Mary dead.

Mr Allister said: "Having alienated much of the non-terrorist supporting community by her malevolent appointment of a convicted murderer as her special adviser, why does the minister now want to alienate further swathes of the population in Northern Ireland by the promotion of a language which she uses as a political tool?"

But during his initial comments, he was interrupted by the deputy speaker who asked him to come to his question. In the aftermath of the remarks, the minister said: "I didn't detect a question Leas-Cheann Comhairle."

The DUP's Michelle McIlveen said: "I'd like to think that the minister would recognise that she will not be receiving any support for an Irish Language Act from this side of the chamber."

Ms McIlveen added: "But would the minister accept that Her Majesty the Queen has done more for the Irish language in the last few weeks than anyone in this chamber? And does the minister not regret her party's absence at an event where the Queen spoke the Irish so fluently?"

Sinn Fein's Sue Ramsey interrupted: "So why are you not supporting it then?"

The DUP member's comment was a reference to the Queen using Irish in her speech at a Dublin Castle dinner hosted by President Mary McAleese during the Queen's historic visit to the Republic. US President Barack Obama did likewise during his visit the following week.

Minister Ni Chuilin, replying to Ms McIlveen, said: "I regret that already the Irish language is being used in a belittling and a begrudging way. I was quite happy to see the Queen and hear the Queen of England, and indeed the President of the United States, talk in Irish and speak in Irish in a non-threatening way. It's a pity that leadership didn't remain in this House."

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