Belfast Telegraph

Arlene Foster rejects claims of 'difficulties' within DUP ranks over talks fallout

By Jonathan Bell

DUP leader Arlene Foster has rejected claims of difficulties within the ranks of her party in the wake of the talks break down.

The former first minister also rejected claims she was unable to sell an Irish language act to her supporters - saying she had always been clear on her stance.

After a leak of a draft deal to restore Stormont sparked controversy over plans for the Irish language, Mrs Foster said there was a “huge difference between official status and official recognition and I think a lot of people have missed out on that”.

"There was no agreement, because in this process as in every process nothing is agreed until everything was agreed."

Mrs Foster, speaking on UTV’s View From Stormont, suggested there were instead problems within the ranks of Sinn Fein.

She said her party’s ruling body met on Thursday, “and it was a very good meeting”.

“People need to reflect on why Sinn Fein is coming out so hard in relation to propaganda and spin and in relation in some cases of a misrepresentation of what happened. The reality is they are doing that because there are difficulties within their own ranks.”

Mrs Foster again repeated there was no agreement on an Irish language act or that there were any side deals on legacy matters.

“I was willing to recognise Irish speakers and indeed respect them and said we could do that through a culture act and the way to go forward was that one culture would not dominate another and there was space for everyone in Northern Ireland."

She continued: "What we were not going to do was foist an Irish language act on the people of Northern Ireland which meant that those that don't engage in the Irish language would have it impinge on their everyday life."

Asked how talks could resume with Sinn Fein, Mrs Foster said the priority now was to get a budget in place to keep public services up and running.

"It is important everybody reflects on the positions. We reflect on the position that an Irish language act is not acceptable to the majority of people in Northern Ireland, that it should not be given priority over the issues that matter to people like health, education, more and better jobs, better infrastructure."

She added: "It is not a case of convincing Sinn Fein it is up to them if they want to continue to block devolution or if they want to come into devolution with us and to work on those issues that matter to everyone.

"Why should we allow one party to block governance of Northern Ireland - that is wrong."

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