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DUP leader Arlene Foster has not ruled out Irish Language Act


DUP leader Arlene Foster speaking at the party's General Election campaign launch in east Belfast

DUP leader Arlene Foster speaking at the party's General Election campaign launch in east Belfast

DUP leader Arlene Foster speaking at the party's General Election campaign launch in east Belfast

The leader of the Democratic Unionist Party has not ruled out the possible introduction of an Irish Language Act for Northern Ireland.

Arlene Foster had previously insisted the DUP would never agree to such an Act.

However, speaking at the party's General Election campaign launch at Castlereagh Hills Golf Club in Belfast, Mrs Foster indicated it could be a possibility - as long as there is also respect for the Ulster Scots, the Orange and the British cultures.

When asked if she had changed her mind about an Irish Language Act, she said: "I said there wouldn't be, in terms of nothing else happening, in terms of culture and language. We have been in negotiations for some time and we have been putting forward that we need to respect all cultures, including the Ulster Scots, the Orange, the British culture.

"If there are to be moves forward in terms of cultural tolerance and respect then it has to be in the context of doing that and we are very clear in relation to that."

At the launch of the party's Assembly election campaign in February, Mrs Foster said the DUP would never agree to Sinn Fein demands for an Irish Language Act, adding: "If you feed a crocodile it will keep coming back for more."

An Irish Language Act is currently one of the stumbling blocks in the Stormont talks aimed at restoring a powersharing government.

Deputy leader Nigel Dodds said more important issues, such as health, education and public service, need to be addressed first.

"We are ready to go into government today," he said. "It is Sinn Fein putting up red lines for issues that for most people of Northern Ireland are not the most important issues.

"Sinn Fein is holding (powersharing) up for narrow partisan reasons. That's a tragedy for Northern Ireland and a disgrace for Sinn Fein."

Mrs Foster also said she is not afraid of an Irish border poll.

She said her party would "win a poll resoundingly", but added that she would not support one as it would lead to instability.

"We've already seen what's happening in Scotland in relation to Nicola Sturgeon's continued demands for independence," she said.

"If we had a border poll it would lead to instability.

"I'm not afraid of a border poll but I do think that sometimes you have to put the greater good of the people of Northern Ireland at the fore. I only wish other parties would do that as well."

Mrs Foster also told her party colleagues that Gerry Adams is "back in control of Sinn Fein" and has used the result of the recent Stormont election "to push through his radical agenda".

In the March Assembly election, Sinn Fein fell just one seat and around 1,200 votes short of being the region's largest party.

"The stakes could not be higher for unionism in Northern Ireland," Mrs Foster said.

"The Assembly election results served as a wake-up call for the unionist community. This Westminster election gives unionism the chance to get back on the right track.

"The Prime Minister's decision to hold a snap poll provides a basis to make the positive case for the union."

She added that a General Election is not a border poll but it is inevitably a referendum on Northern Ireland's place in the UK.

"How people vote at this election and how many seats we have will determine not just individual members of Parliament but the shape and direction of our country thereafter," she said.