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DUP will not budge on Irish language act, says Arlene Foster


Arlene Foster (Niall Carson/PA)

Arlene Foster (Niall Carson/PA)

Arlene Foster (Niall Carson/PA)

DUP leader Arlene Foster has said her party would never accept an Irish language act, dampening hopes ahead of a proposed resumption of power-sharing negotiations in the autumn.

It comes after comments from Taoiseach Leo Varakdar that talks to restore devolution would resume in October. Speaking on Radio Ulster on Wednesday morning, Mrs Foster said the issue of an Irish language act was "non-negotiable" for her party.

"That has been told to Sinn Fein on a number of occasions," she said.

"And yet they continue to insist, while holding the rest of Northern Ireland to ransom. The rest of Northern Ireland wants a devolved administration to deal with all the issues I have mentioned. And yet Sinn Fein continue to hold us out from having and administration." 

Reacting to comments from Sinn Fein that a return to a deal on the table during negotiations in February would be the starting point in a resumption of negotiations, Mrs Foster said: "It wasn't a sensible or a balanced deal back in February, so I can't see how it would be a sensible or a balanced deal today."

The DUP leader said despite the comments from Leo Varadkar, she was unaware of plans for the resumption of power-sharing talks in the autumn.

"All we've had are comments from the Irish government," she said, adding that this was a concern.

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Also appearing on the programme was Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald, who hit out at the DUP for holding up a return to power-sharing.

"The fact, and let's call a spade a spade here, the fact is the DUP crashed the last round of talks rather spectacularly," said Mrs McDonald.

"They have gone into hiding at Westminster. The fact is they have applied all of their political energies to assisting Theresa May's Brexit agenda rather than defending the rights of workers and families and communities and farmers right across the north."   

"We can talk from here to eternity, what we need is delivery," she added.

On Tuesday, a Government spokesperson said the restoration of devolution in Northern Ireland remains a priority.

In February, it was believed an agreement had been reached between Sinn Fein and the DUP on an accommodation to restore power-sharing, something which would have ended a negotiation process which at that point had dragged on for thirteen months.

Documents leaked following the collapse of the agreement appeared to show an agreement had been reached to introduce a raft of language legislation, part of which would have been a standalone Irish language act.

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