Belfast Telegraph

Irish language act needed before Stormont can return says Sinn Fein

DUP leader Arlene Foster and Sinn Fein leader Mary-Lou McDonald at the funeral and of journalist Lyra McKee at St Anne's Cathedral in Belfast. Credit: Kelvin Boyes/Press Eye.
DUP leader Arlene Foster and Sinn Fein leader Mary-Lou McDonald at the funeral and of journalist Lyra McKee at St Anne's Cathedral in Belfast. Credit: Kelvin Boyes/Press Eye.

Sinn Fein will not "capitulate" on an Irish language act for Northern Ireland, party leader Mary Lou McDonald has said.

Mrs McDonald was asked in an interview on RTE Radio whether her party was willing to compromise on the issue of a standalone Irish act in a bid to resolve the political impasse in Northern Ireland.

An Irish language act has been a repeated sticking point in negotiations between the DUP and Sinn Fein, it was one of the main reasons talks collapsed around a return to power-sharing in February last year.

DUP leader Arlene Foster has repeatedly stated that her party will not accept a standalone Irish language act. 

Ms McDonald said that Northern Ireland needed an Irish language act and Sinn Fein would not be changing that view.

"If you're asking me are we going to capitulate on behalf of citizens in the north to people who wish to hold back progress in every form, to people who do not wish to make room for others in an open democratic society, then the answer to that is no," she said.

"We will not capitulate on that. Yes we need an Irish language act, that comes as no surprise."

Referring to the speech from Fr Martin Magill during journalist Lyra McKee's funeral on Wednesday, Mrs McDonald insisted that equality issues must be adressed.

"Fr Magill laid down a very, very serious challenge, a challenge not just to talk, not to tick boxes, but to get powersharing up and running," the Sinn Fein leader said.

"The only way that we are going to get to sustainable governance is to hardwire equality in."

Campaigners on the streets of Belfast protesting for an Irish Language Act
Campaigners on the streets of Belfast protesting for an Irish Language Act

Ms McDonald added that it was her view, before and after having listened to Fr Magill's words at Miss McKee's funeral, that the British and Irish governments needed to step in to resolve the stalemate on the issues of marriage equality and the Irish language act.

"Given that the DUP aren't prepared to lift these issues and resolve these issues with us, the governments now need to step in," she said.

"They need to meet urgently, I believe, in the form of the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference and they need to map out the answers to these questions."

In response, DUP Arlene Foster said in a tweet: "I respect that Irish is important to those who cherish the language.

"But schools & hospitals matter to everyone. Stormont should be restored immediately to deal with key reforms. A parallel all-party talks process can deal with those issues SF wish to raise."

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