Belfast Telegraph

Irish language act was agreed at St Andrews, says ex-minister

By Staff Reporter

Former Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Dermot Ahern has said he believed that an Irish Language Act would be created by Stormont politicians after the restoration of devolution in 2007.

Mr Ahern was one of the architects of the St Andrews Agreement which led to political power-sharing in Belfast.

He told BBC Northern Ireland's Sunday Politics show: "There was always an understanding that the British government agreed to an inclusion and commitment to an Irish Language Act. But the quid pro quo would be that there would be reciprocal attention given to the whole issue of Scots-Irish."

Irish language advocacy group POBAL welcomed Mr Ahern's comment, but insisted he should have spoken out earlier.

"It is only a pity that it has taken 10 years for Dermot Ahern to come out publicly with his reading of the talks process back in 2006. It is also interesting that at this point he links the clear commitment to Irish in the agreement with Ulster-Scots," said POBAL Director Janet Muller.

She said that the Irish-speaking community appreciate the importance of respect for Ulster-Scots, but added: "It is absolutely clear that no commitments were made regarding actions for it in the St Andrews Agreement. We are clearly reaching crunch time in the talks and we will be carefully monitoring developments with interest in the coming days."

Northern Ireland has been without a first and deputy first minister since January and a functioning executive since March.

The institutions collapsed when late Sinn Fein deputy first minister Martin McGuinness resigned over the DUP's handling of a botched renewable heat scheme. Talks to restore power-sharing have rumbled on for months without a breakthrough.

Last night Alliance deputy leader Stephen Farry said it is "now well past time for the DUP and Sinn Fein to make a deal and form an Executive", adding they "had no barriers or excuses left".

Belfast Telegraph

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