Belfast Telegraph

Let them speak Irish until they are green, white and orange in the face: Peter Robinson intervention ahead of DUP conference

  • Confidence and supply deal 'has a shelf life'
  • Mistake for DUP not to talk to adversaries
  • Don't allow 'most vociferous voices' to lead party
  • Devolution necessary for maintaining the union

By Gareth Cross

Former First Minister Peter Robinson has said that the Irish language is "such a small issue" it should not prevent power-sharing institutions at Stormont from being restored.

He was speaking ahead of the DUP's party conference on Saturday which is to feature outspoken Brexiteer, the former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson.

Mr Robinson said that while he believed devolution could be restored, direct rule should be fully implemented until the impasse could be resolved.

In a wide-ranging talk at Belfast's Methodist Centre on Thursday he said the DUP not talking directly with its adversaries was "one of the greatest mistakes," the party had ever made.

Mr Robinson was the latest guest speaker in a series of talks under the title 'The World Around Us'.

His speech, on the subject 'What Lies Ahead?' was detailed at

The former MP and MLA also warned against his party being led by the "most vociferous voices" and that the confidence and supply deal with the Tories had a shelf life.

He said that if people want to maintain the union "it is necessary for us to have a stable government in Northern Ireland".

And how a former Taoiseach shared with him that people in Dublin were not "chomping" to be part of a united Ireland.

The veteran politician stressed that he believed Irish language issues should not be standing in the way of devolution, and they could be overcome.

"I couldn’t care less about the Irish Language. Let them speak it until they are green, white and orange in the face, as long as it doesn’t encroach on me” Mr Robinson said.

The Irish language issue, the former DUP leader said, paled in comparison to policing and justice which had been an obstacle to power sharing in Northern Ireland in the past.

Mr Robinson highlighted the importance of co-operation between the DUP and Sinn Fein saying that the British and Irish governments had their "own agenda".

“One of the greatest mistakes the DUP ever made was not talking directly to our adversaries,” the former First Minister said.

He also issued a warning about polarising politics.

“You need to be careful not to allow the most vociferous voices in your party lead you," Mr Robinson said.

The former East Belfast MP told how he had to put his own feelings aside in order to share power with Sinn Fein.

Mr Robinson's best friend Harry Beggs was killed in an IRA bombing at the electricity board offices on Belfast's Malone Road in August 1971.

 “I decided then at the funeral not to let the terrorists win,” he said.

 “I would have to admit there were times when I looked across the room at Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness and my mind went back to Harry Beggs but decided the best way to honour those killed was by making sure others did not get killed."

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