Belfast Telegraph

No killer blow for Arlene in leaked draft agreement text

Arlene Foster
Arlene Foster

By Suzanne Breen, Political Editor

The 13-page leaked draft agreement between the DUP and Sinn Fein does not contain anything which puts Arlene Foster’s leadership of her party in jeopardy.

There is no killer blow.

We were initially told there were no square brackets in the document, meaning that everything was agreed. The fact that the first section on respecting languages and culture was surrounded by square brackets meant it was still in discussion.

While it is quite clear that the DUP made substantial compromises on the Irish language which will make some in its base uneasy, those brackets give the party enough wriggle room.

Had this been a document with signatures on the dotted line, it would have been an entirely different matter.

The document published by journalist Eamonn Mallie on his website shows that the parties were very far down the road to reaching agreement on Friday 9 February.

From the papers published, the DUP appears to have agreed to Acht na Gaeilge but one which it would sell to the unionist community as being part of a trinity of acts and not a standalone piece of legislation.

The Irish language measures proposed are nowhere near as sweeping as some had previously portrayed. Yes, there is a commissioner but one with advisory as opposed to judicial powers which follows the moderate Scottish model rather than the ambitious Welsh one.

Leaving aside the changed position from the DUP on introducing any Irish Language Act, the draft agreement actually seems a better deal for that party than it is for Sinn Fein.

In the document, it is clear that Sinn Fein has agreed to return to the Executive without equal marriage, a Bill of Rights, or guaranteed reform of the petition of concern. Nothing is offered on equal marriage and the latter two issues are kicked down the road with committees set up to look at them.

With seven of the 13 pages devoted to language matters, it is clear that was the major issue on the agenda.

In summary, the deal on the table largely represented a return to the status quo at Stormont but with a significant, although by no means sweeping, Irish Language Act.

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