Belfast Telegraph

Sinn Fein 'disappointed' after Foster says party using Irish language act to 'humiliate unionism'

By Claire Williamson

Sinn Fein has described Arlene Foster's comments that the party is using demands for an Irish language act to "humiliate unionism" as "disappointing".

Mrs Foster in an interview with the BBC on Sunday said that despite intensive talks between the DUP and Sinn Fein recently, there were still "significant issues" between the two parties.

She said she was "very disappointed" at Sinn Fein's rejection of her proposal to legislate for the Irish language within a set time period if the Executive was restored immediately and denied the offer was "too little, too late".

She said: "Sinn Fein has decided to ring-fence the free-standing Irish language act in a way that, frankly, makes it impossible for those of us who want to move forward but see that this is just being used as a way to humiliate unionism and those of us who believe in the British way of life."

Talks aimed at restoring a power-sharing government are continuing with Secretary of State James Brokenshire calling on Northern Ireland's parties to reach an agreement as he said the window of opportunity to restore devolution is "closing rapidly".

He said on Thursday that Northern Ireland was on a "glide path" to great UK government intervention if agreement wasn't reached.

Sinn Fein's John O'Dowd said he was "disappointed" at Mrs Foster's comments and said he had hoped that after weeks of negotiations "the DUP negotiating side understood Sinn Fein's position".

Asked whether there had been any progress in the talks Mr O'Dowd told Good Morning Ulster: "There was discussion between the parties and perhaps what's required is rather than talking is some listening."

He continued: "I'm disappointed that after several weeks of what Arlene Foster described as intense discussions that the DUP think our intention is to humiliate unionism and the British way of life.

"Is the Gaelic act in Scotland or the Welsh act in Wales designed to humiliate those who are unionist in those countries and the Britishness of those countries - of course it's not. It's about the right and entitlement of language speakers.

He added: "If the DUP were to bring forward legislation in relation to Ulster Scots language I think that is something we are duty bound to support.

"We behold no fear in relation to Ulster Scots, it does not undermine my Irish republicanism or my Irishness I hold no fear for it whatsoever."

Mr O'Dowd said he felt Mrs Foster's comments indicated there had not been "sufficient progress" in the talks.

He said: "After several weeks of negations and discussions and engaging with each other I hoped the DUP negotiating side understood Sinn Fein's position. Clearly there hasn't been sufficient progress.

"I can only speak from our own point of view, paid or unpaid the issues are not going away. There will never be an Executive again unless the issues are resolved. So let's use this opportunity to resolve the outstanding issues and they can be resolved very quickly", he added.

Belfast Telegraph Digital

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph