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Sinn Fein rejection of DUP olive branch on Irish language pure selfishness: Dodds

By Suzanne Breen

DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds has accused Sinn Fein of rejecting a "common sense proposal" to save power-sharing at Stormont.

Mr Dodds said Arlene Foster's offer to legislate for the Irish language within a set period if the Executive was restored was rejected just 90 minutes after it was made.

He also accused Sinn Fein of prioritising its "narrow self-interests over the common good".

However, the republican party hit back and said the DUP was not in a position to lecture anyone about common sense or selflessness.

Writing for The House political magazine, Mr Dodds said his party's "reasonable" proposal had been welcomed by Fianna Fail and Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney.

"I call our proposal common sense because it was the way any other legislature would deal with a similar issue," he said.

"Sinn Fein wants the Irish language protected in legislation. Therefore it makes sense for a draft Bill to be tabled in the Assembly. Let MLAs debate it, scrutinise it, propose amendments to it and ultimately pass it. That's democracy. That's how sound legislation is made."

The North Belfast MP also insisted that "one political demand" should not be allowed to halt much-needed health and education reforms and economic progress.

"Surely the lesson of the last decade has been that Northern Ireland only moves forward when everyone works together," Mr Dodds said.

"A winners and losers approach will only guarantee failure in both the short and long-term.

"Attempts by Sinn Fein to prioritise their narrow self-interests over the collective good help no one.

"The coming days and weeks will be a real test of Sinn Fein's political maturity and commitment to the people of Northern Ireland."

Mr Dodds warned that unless agreement was found quickly, direct rule would be introduced because Northern Ireland could not "continue on cruise-control with no hands on the steering wheel".

"Those currently holding Northern Ireland to ransom continue to peddle a myth that the Irish Government will have some role in governing Northern Ireland. They will not," he said.

"The patience of the Ulster people is world-renowned, but they are being pushed to the brink by those who think narrow political interests should trump matters of life and death."

However, Sinn Fein Foyle MP Elisha McCallion said the DUP could not lecture others on common sense when it had signed up to support "every Tory budget and every piece of Tory Brexit legislation without even having seen them".

Mrs McCallion added: "If the DUP are seriously concerned about public services and the well-being of people who live here, they would tear up their blank cheque to the Tories.

"And they would end their denial of rights to citizens here - the same rights which are protected in law everywhere else on these islands."

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