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Sinn Fein insist on 'standalone' Irish language act in NI power sharing talks

By Sue Doherty

Sinn Fein are insisting on a 'standalone' Irish language act before they will agree any power sharing deal with the DUP, chairperson Declan Kearney has said.

"Time is running out, the DUP have not moved on the substantive issues that sit at the heart of this political crisis", he told reporters at a press conference on Tuesday evening at Stormont.

"They haven't moved on any of the fundamental rights and equality issues", he said, including the Irish language, LBGT rights and the enactment of a Bill of Rights.

Mr Kearney said these are "the substantive issues upon which progress must be made" and "key to ensuring that we create the political circumstances within which we can, in fact, see a restoration of public confidence in the political process and the establishment of the political institutions on a sustainable and credible basis".

Asked about whether Sinn Fein would "buy into" a piece of legislation dealing with both the Irish language and Ulster Scots, he said the party would not.

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"There must be a free-standing act gaeilge, Irish language act", he said calling it "an equality issue, it is a human rights issue" and "absolutely pivotal to the development of the rights and equality agenda here".

Mr Kearney stated that both the DUP and the British government signed up to a commitment ten years ago to see the establishment of an Irish language act and the DUP "are in default of that commitment".

He also said that such an act is not about one section of the community as "the Irish language belongs to every citizen in this society".

First Minister

Asked whether there had been progress on the question of whether the DUP leader Arlene Foster would return as First Minister, Mr Kearney said the question was "academic" at this stage.

"The issues which need to be addressed urgently and immediately are the fundamental rights and equality issues which sit at the heart of this political crisis," he replied.

"If we can find resolution on the fundamental issues, then we can address the future role of the DUP leader in a possible future executive but at this point in time that question is academic."

Asked whether Thursday's deadline can still be met, he responded: "This can be crunched and resolved within 24 hours."

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