An enforced and divisive Irish Language Act is the last thing that Northern Ireland needs
Having heard, yet again, that there will be no Executive without an Irish Language Act, I felt quite sick.
I have no problem with support for Irish. While a member of the Community Relations Council, I voted for funds to encourage people to learn it. If, however, it were to be part of an Act, it would be a further barrier to dialogue between the two communities.
I have recently been in Waterford, Donegal and Dublin, and was unable to find an Irish speaker. When I explained there was great pressure in the north for an Irish Language Act, one businessman said it should be avoided. No one he knew spoke Irish, save a smattering retained from school, and if it wasn't for the English on the road signs, no one would know where they were going.
My opinion is that this is being forced by Sinn Fein as another barrier to any debate between the sides, to create dissension on the basis of the set-up costs, to keep two school systems, to encourage Ulster-Scots and provide a method to delay almost every aspect of public life that will suddenly need translation.
The Republic's government has tried to force Irish for almost 100 years. My recent experience suggests it's just about dead, so why should we turn onto a path that will lead to language quotas in the civil service, the police and judiciary, a path that few really want in a divided society?
Why has the normally reasonable SDLP thrown their support behind Sinn Fein? Most people would like a return to a local Executive, but most would also prefer direct rule to an enforced Irish Language Act.