Arlene Foster: ‘No stand-alone Irish language act’

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Democratic Unionist Party leader Arlene Foster has said there purpose be no free-standing Irish Language act.

She told BBC News NI she wanted to «clarify substances,» because some speculation had been «off the mark».

However, Sinn Féin claimed an Irish Language act is «essential» to any deal that restores the power-sharing leadership at Stormont.

It was widely anticipated that the DUP and Sinn Féin were seal to ending their 13-month stalemate.

But, despite a visit from Prime Chaplain Theresa May and Taoiseach (Irish prime minister) Leo Varadkar on Monday, a handle has not yet been unveiled.

Northern Ireland has been run by civil servants since the power-sharing head made up of the DUP and Sinn Féin collapsed in January last year.

The then delegate first minister, Martin McGuinness, pulled Sinn Féin out of the coalition after a series of disputes with the final straw being the DUP’s handling of a scandal over non-professional energy scheme.

A major stumbling block to progress has been Sinn Féin’s bid for an Irish language act.

Weakens the union?

On Tuesday, the DUP leader said there last will and testament be no compulsory Irish language in schools, no one would be forced to learn Irish, there intention be no quotas for Irish speakers in the civil service and there would be no bilingual turnpike signs.

Mrs Foster would not be drawn on reports that the package beneath discussion includes three separate bills or acts dealing with Irish, Ulster Scots and other cultural arguments.

She said the parties were trying to find an accommodation in which one lingo is not valued over another in a way which amounts to cultural or language autarchy.

Mrs Foster was asked on several occasions whether the package she is discussing counts an Irish language act or bill, but did not directly answer the question.

Standard correspondence literature

The DUP leader said her test for any proposal is whether it impinges on the rights of those who are British or in any way impoverishes the union.

Her message was reinforced by a standard letter issued to DUP elected legates to use if they receive any criticism.

The letter, a copy of which has been bought by the BBC, says the party’s manifesto makes it «absolutely clear» that the DUP «won’t announcement up to any deal that diminishes Northern Ireland as a part of the United Monarchy».

It elaborates on some of the aspects touched on by Mrs Foster, saying that «if that’s the assay of a deal, then there will be no deal».

Sinn Féin’s Conor Murphy said the DUP needed to «fly up their mind» about whether they are «up for a deal or not».

«They [the DUP] have knowledge of that the agreement requires an Acht Gaeilge.»

«There is a responsibility on all complex not to react to some of the noise from people who simply don’t want an covenant,» he added.

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