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Arlene Foster on Sinn Féin: 'If you feed a crocodile it will keep coming back for more'

In response, Gerry Adams said simply “see you later, alligator”.

Northern Ireland Assembly election 2017 campaign Arlene Foster said that they want to whip up old grievances and fight old battles. Source: Niall Carson

Updated 22.30

FORMER FIRST MINISTER of Northern Ireland Arlene Foster has launched a major salvo in the election campaign by saying that her party will never agree to an Irish language act.

Speaking at a DUP event in Lurgan, Co Armagh, Foster said that seeing as there are more Polish-speaking people living in Northern Ireland than Irish-speaking, then a Polish language act should take precedence.

Regarding demands from Sinn Féin, Foster said: “If you feed a crocodile it will keep coming back for more”.

Separately, at a Sinn Féin event in Belfast, the party’s hierarchy reacted with a degree of mirth to Foster’s words.

“We are not interested in negativity,” said the party’s new leader in the North Michelle O’Neill. Party president Gerry Adams, who was also at the event, said: “See you later, alligator.”

Earlier, Foster had taken aim at Sinn Féin and Adams, saying that the republican party president’s “radical agenda” for Northern Ireland is clear.

She said that the collapse of the Stormont Assembly last month was proof of the failure of the republican project and that Sinn Féin’s new leader O’Neill “was installed by Gerry Adams and she will be instructed by Gerry Adams”.

How do we know? Because she told us. When asked about making decisions she said she is, ‘part of Gerry’s team’. She went on to say, ‘he is still our President so we will be working with him very closely’.

“So let’s be clear, at this election Gerry Adams is no longer in the shadows, he is front and centre of Sinn Féin’s campaign.

He is their leader and hoping for the opportunity to implement his radical agenda for Northern Ireland.

Foster has been receiving a large amount of criticism for her reaction to the Renewable Heating Incentive scandal, which happened when Foster was minister of the department responsible

The mistake could see up to half a billion pounds wasted on a scheme that was meant to conserve energy, but that saw some businesses and households burning energy just to avail of the scheme.

The scandal triggered calls for the newly appointed Foster to resign, but Foster has denied she is to blame, insisted that an inquiry will find her innocent, and that Sinn Féin are using the RHI scandal for their own gains.

The Northern Ireland elections will be held on the 2 March.

But this isn’t the first time the future of Sinn Féin as a political party has been cast into doubt because of Gerry Adams’ leadership of the party.

The majority of political commentators believe that when leaders with republican pasts resign from their role in the party, that it will gain momentum among more voters.

There is the (less common) theory that Gerry Adams brings an element of recognition to the party that no other politician does, and if/when he leaves politics, that the Sinn Féin party could suffer as a result of that.

Additional reporting Cianan Brennan

Read: Does Gerry Adams regret getting involved with the Stack meeting? Yes and no

Read: Man jabs knife at till assistant during off-licence armed robbery

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