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DUP will not sign off on stand-alone Irish Language Act, Arlene Foster says

Yesterday, British Prime Minister Theresa May said there is a “basis for an agreement” at Stormont and the Executive could be running soon.

DUP leader Arlene Foster
DUP leader Arlene Foster
Image: Dominic Lipinski via PA Images

DUP LEADER ARLENE Foster has reiterated that her party will not sign off on a stand-alone Irish Language Act.

Foster shut down speculation that progress was being made on the potential enactment of such laws following yesterday’s Stormont power-sharing negotiations.

British Prime Minister Theresa May met with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, the DUP and Sinn Féin to discuss the restoration of power-sharing in Stormont.

The proposed Irish Language Act is something Sinn Féin is adamant on pushing through, and an issue that has halted an agreement between the party and the DUP through the past year’s impasse.

In an interview with the Press Association, the DUP leader said: “There was a lot of speculation very recently, not least because the Prime Minister was here yesterday, that the deal was done. The deal’s not done. We still have some significant gaps to deal with and we’ll continue to work on that.

There won’t be a free-standing Irish Language Act, we’ve always made that very clear.

Foster also ruled out the possibility of any laws that would require bilingual road signs in Northern Ireland, Irish as a compulsory language in schools, or quotas of Irish language speakers within the North’s civil service.
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Roadblocks

Following the appointment of Karen Bradley as the new Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, talks began again over two weeks ago in an attempt to restore power-sharing.

The central stumbling blocks have been Sinn Féin’s demand for a standalone Irish Language Act, as well as the cash-for-ash scandal, and achieving marriage equality.

Speaking to reporters yesterday evening, Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said her party does not believe there is “anything insurmountable left to resolve” in talks to restore the Executive in Northern Ireland.

Foster said in her interview today that the DUP is trying to “find an accommodation, a way forward where we can have a genuinely shared space in Northern Ireland”.

“What I said back in August of last year is that what we wanted to do was find an accommodation where one language or culture wasn’t given primacy over the other language or culture,” Foster said.

We value the fact that there are Irish language speakers living in Northern Ireland who want to speak in Irish and that’s fine but they cannot impinge on the rights of those of us who do not speak the Irish language.

https://twitter.com/rtenews/status/963431662917996545

Despite Foster’s comments today, yesterday, Theresa May said there was a “basis for an agreement” in Stormont and that a Northern Ireland Executive could be “up and running very soon”.

“While some differences remain, I believe that it is possible to see the basis of an agreement here.”

Read: Theresa May says there is ‘basis for agreement’ to get Stormont ‘up and running very soon’

More: Michelle O’Neill says Stormont stalemate talks will conclude next week

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