Call our bluff on Irish language act, Sinn Fein tells DUP

Pat Sheehan said it was 'ludicrous' to say Sinn Fein was blocking power-sharing to avoid tough decisions
Pat Sheehan said it was 'ludicrous' to say Sinn Fein was blocking power-sharing to avoid tough decisions

The DUP’s claim that Sinn Fein is using the Irish language issue as an excuse to avoid the restoration of power-sharing in Northern Ireland “doesn’t stand up to scrutiny”, the republican party has said.

During a discussion on north-south relations at the Magill Summer School in Co Donegal on Wednesday, DUP MLA Edwin Poots said the proposed Irish language act was a “useful tool” for Sinn Fein to avoid the hard decisions that come with government.

But Sinn Fein MLA Pat Sheehan has described that position as “ludicrous”, stating that his party is “absolutely committed” to the re-establishment of the Executive.

He added: “If the DUP really believe we aren’t (committed) then they should call our bluff. They should agree to an Irish language act and the implementation of the other rights-based issues which are still outstanding.”

Mr Sheehan made no mention of Sinn Fein’s insistence that DUP leader Arlene Foster cannot return as Stormont first minister while a public inquiry into the botched RHI scheme is ongoing.

The republican party’s stance on the DUP leader has been one of a number of issues of dispute standing in the way of restoring devolution.

Mr Sheehan claimed no party had done more to make the power-sharing institutions work than Sinn Fein, adding that no individual had done more than the late deputy first minister, Martin McGuinness.

“So to claim we are seeking to avoid government is plainly ludicrous,” Mr Sheehan said.

At the gathering in Co Donegal, Mr Poots appeared to suggest that the current impasse at Stormont may have been avoided if Mr McGuinness was still on the political scene .

He added: “The theory that we may not be in the political difficulties that are currently being experienced had Martin McGuinness still been present is one that has been put forward by a number of people.

“It is not a theory that I find myself able to disagree very substantially with.

“I can say categorically that we (DUP) have approached all of the talks with a positive attitude and a willingness to find agreement.”