Robin Swann: The Ulster Unionist Party still says no to an Irish language act

The Ulster Unionist Party leader Robin Swann. Picture by Stephen Hamilton/Press Eye
The Ulster Unionist Party leader Robin Swann. Picture by Stephen Hamilton/Press Eye

The Ulster Unionist position on an Irish language act is perfectly clear and has not altered.

As I have stated before, we have no problem with the Irish language but remain unconvinced of the need for an Irish language act.

The Belfast Agreement made generous provision for the Irish language and the bottom line is there is no discrimination against Irish speakers.

We are concerned that in a society which is already beset with divisions, the current debate surrounding an Irish language act is serving to further divide society.

Instead of focussing on that which should unite society – the need to tackle waiting-lists, the crisis in school budgets, and the need to create new and better jobs – Northern Ireland is being all but held to ransom by Sinn Fein demands about a language that was politicised by them and used and abused by them for their own selfish reasons.

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Sinn Fein have now disassociated themselves from the Conradh na Gaeilge proposal that 10% of civil service recruits should be fluent Irish speakers. It should however be noted that the idea of positive discrimination has not been ruled out completely, merely the percentage.

Quite simply, the Ulster Unionist Party will not support discrimination against English speakers.

The experience of the Republic of Ireland should act as a warning as to how legislation is no guarantee to promoting the Irish Language.

After almost a century of compulsory Irish language lessons in schools and support from the State, the use of the Irish language is still in decline and English is the common tongue. And as the previous Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny said on BBC`s the View on 26 March 2015, Ireland is ‘an English speaking island’.

Stormont needs to be re-established so that we can all get on with the job of working to improve the daily lives of all of the people who live here.

The Ulster Unionist Party does not believe that we need an Irish Language Act to do that.

If other parties have changed their position, they can explain that themselves.

Robin Swann MLA, Ulster Unionist leader

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