Pro-united Ireland figures speak up for DUP Irish language stance

Micheal Martin
Micheal Martin

A senior republican politician in the Dail has sharply criticised Sinn Fein’s instant rejection of the DUP’s idea to revive power-sharing.

Micheal Martin, leader of Fianna Fail and ex-Irish foreign minister, issued a strongly-worded statement accusing Sinn Fein of “unacceptable” behaviour by dismissing the DUP’s pledge to draw up a language act if its erstwhile partners-in-government agreed to restore the Stormont Executive in the meantime.

Mr Martin – whose party was founded by Eamon De Valera, and bears the official name ‘Fianna Fail – The Republican Party’ – said Arlene Foster’s proposal had “warranted engagement not immediate rejection”.

He said the impasse has hit health, education, and even left politicians “powerless to do anything following the recent horrific flash floods”.

“We should remember that Sinn Fein initially collapsed the Executive because of the renewable heating controversy. Eight months later the issue has now changed to the enactment of the Irish language act,” he said.

“While Fianna Fail supports the Irish language act, we do not believe that it should be used as a political pawn, when basic services for citizens are deteriorating.”

It came after current foreign minister Simon Coveney (from the Fine Gael party) wrote online late on Thursday that Mrs Foster’s speech had been “a genuine effort to show leadership and reach out towards compromise”.

On Friday, when asked to comment on Sinn Fein’s rejection of its contents, his Department of Foreign Affairs said that it was not going to respond.

Whilst the SDLP leader Colum Eastwood on Thursday had dismissed the DUP proposal as “the definition of kicking the can down the road”, colleague Claire Hanna, South Belfast MLA, said on Twitter: “Wish it was a bigger step, but it’s still a step.

“There’s no alternative to talking & there’s no Good Friday Agreement without institutions.”

Later on Friday afternoon, Gerry Adams hit back at Mr Martin’s remarks, dubbing him a “hurler on the ditch” (a phrase somewhat akin to ‘backseat driver’).

“It’s disappointing that Micheal Martin chooses to criticise the imperative of standing up for Irish language rights and equality,” he said.

“Teachta Martin has never failed to use difficulties with the political process in the North to attack Sinn Fein.”