DUP leader Arlene Foster has said Sinn Fein’s refusal to move on a stand alone Irish language act has made it impossible to build a shared society in Northern Ireland.
In an interview with The Sunday News on BBC Radio Ulster, Mrs Foster said Sinn Fein’s “ring-fencing” of the act is being used to “humiliate” unionists.
During the interview, which was broadcast on Sunday, she said: “As we have said since the election in March of this year we want to see our devolved institutions up and running. We want to be back in government. We’ve made that clear all along. We’ve no red lines, but as you know Sinn Fein have put up this barrier around going back into devolution.”
Discussing her proposal to deal with culture and language which was rejected almost instantly by Sinn Fein, she said: “We were very disappointed with the speed of the reaction from Sinn Fein. We thought they would have taken some time to consider the content of the speech ... it was a common sense proposal to try and move the process forward, to try and find that solution.
“There’s no point if we’re in a negotiation for each of us to take up positions and not move from those positions. We have moved, we have moved to try and be reasonable. We’ve moved to try and find a solution for the difficulties that we’re in and it is really now a matter for Sinn Fein as to whether they want to try and build a shared society for everyone here in Northern Ireland.
“That’s certainly the premise of my speech and one where I want to find an agreement that is accepted not just by unionists but by nationalists as well.”
Mrs Foster did not accept that it was too little, too late.
When asked if she thought her party may have to accede to an Irish language act, she said: “Our position is very clear in relation to the Irish language act. We have failed to be convinced that there is a need for a free-standing Irish language act.
“In many ways this has become a totemic issue in so far as Sinn Fein collapse the executive in January, we had an election, people put us back with our respective strengths into the assembly, and they wanted to see us back in governing in that assembly immediately.
“But Sinn Fein has decided to ring-fence the free-standing Irish language act in a way that frankly makes it impossible for those of us who want to move forward. This is just being used as a way to humiliate unionism and those of us who believe in the British way of life.”