SF wrongly suggests Irish language act in Agreement

A section of the audience at Saturday's Ulster Unionist Party conference. 

Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
A section of the audience at Saturday's Ulster Unionist Party conference. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.

Sinn Fein has accused the UUP of now opposing the Belfast Agreement because the party opposes something which was never even mentioned in the 1998 agreement.

A statement on Saturday said that the UUP was now “firmly anti-agreement and should be honest enough to admit it”.

The press release – which also erroneously referred to Upper Bann MLA John O’Dowd as being MLA for Mid Ulster – said the UUP had “clearly abandoned the Good Friday Agreement” and that Mr O’Dowd had made his comments “after UUP party leader Robin Swann told his party conference that they would not support Irish language legislation”.

However, the 1998 agreement made no reference whatsoever to an Irish langauge act and UUP chairman Lord Empey, one of the agreement’s key negotiators, told the conference that Sinn Fein never even raised the issue during the talks.

Mr Swann only briefly dwelt on the issue of an Irish language act although it was running like a thread through the speeches of most speakers from the platform.

He said it was “unfair and untrue” to portray the UUP’s opposition to the legislation as a lurch to the right because the party’s stance had not changed since 1998.

“The Irish language and an Irish language act are two separate issues.

“I have said it before, and our track record stands. We have no issue with those who cherish the language being facilitated in doing so.

“But the intention was to put in place measures that allowed the language to grow at its own pace, free from political interference. An Irish language act contradicts this thinking.”