TUV leader Jim Allister has warned the DUP of the dangers of striking an agreement with Sinn Fein which would lead to a Stormont “built on sand”.
He said Sinn Fein’s leaders Mary Lou McDonald and Michelle O’Neill made it clear at the weekend they will only return to power-sharing on their own terms and therefore urged Arlene Foster’s party not to make any “further concessions”.
The veteran politician said: “With the boast from Sinn Fein on Saturday that they would only return to the Stormont Executive ‘on their terms’, the dangers in the DUP’s desperation to get back into office in a failed system are obvious.
“There is no justification whatever for any further concessions. Irish is already more than generously feted. Any legislation to promote it further – whether it is called an Irish language act or a cultural act wrapped up in tartan ribbon – will monumentally aid the Sinn Fein agenda of destabilising Northern Ireland.”
Of Sinn Fein’s red line on rights, Mr Allister said: “Rights-based recognition will be a vehicle, whatever the DUP might pretend, to hollow out our Britishness and turn the public service into a cold house for unionists.
“Even if they get enough sticking plaster this week – and a financial sweetener – to resuscitate Stormont, it won’t last.
“It won’t last because it is built on sand – the sand that Sinn Fein never has been, and never will be, there to make Northern Ireland work – quite the opposite.
“Hence, the folly of feeding the crocodile.”
UUP MLA Roy Beggs said he would not welcome a deal that diverted funds away from essential services towards an Irish language act.
Of a possible deal in the pipeline Mr Beggs said: “I’m unaware of the details of anything that is being proposed.
“Whether it is right for the DUP to strike a deal with Sinn Fein would be prevalent on the nature of any deal and whether a constructive, stable government can be formed.”
He added: “I take a particular interest in health issues and I’m very concerned about the pressures that presently exist on our GPs, in our accident and emergency units and in our hospitals.
“I’m very concerned at anything that will possibly divert resources which could be used to improve health and the long-term well being of the Northern Ireland population to satisfy language demands that will serve no one.”
He suggested that disrespect shown by the DUP towards the Irish language – including Gergory Campbell’s ‘curry my yoghurt’ comment and Paul Givan’s decision to cut Irish language bursaries – heightened the issue and turned it into the main sticking point in current talks.
He added: “The Irish language and culture should be respected by everyone.
“We should simply all respect each others languages and cultures and ensure that our limited funds go towards vital and essential services for everyone.”