Consequences of deal on Irish language could be ‘dire’: Allister

TUV leader Jim Allister. Photo: Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
TUV leader Jim Allister. Photo: Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press

Jim Allister has warned of “dire” consequences if the DUP agrees to new Irish language legislation in return for the restoration of the power-sharing executive.

The TUV leader also called for a “radically different” system of government at Stormont as speculation mounts that the DUP and Sinn Fein have made progress during reinvigorated negotiations.

Sinn Fein have the will and the ability to bring [Stormont] down again. And again. And again

TUV leader Jim Allister

Mr Allister was commenting after Irish foreign affairs minister Simon Coveney said the talks were at a “sensitive” point.

Mr Coveney, who has been involved in the negotiation process along with Secretary of State James Brokenshire, said the DUP and Sinn Fein “want to make the process work” but that they still face “real challenges.”

Addressing the Seanad in Dublin yesterday, Mr Coveney said: “There are sensitive discussions happening today. I am somewhat cautious in what I am saying. I don’t think it would be helpful to make a running commentary today.”

Mr Allister said the unionist establishment was “desperate” to get back into Stormont and could be willing to give ground on Sinn Fein’s key demands around Irish language.

“The consequences of this for Northern Ireland – both culturally and in terms of discrimination against non-Irish speakers – would be dire.

“Furthermore, even if Stormont returns everyone will know that Sinn Fein have the will and the ability to bring it down again. And again. And again.

“They have no interest in bringing us good and stable government as part of the UK. Rather they want to create the impression that Northern Ireland is a ‘failed political entity’ and that the only answer is a united Ireland,” Mr Allister said.

The Stormont government collapsed in January after the resignation of the late Martin McGuinness as deputy first minister in a row over the DUP’s handling of a botched renewable heat incentive (RHI) green energy scheme.

During his Seanad address, Mr Coveney also said: “Ten months have now passed. It means the people of Northern Ireland are not being served by an elected and accountable devolved government.

“This is not a sustainable position for much longer.

“This is a most critical point for the devolved institutions and peace process as a whole.”