DUP opposed to '˜affirmative action' on Irish language

The DUP has finally issued a statement condemning the idea of '˜affirmative action' to bolster the number of Irish speakers in the civil service.

Wednesday, 5th July 2017, 8:50 pm
Updated Tuesday, 18th July 2017, 8:27 am
Simon Hamilton indicated during a TV interview that the DUP opposed any quotas

The party was asked on Monday and Tuesday for an statement about the idea of having a 10% quota for Irish speakers in the civil service, after Sinn Fein was said to have raised the issue in the Stormont negotiations.

However, no official line was forthcoming from the DUP.

The UUP had firmly rejected the idea of this ‘affirmative action’ target, with party stalwart Michael McGimpsey (Northern Ireland’s first-ever devolved culture minister) telling the News Letter on Monday that “there are very strong elements of sectarianism” about the idea.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

UUP leader Robin Swann then added to this on Tuesday, stating such a plan would be “totally unacceptable”.

Sinn Fein neither confirmed nor denied this was one of its demands when contacted by the News Letter earlier in the week, before one of its top members publicly rejected it yesterday (see left).

Asked again on Wednesday if it had an official party line on the matter, the DUP said: “We want to see an agreement that is fair and proportionate and which does not elevate one language, culture or section of the community above any other.

“Whilst we have no difficulty with supporting rights for those who speak Irish, it should not involve the introduction of positive discrimination in employment.”

The party also pointed to a remark Simon Hamilton had made on the BBC’s Sunday Politics show, indicating it did not support such a quota.

During that appearance, Mr Hamilton made a passing allusion to the subject in the midst of a discussion with John O’Dowd, and said the DUP rejected the kind of “muscular” demands Sinn Fein was making.

He suggested these involved measures around road signage, broadcasting, “or where there is 10% of jobs in the civil service set aside for Irish language speakers”.

He said an act encompassing these things was not something “that Northern Ireland needs”, before the discussion moved on.