DUP MLA Edwin Poots has spoken Irish at a gathering in Co Donegal, where he accused Sinn Fein of being “reckless” in its ongoing demand for an Irish language act.
He was speaking at the MacGill Summer School in Glenties, during a discussion on north-south relationships.
The introduction of an Irish language act is a major stumbling block in efforts to restore power-sharing at Stormont, and remains a key demand of the republican party.
Mr Poots said his party was not opposed in principle” to legislative support for the Irish language, adding that minority languages legislation was not “in any way anti-unionist”.
But he expressed his belief that Sinn Fein wants to use the language to impose an Irish national identity in Northern Ireland.
Mr Poots spelt out his opposition to bilingual road signs, a public sector quota for Irish language speakers and an Irish language commissioner with powers to sanction public authorities.
“What my party opposes is the introduction of Irish language legislation that is more about developing a sense of national identity than it is about supporting the language itself,” he added.
“What we don’t want is for Irish to be invasive in the lives of those who do not choose to speak the language.
“Anyone who speaks and loves the Irish language is as much a part of Northern Ireland life as a collarette-wearing Orangeman. I want them to feel at home and feel respected and part of society.”
The Lagan Valley MLA branded called Sinn Fein “reckless” for putting a proposed Irish langauge act above setting a budget, health reform and Brexit planning.
At the end of the speech Mr Poots said: “Maireann an chraobh ar an bhfál ach ní mhaireann an lámh do chuir.
“Forgive my broken Irish, but for those of you who, like me, are not fluent it translates to: ‘The branch lives on the hedge though the hand that planted it be dead.’
“It’s an old Irish saying reminding us of our mortality and that our actions today will live long after we are gone.
“May we work together both north-south and east-west to ensure the best for all these British Isles.”