Unionists have been warned that any statutory protection for the Irish language would deliver a key and long-standing objective of the IRA.
Concerns have been raised following a rare post-retirement contribution from Peter Robinson – in which the former DUP leader suggested the party is preparing to accept new legislation to protect the Irish language.
Mr Robinson suggested it could be acceptable for “arrangements to be put on a statutory basis to protect and support” both Irish and Ulster-Scots.
But TUV leader Jim Allister has urged unionists to “pause and reflect” before agreeing to Sinn Fein’s demands for legislation to protect the Irish language.
The North Antrim MLA highlighted that the republican movement’s ‘bible’ – The Green Book – outlines the revival of the Irish language as one of its political objectives.
And he claimed the IRA Army Council – which, according to a 2015 report by the NI Office, continues to oversee Sinn Fein with an overarching strategy – will be “delighted” with the progress republicans have made towards this objective in the ongoing talks process at Stormont.
Despite the findings of the NIO, Sinn Fein has repeatedly insisted that the PIRA no longer exists.
The IRA’s Green Book, in a section dealing with the government it aims to establish across the island of Ireland, states: “Culturally we would hope to restore Gaelic, not from the motivation of national chauvinism but from the viewpoint of achieving with the aid of a cultural revival the distinctive new Irish socialist state: as a bulwark against imperialist encroachments from whatever quarter.”
Mr Allister believes the republican movement’s attitude toward the Irish language “could not be clearer”.
“The Irish language is a cultural weapon of the IRA aimed at making us ‘distinctive’ from the rest of the British Isles. They want Irish to act as a ‘bulwark’ against British identity and culture,” Mr Allister said.
“It is no secret that the promotion of Irish is a long-standing republican objective to undermine the Britishness of Northern Ireland.
“However, the central nature of an Irish language act to the republican project as revealed in the Provo ‘bible’, the Green Book, has until now been overlooked in the discussion.”
Warning that any legislation designed to protect the Irish language would “fundamentally change the character of Northern Ireland”, Mr Allister added: “However, this is dressed up let no one be in any doubt that statutory promotion of Irish isn’t about civil rights but delivery of a key demand of the IRA. This is something they make no secret of.”
Appealing for the DUP to “pause and reflect” on their stance over the Irish language, Mr Allister added: “Do they really want to go down in history as delivering a key objective spelt out so unambiguously by the IRA?”
Echoing Mr Allister’s assertion that Irish is a key weapon in Sinn Fein’s arsenal, historian Ruth Dudley Edwards told the News Letter: “Sinn Fein do a great disservice to the Irish language by cynically using it as a political and cultural weapon for party reasons. The Irish language act they demand will damage it further.
“The remains of the IRA Army Council still run the republican movement and care nothing for the Irish language except as a weapon of war.”