Jim Allister: DUP leadership contenders have yet to clarify their stance on Irish language

It is striking how neither DUP leadership contender has had anything to say on where they will take the DUP on Irish Language legislation.

Wednesday, 12th May 2021, 10:30 am
Updated Wednesday, 12th May 2021, 8:04 pm
Jim Allister QC MLA, the leader of Traditional Unionist Voice, seen speaking in Stormont. "TUV is resolute in rejecting Irish language legislation," he writes

Not a word appears in the ‘manifesto’ of either. Why?

I know some backbenchers believe there will be row back on the rollover which brought Stormont back when the DUP accepted Sinn Fein’s terms in the New Decade New Approach (NDNA) deal.

I expect they will be disappointed.

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Recalling that Mr Poots was the prime defender of the aborted deal in February 2018 built on conceding Irish language legislation, his stance on this issue is at best opaque. Nor is it clear where Mr Donaldson’s flexible compass now points.

TUV is very clear as to why no unionist should be legislating for Irish language promotion: It is critical to be alert to the political purpose of Irish language legislation. The IRA/SF newspaper An Phoblacht set it out very clearly in its edition of December 8 2005 under the heading ‘Irish is central to republican struggle’ –

“We believe that in the new dispensation, a rejuvenated and determined Republican Movement can utilise the language to such an extent that it can characterise our struggle in the new millennium.”

Whether legislation promoting Irish is free standing or part of a trilogy of language legislation is largely a distraction. What matters is the statutory content.

The starting point in the bill attached to NDNA is that official recognition will be given to the status of the Irish language.

Official recognition of the status of Irish will be enforced through an Irish Language Commissioner with statutory powers to “promote and facilitate” the use of Irish throughout the public sector.

This zealot will set standards that every public body must meet in the use of Irish in the delivery of its services. Such will bring obvious recruitment advantage to Irish speakers across the public service. If public bodies are required to promote and deliver their services in Irish, then, clearly staff fluent in the language will be required and preferred.

The enforcer, with statutory authority, will require executive departments and all public bodies to promote and deliver services “through the medium of Irish”. So, take, by way of example, the Department of Infrastructure, which delivers directional signage on our roads.

Will such then be delivered through the medium of Irish? And, if not, won’t some publicly funded legal challenge insist on such, because a right has been established to have the delivery of services through Irish. I fear so.

The pattern of language legislation in Wales and Scotland is of a progressive tightening of the noose. It will be no different here because the standards required to be met by public bodies will be reviewed every 5 years, providing fresh opportunities for escalating Sinn Fein demands.

The figleaf of an Ulster Scots Act is a nonsense. It is not wanted or needed. Incidentally, what is on offer is the poorest of relations because unlike the Irish Language Commissioner the Ulster Scots Commissioner would have no powers to set standards that must be met.

With over £200m spent feting the Irish language in recent years, there is no conceivable basis on which to warrant further endless squander on Irish for the sake of paying the Sinn Fein ransom to get a failed Stormont back. And, of course, the Stormont would be a trilingual farce where every word spoken in English would be printed and translated into Irish and Ulster Scots and vice versa, even though every MLA speaks English.

What an expensive farce!

Thus TUV is resolute in rejecting Irish language legislation. But where do Mr Donaldson and Mr Poots stand?

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