If the Irish language gets a pledge today so must an overhaul of the NI Protocol

News Letter editorial on May 11 2022:

By Editorial
Tuesday, 10th May 2022, 12:09 am
Updated Wednesday, 11th May 2022, 3:06 am
News Letter editorial
News Letter editorial

Sinn Fein say they have a very precise commitment to an Irish language act in today’s Queen’s Speech.

It is also widely expected that there will be a reference — perhaps vague — to protecting the Belfast Agreement and the integrity of the UK.

But will there be a meaningful reference to amending the damage done by the Northern Ireland Protocol?

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Sinn Fein say that Brandon Lewis promised “there will be reference to Acht Gaeilge in the Queen’s Speech and that legislation will be brought forward very soon”.

Mr Lewis only days ago was unable to tell Robert Peston that there would be a concrete reference in the Queen’s Speech to plans to legislate to waive parts of the Irish Sea border. We will find out today what will happen.

Imagine for a moment there was a clear commitment to press ahead with meeting the long-term goal of Irish language laws, but only a loose reference to the protocol.

If that was to happen, it would cement the unionist belief that even Conservative and Unionist governments always prioritise nationalist demands over unionist ones. After all, Stormont was brought down in 2017 by Sinn Fein ostensibly over RHI but – it soon became clear – the only unwavering red line to its restoration was an Irish language act, so central are such laws to the republican plan to change the feel of NI.

It was a shameful abuse of mandatory coalition and on a point of principle Stormont should never have been restored on that basis. But SF got their way. Not only that but Mr Lewis, with the apparent acquiescence of the then DUP leader Edwin Poots, specified last summer that Westminster would introduce the gaelic laws if Stormont didn’t.

Then, when unionists complain about the grave constitutional damage of the Act of Union being partially and impliedly repealed in order to hinder internal UK trade, nothing has been done – almost a year after London’s pledge to overhaul the protocol. So let’s hope the government surprise us all today with concrete pledges on how it will do that.

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