Paula Bradshaw: It seems incredible to me that the government is stalled over the Irish language

Paula Bradshaw MLA of Alliance, centre, at a campaign for a standalone Irish language act in August. Also pictured are, from left, Nicola Mallon MLA of the SDLP, Steven Agnew MLA of the Green Party, Gerry Carroll MLA of PBP, Ciaran Mac Giolla Bhein, and Gerry Adams TD of Sinn Fein. Ms Bradshaw says it is ludicrous of the Ulster Unionist Party still to oppose Irish language legislation. ''Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye
Paula Bradshaw MLA of Alliance, centre, at a campaign for a standalone Irish language act in August. Also pictured are, from left, Nicola Mallon MLA of the SDLP, Steven Agnew MLA of the Green Party, Gerry Carroll MLA of PBP, Ciaran Mac Giolla Bhein, and Gerry Adams TD of Sinn Fein. Ms Bradshaw says it is ludicrous of the Ulster Unionist Party still to oppose Irish language legislation. ''Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye

Having seen it all before, it is understandable expectations are low among the public for a breakthrough to restore devolution over the coming weeks.

Yet the fact remains if politicians were willing to put country before party – for real – success would follow, with not just the restoration of local decision-making but also improved structures for delivering on behalf of everyone.

Letter to the editor

Letter to the editor

At a time when waiting lists are soaring and A&Es are under severe pressure, school budgets are being squeezed while thousands of desks remain unoccupied, and employment levels are falling, it seems incredible to me the government is stalled over the Irish language.

Not only are many astonished by political parties’ priorities, but they are rightly baffled as to why an accommodation cannot be easily reached.

What is all the more baffling is some parties, once constructive players, seem to have left the field of play altogether.

It is ludicrous for the Ulster Unionist Party to continue to oppose Irish language legislation while at the same time saying they have no idea what would be in such legislation.

The fact remains I presented to them, and to every other party group in the Assembly, workable proposals for language and culture legislation which would firm up rights of people who cherish the Irish language and wish to learn and use it, while at the same time ensuring there would be no cost and compulsion to those who legitimately take no interest in it at all.

Indeed, not only did the UUP, like every other party group, have sight of these proposals, but in fact many of their comments were incorporated into them.

What we have here is a classic case of putting party before country – an attempt at populism by appealing to some people’s instincts for the sake of party gain, rather than at leadership by taking people forward together for everyone.

The inevitable outcome is we remain without a local administration and on a path towards crucial decisions affecting our future being taken by direct rule ministers.

To get power-sharing back, we need to be committed to just that – to sharing power. Just as I, with a son in the armed forces, would like to see implementation of the Military Covenant here in Northern Ireland, I would also like to see implementation of Irish language legislation to support those who cherish the Irish language.

I would also like to see a strategy to encourage greater understanding of loyalism, improved teaching of English as a foreign language for those arriving to contribute to Northern Ireland who speak other languages, and more resources for the arts.

These are not competing goals, but rather complementary, aimed at ensuring our society is a place in which we all feel comfortable expressing our own identities and respecting others in a meaningful way.

All the political parties, including the UUP even though they are currently intent solely on narrow partisan interests, have a role in shaping our collective future. Over the next few weeks they have a simply choice – confrontation or compromise?

Or put even more simply, party or country?

Paula Bradshaw MLA, Alliance, South Belfast