Steve Aiken: It would be foolish to be blackmailed by SF into an Irish language act

Sinn Fein's Northern Ireland leader Michelle O'Neill and, right, DUP leader Arlene Foster and at the Ulster fry breakfast at Manchester Town Hall during the Conservative Party Conference on Tuesday October 3, 2017. Photo: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire
Sinn Fein's Northern Ireland leader Michelle O'Neill and, right, DUP leader Arlene Foster and at the Ulster fry breakfast at Manchester Town Hall during the Conservative Party Conference on Tuesday October 3, 2017. Photo: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire

For months now we have heard heavy rhetoric from Sinn Fein about the importance of defending the principles of the Belfast Agreement.

But at the Conservative Party conference Michelle O’Neill demonstrated that the party’s grasp of its principles is weak.

Letters to Editor

Letters to Editor

While it was interesting to see Arlene Foster extolling the Belfast Agreement’s principle of consent, the right to self-determination should not still be a mystery to some of our political leaders nearly twenty years after the agreement was signed.

Indeed, Sinn Fein’s leader in Northern Ireland seems to have missed that bit completely.

We are now seeing Sinn Fein again focused on antagonism under a leadership team that would appear to be totally lacking in pragmatism.

The entire drive to see an Irish language act agreed before returning to Stormont shows that this is a party obsessed with ideology.

To be blackmailed by Sinn Fein into an act, in whatever guise, would be foolish and ultimately lead to the Balkanisation of Northern Ireland.

It is time for Sinn Fein to pull their horns in. They are fooling no one that they are doing anything other than playing to their base.

How many will thank them for holding out for an Irish language act while hospital waiting lists lengthen and public services are stretched to breaking point?

Steve Aiken OBE MLA, Ulster Unionist Party Chief Whip