The debate has long moved past whether an Irish act is standalone

News Letter editorial
News Letter editorial
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The DUP has been put in an intolerable position since last January, in which the wreckers of Sinn Fein have been allowed to bring down Stormont.

Hospitals and schools are rudderless because of republican blackmail.

London will not respond to this scandal with direct rule.

Anyone who is naive politically, and motivated by issues such as abortion or gay marriage, might have thought that these were the topics that matter to Sinn Fein, given how much noise they make on them. But the only real red line the party has is an Irish language act, and for good reason. It will be used to change Northern Ireland radically. It will be used to make people who have no interest in Gaelic feel uncomfortable as it is used in the west of the Province where Protestants are in a minority — sometimes in a tiny majority.

All of this is coming in any event: republicans will push Irish as much as they can and where it is not needed or wanted.

They already have ample broadcasting provision and special schools which are kept afloat at great expense while larger schools are forced to close. But an act will make it all easier.

It is quite remarkable that a party can pursue such a goal and emerge as victims but that is what has happened, facilitated often by people who are not Irish speakers but who think they show how enlightened they are by backing an act.

When Arlene Foster is nice about the Irish language she is applauded and cajoled to go further, when critical she is vilified.

Unfortunately, however, there was a fuss yesterday when Mrs Foster yesterday dismissed a ‘standalone’ Irish language act.

But the debate is long past ‘standalone’ provision. Ransom demands have already almost achieved an Irish act, albeit one packaged alongside Ulster Scots legislation (for which there is no demand and which Ulster Scots enthusiasts would not in any event seek to use in a sectarian way).

Congratulations to Rev Mervyn Gibson for putting the debate where it must be: about an Irish language act and the impact it will have, even if disguised under other names or frills.