The two PMs ought to ignore open letter on the Irish language

News Letter editorial
News Letter editorial
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It is becoming a feature of politics in Northern Ireland that every so often a group of republicans and nationalists, occasionally with support from a few people who would not designate themselves as such, write an open letter about the alleged denial of their rights.

This time, the letter has been sent to Theresa May and Leo Varadkar. Their two governments ought to ignore such a tactic, for the simple reason that such letters cannot be the basis on which political policy is developed.

After all, nationalism would not tolerate it for five minutes if relentless pressure and open letters from unionists were to influence policy in favour of unionism in any respect.

But there are no such letters from unionism, apart from a letter from ‘civic unionism,’ in response to a previous complaint about denial of rights, that was so mild and placatory in tone it was hard to see what the civic unionists were saying.

Despite that shortcoming in the ‘civic unionist’ response, they were right to try to put forward a counter point of view, because in Northern Ireland those who shout the loudest are tending to prevail. Not at first of course, but they succeed in making their demand the baseline for negotiations.

This has been the defining feature of legacy, in which the great bulk of victims of the Troubles, relatives and survivors of the 2,100 people murdered by republican terrorists, have been silent and dignified but are now losing out in investigations due to republicans pushing a focus on state killings.

Most of all, it is apparent with regard to the Irish language.

The language is only spoken to an advanced level by around 1% of the Northern Ireland population, yet it is, rightly, generously funded as a key part of a heritage that has a special place in the affections of one section of the community.

But republicans want more, beginning with an act that will be used to change the very feel of NI. A weak UK government has let Sinn Fein collapse Stormont in pursuit of this aim. And Simon Coveney, on behalf of Dublin, merely agrees with SF that we all must have this act.