The UK government’s contrasting approach to the Irish language and the Northern Ireland Protocol

News Letter editorial of Thursday February 10 2022:

By Editorial
Thursday, 10th February 2022, 1:13 am
Updated Thursday, 10th February 2022, 1:27 am
News Letter editorial
News Letter editorial

Conor Burns, the NIO junior minister, this week told the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee at Westminster that an Irish language act will be introduced in the House of Commons before the Stormont election, due in May.

If that is what happens it will be the latest milestone in a long cross-party Westminster approach to Northern Ireland, in which Irish republicanism is always ultimately appeased.

Compare and contrast the attitudes of a Conservative and Unionist government to both the Irish language act and the Northern Ireland Protocol.

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The former is a significant cultural matter, by which republicans set great store in their unceasing sectarian agenda to change the character of Northern Ireland, to undermine the country and to behave in a triumphalist way to make unionists feel uncomfortable. But it is not a front rank issue.

The other matter, the protocol, however is an issue of the highest political significance. As the Lord Dodds article on state aid opposite is the latest example to show, the Irish Sea border has major and potentially irreparable constitutional import. This is why every shade of nationalist Ireland is so pleased with it, and tries to play it down, to try to conceal and retain an advance that they can hardly believe.

Yet the government aided Sinn Fein blackmail over Irish, never so much as criticising the shameful three-year collapse of devolution to get their cherished goal (which of course they did). Ultimately Julian Smith led the London push to put pressure on unionists to concede a Gaelic act (and, disgracefully, to concede legacy too). Then Brandon Lewis, facilitated by Edwin Poots, supported special Westminster legislation to bring forward gaelic laws.

Meanwhile, the UK was arguing in court in favour of the implied and partial repeal of the Act of Union. And while a Belfast judge has blocked the belated Poots attempt to thwart the Irish Sea checks, London is in no apparent hurry to act on its command paper, which sought to overhaul the protocol.

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