Peter Robinson signals approval for Irish language law

Secretary of State for Northern Ireland James Brokenshire talks to the press at Stormont Castle during talks. ''Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye.com
Secretary of State for Northern Ireland James Brokenshire talks to the press at Stormont Castle during talks. ''Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye.com

As the DUP appears to be moving towards agreeing an Irish language act in all but name, former first minister Peter Robinson has signalled his approval for such a change of stance.

Last night the Stormont talks continued, with contradictory signs as to whether a deal is likely before what the government has insisted is an absolute deadline of tomorrow.

However, that deadline was set by emergency Westminster legislation after the last deadline was sailed through and there is nothing to stop Westminster passing further legislation to extend the deadline if it appears that the parties are close to a deal to restore devolution.

Last night Secretary of State James Brokenshire refused to rule out doing just that, but stressed that there should be a deal by tomorrow.

However, it seems increasingly clear from various DUP moves that the party is preparing to accept new legislation to protect the Irish language – despite leader Arlene Foster having categorically said just four months ago: “I will never accede to an Irish language act.”

Sam McBride: DUP trying to sell Irish language act U-turn as a victory

Morning View: Ulster Scots is not enough to offset an Irish Language Act

The DUP is arguing that such legislation should include protection for Ulster Scots.

Last night Sinn Fein again insisted that it will not accept anything other than a free-standing Irish language act.

Mr Robinson said it was “entirely legitimate” for Sinn Fein to press for an Irish language act and called for a “sensible deal”.

He went on: “Who can complain if there are those who cherish the Irish language or who passionately support Ulster Scots culture?

“Who would find it unacceptable for arrangements to be put on a statutory basis to protect and support both? Both can be accommodated.”

Yesterday the News Letter spoke to 10 DUP councillors, none of whom would discuss the party’s stance on an Irish language act and most of whom directed us to put the query to the party’s central press office.

Today the secretary of state is expected to fly back to London to vote on the Queen’s Speech, but the talks are likely to continue in his absence.

Yesterday Prime Minister Theresa May discussed the situation with new Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.

In a telephone conversation, Downing Street said that the leaders had discussed the DUP’s deal to support the government and also “their willingness to continue close cooperation as the UK embarks on leaving the European Union.”

Sam McBride: DUP trying to sell Irish language act U-turn as a victory

Morning View: Ulster Scots is not enough to offset an Irish Language Act