Looming Irish language legislation for Northern Ireland is ‘payment of a Sinn Fein ransom demand,’ says the TUV

An expectation that Westminster will legislate for Irish language rights this month is the “payment of a Sinn Fein ransom demand,” Jim Allister has claimed.
A protest at Stormont in May 2019 in support of an Irish language act. 
Photo: Colm Lenaghan/PacemakerA protest at Stormont in May 2019 in support of an Irish language act. 
Photo: Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
A protest at Stormont in May 2019 in support of an Irish language act. Photo: Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker

The TUV leader made his comments as the UK Government’s deadline for Stormont to implement new language legislation passed with no announcement forthcoming.

In June this year, the collapse of the power-sharing arrangements in Northern Ireland was averted by a late night deal, brokered by NI Secretary Brandon Lewis, which resulted in Sinn Fein dropping its threat not to nominate a deputy First Minister.

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Addressing the media immediately following the negotiations, Mr Lewis said it remained his preference for the language laws to be brought forward through the NI Assembly, but added: “I can confirm that if the Executive has not progressed legislation by the end of September, the UK Government will take the legislation through Parliament in Westminster. If that becomes necessary, we will introduce legislation in October 2021.”

TUV leader Jim Allister MLA. Photo: PacemakerTUV leader Jim Allister MLA. Photo: Pacemaker
TUV leader Jim Allister MLA. Photo: Pacemaker

The proposed bill includes the creation of Irish and Ulster Scots commissioners, and the establishment of an Office for Identity and Cultural Expression.

Jim Allister described the agreement reached between the DUP and Sinn Fein in June as “the disastrous legacy of the DUP’s year of chaos”.

He said: “There should be no question of unionists accepting such a state of affairs. No unionist should be legislating for Irish language promotion. No unionist should be in office on the basis of a deal which, on a nod and a wink, sees London pass such legislation.”

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Mr Allister added: “Official recognition of the status of Irish will be enforced through an Irish Language Commissioner with statutory powers to ‘promote and facilitate’ the use of Irish throughout the public sector.

“This zealot will set standards that every public body must meet in the use of Irish in the delivery of its services. Such will bring obvious recruitment advantage to Irish speakers across the public service.

“If public bodies are required to promote and deliver their services in Irish, then, clearly staff fluent in the language will be required and preferred.”

“There is no conceivable basis on which to warrant further endless squander on Irish for the sake of paying the Sinn Fein ransom to get a failed Stormont back”.

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The NIO had declined to comment at time of going to press. The DUP has not yet responded to a request for comment.

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