‘Public won’t forgive SF if it puts NI in limbo again’

The DUP has indicated that “no-one would forgive Sinn Fein” if the party were to once again prevent Northern Ireland from having a government, amid an escalating row over an Irish language act.

Sunday, 13th June 2021, 4:38 pm
Updated Monday, 14th June 2021, 9:28 am

A DUP spokesman made the comments after claims from Sinn Fein that it does not believe Edwin Poots will actually bring forward legislation to officially promote and recognise the status of Irish.

Pressure has been mounting on Edwin Poots over his stance on the issue in recent weeks.

The DUP agreed to officially recognise Irish and create a special commissioner for the language as part of the New Decade New Approach deal of January 2020 (alongside similar provisions for Ulster Scots).

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DUP leader Edwin Poots at Carson's statue in Stormont after his meeting with Secretary of State Brandon Lewis on Thursday. Sinn Fein “do not believe” Mr Poots will deliver on the Irish language act. 

Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye
DUP leader Edwin Poots at Carson's statue in Stormont after his meeting with Secretary of State Brandon Lewis on Thursday. Sinn Fein “do not believe” Mr Poots will deliver on the Irish language act. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye

That deal came after three years of governmental limbo in the Province, caused by Sinn Fein walking out of government in January 2017.

When Arlene Foster formally resigns as First Minister today, deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill is automatically removed from her post too, as the joint office can only function if both roles are filled.

Both parties then need to re-nominate first and deputy first ministers in seven days.

If one of the parties declines to do so, or if either nomination fails to gain sufficient Assembly support, then a functioning Executive cannot be formed and a snap election will become likely.

It is understood Sinn Fein had been seeking firm guarantees from Mr Poots on issues such as Irish language as a prerequisite for its engagement in the nomination process.

A senior Sinn Fein source told the PA news agency at the weekend: “Sinn Fein has scoped out Edwin Poots and the DUP... our assessment is that he is being disingenuous by saying publicly that he will honour commitments agreed in New Decade, New Approach.

“We believe they are acting in bad faith. We do not believe they will deliver on the Irish Language Act.

“Our position is that the nomination for first minister and deputy first minister has to be accompanied by legislation on the Irish language.”

Yesterday the DUP said: “No-one would forgive Sinn Fein for playing fast and loose with people’s lives in Northern Ireland.”

The spokesman added: “The DUP leadership stands resolute to enter government, respect powersharing and get on with the job. It is up to others to follow. We remain committed to the New Decade, New Approach agreement and want to see it implemented in all its parts.”

Specifically, here is what the New Decade New Approach deal says: “The First Minister and deputy First Minister [will] sponsor and oversee a new framework both recognising an celebrating Northern Ireland’s diversity of identities and culture, and accommodating cultural difference.”

This includes “legislation to create a Commissioner to recognise, support, protect and enhance the development of the Irish language in Northern Ireland and to provide official recognition of the status of the Irish Language in Northern Ireland”.