We were right to issue Irish language warning says UUP

The former Ulster Unionist Party leader, Lord Empey
The former Ulster Unionist Party leader, Lord Empey

The former Ulster Unionist leader Lord Empey said the vision set forward by a leading Irish language advocate yesterday confirms his earlier warnings about any language act.

Speaking after Ciarán Mac Giolla Bhéin’s BBC interview, which set out his group Conradh Na Gaeilge’s “ultimate aim” for an Irish language act, Lord Empey said: “I agree with his interpretation of what it means, and that’s what I’ve been saying all along.”

His party colleague, Doug Beattie MLA, described the comments by the Conradh Na Gaeilge official as “the thin end of the wedge”.

He said an Irish language act is “nothing less than a bid to introduce bilingualism and to change the face of Northern Ireland”.

Lord Empey had earlier this week warned the DUP against signing up to a mooted culture act in a bid to appease Sinn Fein, amid suggestions that a breakthrough in the Stormont talks could be imminent.

Speaking following the radio interview, he said: “He said: “It doesn’t matter whether it is standing alone or standing on its head. It is what is in the act that matters.”

He continued: “I have no issues with the language but what is happening is that (Gerry) Adams (of Sinn Féin) is trying to remove any sort of Britishness about Northern Ireland. He wants it to become their sort of model of what Ireland would be like.

“When you listen to or hear what that chap (Ciarán Mac Giolla Bhéin) was saying it is obviously not a pretty place.”

Lord Empey said measures to protect the Irish language in Northern Ireland had already been agreed in negotiations, backed by majority vote in a referendum, and subsequently put into practice following the Belfast Agreement.

He added: “We have a very strong democratic base for arguing that the matter was dealt with.”