Given its pro-Sinn Fein voting record, it is no surprise that Alliance is promoting a roll-over on Sinn Fein’s demand for a free standing Irish language act.
Moreover, though it takes refuge in lack of detail, it is clear that the core Sinn Fein demands are all conceded, namely Irish as an official language, operative in all public and legal authorities, on road signage and overseen by a commissioner.
They are at pains to claim that the proposals will not disadvantage non-Irish speakers in the jobs market.
Yet at the same time they propose that Irish be recognised as “an official language of public and legal authorities” and that there will be a duty on public bodies to “respond in Irish to correspondence in Irish (and recognise legal documents)”.
Obviously if this is the case those who have Irish will be at an advantage when it comes to jobs in the civil service and courts.
Additionally, Alliance propose “provision for public signage in Irish in line with local demand”.
This is extremely odd coming from the party which markets itself as the party wanting to end division in Northern Ireland, as obviously those areas with such signage will be marked out as nationalist and therefore not welcoming to those who do not see Irish as part of their own identity.
I thought marking out territory was supposed to be anathema to Alliance, or, is anything possible if it keeps Sinn Fein happy?
I also note that Alliance support the creation of a commissioner who would be an Irish language enforcer.
Alliance conceal if they have even swallowed the Sinn Fein demand that failing to cooperate with the commissioner would be made a criminal offence.
The fact of the matter is that once Irish is made an official language of Northern Ireland it will be promoted at every turn and an endless stream of judicial reviews – on legal aid – will constantly push the boundaries.
Jim Allister, MLA, TUV leader, Stormont