Foster “living in a fool’s paradise over Irish act”

Posted By: September 19, 2017

David Young. Irish News. Belfast. Tuesday, September 19, 2017

ARLENE Foster is living in a “fools’ paradise” if she thinks power-sharing can be restored without progress on an Irish language act, Sinn Féin’s John O’Dowd has said.

The senior Republican hit out after DUP leader Mrs. Foster claimed that Sinn Féin was using the language to “humiliate” unionists.

The two main parties remain at loggerheads over the DUP’s refusal to agree on a stand-alone Irish language act.

Talks to restore power-sharing at Stormont, which collapsed at the start of the year, remain stalled with little sign of progress.

Mrs. Foster told BBC Radio Ulster on Sunday: “Sinn Féin has decided to ring-fence a free-standing Irish language act in a way that frankly makes it impossible for those who want to move forward but see this is just being used as a way to humiliate unionists and those of us who believe in a British way of life”.

Two weeks ago, Mrs. Foster, below, said the Irish language itself threatened no-one and called for an immediate restoration of power-sharing and a parallel negotiation process to deal with the language issue and a series of other disputes between the two main parties.

Mr. O’Dowd said yesterday her remarks on Sunday showed that forming an executive before the issue was dealt with would have been “folly”.

“The parallel negotiations would have gone nowhere and there was no intention of resolving the outstanding issues, including an Irish language act,” he said.

“If the DUP want back into the executive and they are serious about reforming an executive then they have to understand the only basis on which that executive will be formed will be on the basis of equality, rights and respect and entitlement for all, including the Irish language speaking


“Quite frankly Arlene’s Foster’s comment about Sinn Féin’s motivation behind the Irish language act is quite simply insulting.”

Formal roundtable talks involving the five main parties and the UK and Irish governments have still not resumed after they were parked for the summer.

Sinn Féin and the DUP are instead engaged in a series of private meetings.

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood urged the two governments to present a draft deal to the parties within days.

“As co-guarantors of all our political agreements, it is now time that they forcefully step into forge a deal that can accommodate both the Irish and the British traditions in the north,” he said.

“All parties should then be publicly challenged to sign up to them or reject them.

“The public has long since run out of patience with this talks process and they’re dead right.”

The Ulster Unionists met Secretary of State James Brokenshire on Monday to discuss the crisis.

UUP MLA Steve Aiken said the smaller parties had to be involved in the process.

“We made it abundantly clear that we need to be moving on and the secretary of state told us that time is indeed running out,” he said.

Alliance Party deputy leader Stephen Farry gave a bleak assessment of the talks.

“The issues don’t seem to be any clearer in terms of resolution and, as time goes on, we continue to see untold damage occurring in terms of our public services and in terms of missed opportunities in terms of our economy,” he said.