Foster prompts anger with “never” comment on Irish language act

Posted By: February 07, 2017

John Manley. Irish News. Belfast. Tuesday, February 7, 2017

THERE was an angry reaction last night to comments by Arlene Foster saying she will “never” agree to an Irish language act.

Referring to Sinn Féin calls for legislation after an election, the DUP leader also said: “If you feed a crocodile it will keep coming back and looking for more.”

Politicians and language enthusiasts strongly criticized the remarks. Linda Ervine, who has been prominent in promoting Irish among unionists, described it as “sad.”

Gerry Adams, appearing at a Sinn Féin election event, joked: “See you later, alligator.”

The row came as it emerged that a policy cited by a DUP minister in controversially removing a government boat’s Irish language name last year cannot by produced by her department.

The name of fisheries patrol vessel ‘Banríon Uladh’ was changed to the English translation ‘Queen of Ulster’ after Michelle McIlveen took office at the new Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs.

She referred at the time to a “single-language policy” but when The Irish News requested a copy of the document, it was told a language policy is “currently being drafted.”

The Irish language has emerged as a key election issue ahead of the March 2 poll, with Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness accusing the DUP of exhibiting “crude bigotry” towards speakers when he resigned as deputy first minister last month.

DUP communities minister Paul Givan sparked anger before Christmas when he abruptly scrapped a £50,000 Gaeltacht Bursary scheme, before later reinstating the fund.

Launching the DUP election campaign in Lurgan yesterday – a contest she previously predicted would be “brutal” – Mrs. Foster asked if there should also be a Polish language act, given that Polish speakers outnumber gaeilgeoirí in the north.

Sinn Féin’s Conor Murphy later described the comments as “yet another example of the absolutely disgraceful arrogance of the DUP,” while the SDLP’s Patsy McGlone said they were “rooted in the politics of division and hate.”

UUP leader Mike Nesbitt claimed that the DUP was engaged in “a massive game of distraction.” Alliance’s Naomi Long said it was time to “act like leaders and show respect.”