Conradh and uup

UUP meets with Conradh na Gaeilge

Pictured, from left, following the Ulster Unionist Party-Conradh na Gaeilge meeting were Ciarán Mac Giolla Bhéin, advocacy manager, Conradh na Gaeilge, Doug Beattie MLA, UUP, Robin Swann, party leader, UUP, and Pádraig Ó Tiarnaigh, language protection and communications executive, Conradh na Gaeilge.

By Anthony Neeson

The Ulster Unionist Party has met with a delegation of Irish language speakers, but have reiterated their opposition to an Irish Language Act for Northern Ireland.

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It comes as all-party talks are due to start in September with an Irish Language Act one of the sticking points to overcome.

In April the Democratic Unionist Party met with Conradh na Gaeilge. It came after the Irish language was catapulted to the top of the political agenda after DUP leader Arlene Foster said she would never “accede to an Irish Language Act,” adding that “If you feed a crocodile it will keep coming back and looking for more.”

It seems that her and her party’s stance may have softened in recent months; however, the DUP are keen to tie any rights-based act for Irish to Ulster Scots, something which Sinn Féin, the SDLP and Alliance are against, instead calling for a stand-alone Irish Language Act.

Speaking after the meeting with Conradh na Gaeilge at Stormont, UUP leader Robin Swann, said Sinn Féin should stop using the Irish language as a red line to prevent the restoration of a Stormont executive.

“We also voiced our frustration that the issue of an Irish language act has become a red line in the current talks impasse, and is effectively being used to hold Northern Ireland to ransom. This cannot be allowed to continue,” he said.

Ciarán Mac Giolla Bhéin, Conradh na Gaeilge’s advocacy manager, welcomed the meeting.

“To date we have had a long line of meetings with almost every other party, five of which now support the community call for a rights-based, stand-alone Irish Language Act including Alliance, the Green Party, People Before Profit, the SDLP and Sinn Féin. That support translates into 50 out of 90 MLAs and a majorty support within the Assembly for the first time,” Ciarán Mac Giolla Bhéin added.

“Although the party outlined their respect for the language and its speakers, recognizing that it is a key part of our identity here, and importantly that protections are needed for the language, the UUP are not currently supporting an Irish Language Act,” he said.

“The Irish language community have been waiting too long for the state to bring in legislation to protect these language related human rights; now is the time for action.”