This morning on Nolan a debate between Conor Murphy and Edwin Poots continued over the Irish Language Act
— Stephen Nolan (@StephenNolan) January 17, 2017
The provision within the agreement states that
However, the DUP’s Edwin Poots says the party never agreed to this;
At no point during the St Andrews talks was the issue of an Irish Language Act ever discussed with the DUP and we never made any commitment to it. We became aware of an assurance by the then UK Government to Sinn Fein and sought clarification that in the event of devolution, this matter would be solely the responsibility of the Northern Ireland Assembly.
We made no apology at the time for supporting the St Andrews Agreement as a basis for political progress, but wishing to scrutinise the detail of legislation to ensure it delivered on key issues such as the preservation of academic selection. The detail of what that legislation required in terms of language provision were clearly highlighted on the front page of the House of Commons Library Research Paper provided at that time.
Whether Sinn Fein was aware of what was contained within the legislation, chose to ignore it or chose to misrepresent it to their supporters is a matter for them to explain. Perhaps if they were to take up their seats at Westminster it would assist them in such matters.
The facts are absolutely clear. The DUP did not sign up to an Irish Language Act at St Andrews or at any time since. If Sinn Fein wish to continually highlight their failure in negotiations that is a matter for them.
In the context of Sinn Fein’s newfound concern for public finances it is also worth noting that the cost of implementing an Irish Language Act would far outstrip the costs of the Renewable Heating Incentive programme. Perhaps after they explain exactly whether they misunderstood or misrepresented what was agreed at St Andrews they could explain exactly how many hundreds of millions of pounds they would spend over the next number of years on a politically motivated Irish Language Act were they allowed to proceed with their wishlist.
In response Sinn Fein’s, Barry McElduff said;
“It is utterly ludicrous for Edwin Poots to suggest that the DUP did not sign up to an Irish Language Act and that it is not a matter for them.
“Respect is a matter for everyone.
“It was part of the terms of the St Andrew’s Agreement. They signed up to that agreement and they have failed to implement it.
David McCann holds a PhD in North-South relations from University of Ulster. You can follow him on twitter @dmcbfs