Arlene Foster And The DUP Have Not Ended Their Opposition To An Irish Language Act

As usual the unionist-leaning (or apologising) press in Ireland has pounced on a few questionable claims by Arlene Foster, leader of the Democratic Unionist Party, and transformed them into a Pauline conversion on the issue of language rights. And perhaps equality in general, too. Launching her party’s manifesto, the Fermanagh MLA attempted to soften her previous, belligerent opposition to the long-deferred introduction of an Irish Language Act to the UK-administered Six Counties by indicating a willingness to accept a so-called Culture Act (or should that be Cultures, plural?). On Monday the Irish Times noted that:

Speaking in east Belfast where she launched the party’s Westminster election campaign, Ms Foster said the matter should be addressed in the wider context of culture and language and “cultural tolerance”.

“We need to respect, not just tolerate, all cultures in Northern Ireland, and that includes Ulster Scots, the Orange and British cultures.”

In February Ms Foster said more people spoke Polish than Irish in Northern Ireland, and declared the party would never agree to an Act protecting the language, a key Sinn Féin aim in negotiations to restore powersharing.

Of course, Arlene Foster’s aggressively vocal opposition to Irish rights in the north-east of the country was part of a DUP strategy to generate unionist fervour in the run-up to the northern assembly election. A strategy which backfired spectacularly by awakening a largely somnolent northern nationalist electorate which flocked to the polls to strengthen the number of Stormont representatives from Sinn Féin and the SDLP. Despite a litany of mistakes over the last year, from miscalculating SF’s final reaction to the RHI scandal to beating counterproductive tribal drums, the DUP is now hoping that nationalism can be pacified with a few trinkets and baubles. Ultimately the Democratic Unionists want a return to the status quo ante of 2006-2016, with a re-established power-sharing executive and cross-community assembly that the party can eventually use and abuse for personal or communal gain.

So the peace overtures of recent days are little more than a smoke and mirrors’ act to hoodwink liberal unionist voters and their northern nationalist peers. A burlesque show for the willingly-gullible media in Belfast and Dublin. If the DUP has a successful Westminster election, gaining a strengthened hand, the party will demand unrealistic and frankly fantastical inclusions for any proposed Culture Act, knowing that they will block future progress on the issue of Irish rights. Official recognition and support for a local patois of English with Tolkienesque flourishes from fringe linguists and historians who regard themselves as the descendants of one of the Lost Tribes of Israel? Public monies for a fundamentalist, Protestant lay fraternity which refuses to have Roman Catholics among it numbers? Which demands the right to march through areas where nominal Catholics are in the majority, in order to intimidate and terrorise?

However, despite the insistence of its amateur PR people, the DUP’s faithful struggle to keep up with the newfound pretence of compromise, as the Newsletter reports:

DUP rallies round Foster and vows there will be no Irish language act

Yesterday, East Londonderry candidate Gregory Campbell refuted the assertion that Mrs Foster had softened her attitude over an Irish language act.

He told the News Letter: “There will be no Irish language act. We have said that all along and that is what we are saying now.”

However, Mr Campbell said there could be merit in a possible cultural act for Northern Ireland as opposed to a stand-alone Irish language act.

East Antrim candidate Sammy Wilson felt the assertion that Arlene Foster was softening her attitude over the issue of an Irish language act was “plainly wrong”.

Mr Wilson said: “I am surprised by that interpretation of what was said at the manifesto launch.

“Both Arlene Foster and Nigel Dodds spoke at the event and made it clear that as far as the DUP is concerned, the Irish language shouldn’t be a priority given the constraints on our budget.

“We as a party have made it clear we don’t support an Irish language act.”

So much for reconciliation.

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13 comments

  1. The flag of reconciliation was this a DUP kite flying exercise? Perhaps they feel the prospect of the status quo of the past slipping away.

  2. I have really really had enough. Not only has the Titanic hit the iceberg, bit it has been turned into a lunatic asylum and the inmates have seized control of the ship. fatal. The Peace agreement has been deliberately sabotaged, avoided, and broken, non-stop, for last 20 years. Enough. We are never going to get parity of esteem, and equal rights. To the Unionist (Neo-fascist) element, it is all a zero sum game. The time has come to say NO. The time has come to boycott the assembly with abstention, and refusal to form a power sharing executive. They will never learn, never concede, and never share real power. its over. Time now for a program of non-participation, boycott, and an internal and international campaign to de-legitimise the existing system. It can never work. We tried for 20 years to make it work. It is not our fault that the unionist fascists have gamed the system, to essentially concede nothing. If they are so bloody bigoted, and paranoid, that they will not allow even evening classes in Irish for the Nationalist majority population, then that says everything. Time to say NO. Boycott, campaign to de-legitimise the British statelet in the North, and to demand reunification. A NICRA type campaign must be started. no more compromise. We are now in the situation of the Palestinians, and the Unionists are the local Zionists. Enough! Enough!.

    1. Absolutely right. They have never conceded for us to be righteous human beings, so we could never expect to be treated as such. No matter how much the Anglophone West-Britz in the 26 counties try to crawl up their keister and betray our history, language, and national identity.

      1. The Glasnevin wall of shame comes to mind. No meaningful opposition to honouring those who fell murdering our children. If none of them had the courage and honour to take a stand and tearing that abomination down, they are not going to have the courage to seize this opportunity to finally end 800+ years of occupation.

  3. Campbell & Wilson are staking out their credentials to succeed Foster should she actually often her stance on an ILA. Or any of the other outstanding issues from GFA/SAA.

    Stormont might never be coming back.

      1. One only needs remember with what ease Foster secured the DUP nomination. The only way she achieved that surprise, total victory was by winning the backwoodsmen over. Any rapprochement with Nationalism is unacceptable to them.

        It is starting to look like it is the barricades until a border poll victory. That is a very dangerous situation to leave NI in with this political instability swirling around. Those selfsame backwoodsmen are the very same people that encouraged Gusty Spence and the boys to fire up the UVF in 1966, they will be willing to throw more Catholic civilian bodies on the pyre of retaining the Union. They still think those murdered on Bloody Sunday got what they deserved.

        1. They have been exposed as the bullies that they were. Now like all bullies when they are challenged they will skulk into the darkness. No more B men or UDR to offer them support.

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