Any deal to resurrect Stormont will contain Irish Language Act, says Sinn Fein

Day two of talks in Stormont have seen a confident Sinn Fein announce that any deal agreed will contain an Irish Language Act.

Political parties were continuing to work towards finding a way to bring the Stormont administration back into action on Friday, with a number of meetings between different parties and the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Julian Smith.

Sinn Fein’s deputy leader Michelle O’Neill announced that “clearly” there would be an Irish Language Act in any deal to restore the Executive, one of the major sticking points in previous negotiations.

“The issues are well rehearsed, we don’t need to go over old ground again,” Ms O’Neill said.

“Clearly there will be an Irish language Act as part of a deal but what we need to see is a package of measures that allows public confidence to be generated again in our ability to deliver good politics.

“There is no doubt that there is a confidence issue in this Assembly and its ability to deliver.

“What success looks like to me is, yes, there will be an Irish Language Act and yes, there will be a package of measures that looks at a range of issues.”

Members of Irish language group Conradh na Gaeilge (CnG) met with Mr Smith on Friday.

Ms O’Neill, who also met with the Secretary of State on Friday morning, said she made her party’s position clear.

“I’m sure Conradh na Gaeilge will make it clear also that what they’re asking for is very, very reasonable,” she said.

“They’re asking for a commitment that was made many, many years ago to be delivered, and we’re determined to see it is delivered.

“The Irish Language Act is about respecting Irish national identity and making sure that we have no longer decisions that Paul Givan took three years ago when he discriminated against children learning Irish in the Gaeltacht, that’s what we’re trying to bring an end to, but what we want is to bring about new style politics in the Assembly that commands the widest public support.”

Roundtable talks at Stormont House
Roundtable talks at Stormont House

Ms O’Neill indicated that there was continued disagreement within the powersharing talks between the four main parties and the DUP.

“There have been numerous meetings, and we have been very constructive in our conversation, but there is clearly a lot more work to be done,” she said.

“There’s been positive work done across four parties in the main around some of the issues around the Petition of Concern, we have common ground in four parties and I hope that at some stage the DUP will come on to the same ground as the rest of us in terms of wanting to make this Assembly and Executive work.

“With due respect to the confidence of the negotiation, I won’t get into the detail, but what I can say is that there has been very good work done to progress some of these issues and if we want a new style of politics here, we have to look at how this Assembly will work.”

The UUP leader said on Friday that he did not want to give any false optimism over achieving a deal for Northern Ireland in the near future.

“We are into another day of intensive talks, very much concentrating on the programme for government,” party leader Steven Aiken said after a meeting with Mr Smith.

“We must get Northern Ireland working again, and we must concentrate on those issues to get Northern Ireland back up and running.

“Quite frankly, I don’t know where we are.

“There is a possibility of us achieving a deal but right now we need to concentrate on getting these substantial issues dealt with, we need accountable, responsible government going forward, there has got to be change.

“At this present moment in time I’m not going to give any false optimism, I would like to see there being a deal.”