Arlene Foster is genuflecting to 'Irish language brigade', says TUV leader Jim Allister

Delegations from the DUP and Conradh na Gaeilge met at Stormont on Thursday. Picture from Twitter/Conradh na Gaeilge
John Monaghan

TUV leader Jim Allister has accused the DUP of "genuflecting to the Irish language brigade".

His comments came as the DUP met a number of Irish groups at Stormont yesterday as part of its move to learn more about the language.

Mr Allister said the DUP was "preparing to pay Sinn Féin's price for the return to office".

In a statement, the DUP said Mrs Foster is engaged in a listening exercise which had "so far has been useful."

Following the meeting at Stormont Conradh na Gaeilge said the party told them they were "looking towards legislative protection" for the Irish language.

The DUP also meet with represenatives of west Belfast-based Pobal.

Arlene Foster led a delegation including South Belfast MLA Christopher Stalford, Lagan Valley MLA Edwin Poots and former special adviser David Graham to meet the groups.

On Wednesday, Mrs Foster exchanged a few words in Irish after meeting staff and language students at Our Lady's Grammar, a Catholic all-girls school, in Newry.

At the end of the visit, the former First Minister said she was "uplifted" by the pupils and described the visit as "wonderful".

It is also understood that the party was due to meet a third Irish language group at Stormont yesterday and have further engagements planned for coming days.

Speaking after their respective meetings, which each lasted more than a hour, both Conradh na Gaeilge and Pobal described the talks as "positive".

Pádraig Ó Tiarnaigh, from Conradh na Gaeilge, said that the DUP told them they are "looking at content and towards legislative protection".

Mr Ó Tiarnaigh told The Irish News: "We had a very robust and very positive meeting.

"The DUP did say that they are looking at the content of the legislation and what it would entail."

He added: "They showed a lot of positivity around the legislation and we will be lobbying them to get this over the line."

Director of Pobal, Janet Muller, said that her delegation represented a broad number of Irish speakers and had made the DUP "aware of the diversity and the work done by groups in the Irish language community".

"We made it very clear that we want to see the de-politicisation of the language and that the strongest way to do that would be via the Irish language act," she said.

"We are pursuing a very clear, strong act that makes it very easy for civil servants and Irish language speakers to know their rights and obligations."

The visit follows an announcement by Mrs Foster last month outlining her intention to meet with Irish speakers "over the next short period of time" to "respect and better understand" the language and culture.

The DUP leader had previously said during the assembly election campaign that she would not agree to an Irish language act - a key demand of Sinn Féin.

However TUV leader Jim Allister last night accused the DUP of "genuflecting to the Irish language brigade".

Mr Allister said: "The DUP’s genuflecting to the Irish Language brigade should serve as a warning to all who oppose the de-Britishisation of Northern Ireland that Arlene Foster is preparing to pay Sinn Féin’s price for the return to office."

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