Ulster Unionists re-iterate opposition to Irish language act in first meeting with campaigners
THE Ulster Unionist Party has re-iterated its opposition to an Irish language act in its first meeting with language groups.
Party leader Robin Swann and Upper Bann MLA Doug Beattie met with representatives of Conradh na Gaeilge and Forbairt Feirste at Stormont yesterday.
It was the first formal encounter between campaigners and the UUP.
The DUP previously held discussions with Conradh na Gaeilge in April, and has also met other Irish language groups.
Advocates of an Irish Language Act have urged Sinn Féin not to sign up to any agreement to restore devolution which does not contain legislation to protect the language.
Speaking afterwards, both sides said there had been no consensus on the next steps.
Ciarán Mac Giolla Bhéin, from Conradh na Gaeilge, said that the UUP's position had not shifted "in any meaningful sense".
He told The Irish News: "They did acknowledge that the language needed some protective measures but when pushed they did not know what that should look like.
"What they said clearly was that they wouldn't support an Irish language act."
Mr Mac Giolla Bhéin added: "The DUP had said in the meeting with us that there would be some form of legislative provision - but they wouldn't go into the detail of it - and that the cost of our proposals was reasonable. The UUP didn't agree on either point."
The UUP leader said that the talks had been "frank and respectful".
Mr Swann said: "We re-iterated that we have no problem with the Irish language but remain unconvinced of the need for an Irish language act.
"We raised our concerns that the current debate surrounding an Irish language act is serving to divide society further.
"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."