Assembly Election

Video: Arlene Foster says it is wrong to portray her as anti-Irish language

DUP protestations that their opposition to an Irish language act were based solely on cost strike a false note 
Deborah McAleese, Press Association

DUP leader Arlene Foster has insisted it is wrong to portray her as anti-Irish language.

Speaking at a Northern Ireland Chambers event in Belfast, Mrs Foster said people are "absolutely entitled" to "express themselves through their love of the Irish language or Irish culture".

She insisted that just because she is not in favour of an Irish language act, does not mean she is anti-Irish language.

"My difficulty with the Irish language act is around the cost, the fact it would have equity and equality with the English language that in terms of the civil service, there would have to be affirmative action for people who were Irish speakers and there would be criminal offences if people didn't co-operate with an Irish language commissioner, all of those things," Mrs Foster said. 

"It is wrong to portray me in a way that I am anti-Irish language. That is not the case at all."

Mrs Foster faced furious criticism recently after she said she would not be supporting the introduction of an Irish Language Act, as part of a series of measures to facilitate the restoration of power-sharing after the March Assembly elections.

Speaking at the launch of her party's election campaign in Lurgan recently, Mrs Foster said: "If we have an Irish language act, maybe we should have a Polish language act as well because there are more people in Northern Ireland who speak Polish, compared to Irish."

Referring to Sinn Fein demands, she said: "If you feed a crocodile, it will keep coming back for more."

Speaking during the NI Chamber's event, Mrs Foster described her experiences over the past two months, both personally and politically, as "brutal".

She said after she came back from her business trip to China late last year, "all hell had broken lose" in Stormont as the extent of the Renewable Heat Incentive scandal fully emerged.

Arlene Foster on reaction to the RHI scandal

"The level of respect for difference, the level of tolerance isn't there at the moment. I deeply regret that," she said.

"I would wish for a more respectful, tolerant politics and maybe this might be a watershed moment and we have that after the election takes place."

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