Northern Ireland news

Mike Nesbitt: 'No need' for Irish language act

Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt has rejected calls for an Irish language act. Picture by Niall Carson, Press Association

MIKE Nesbitt has hitched "his wagon to the British government and the DUP" by not supporting an Irish language act, Sinn Féin has claimed.

Sinn Féin election candidate Carál Ní Chuilín criticised the Ulster Unionist leader after he said there was no need for such an act.

Mr Nesbitt said Irish was a "beautiful language" but he had "never been persuaded" than an act was needed.

"I bear absolutely no ill will to anybody who wants to learn or speak or promote or celebrate the Irish language," he said. "I don't know it that well but the little I do know is that it's a beautiful language."

He said the idea of an Irish language act was only raised at the St Andrews negotiations in 2006.

"I have never been persuaded of the need for the act and have asked people like Sinn Féin to persuade me," he told Radio Ulster's Inside Politics on Friday evening.

He added: "We don't support an Irish language act because nobody has made the case".

His comments come after DUP leader Arlene Foster was criticised earlier this week for insisting her party would never agree to the act "as some sort of magnanimous step for Sinn Féin".

"If you feed a crocodile, it will keep coming back for more," she said.

Ms Ní Chuilín said Mr Nesbitt had not provided "positive leadership".

"The north is now the only place in these islands not to have legal protection for Gaelic speakers," she said.

"There are people right across the community calling for an Acht na Gaeilge on the basis of respect and equality for all citizens.

"However, Mike Nesbitt has chosen to firmly hitch his wagon to the British government and the DUP’s continued denial of rights and equality.

"It is not up to Mike Nesbitt or the UUP to determine who can and cannot have rights. We had 50 years of the UUP doing that. It failed.

"Mike Nesbitt needs to wake up to that reality."

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