Northern Ireland news

Arlene Foster slams Sinn Féin for 'politicising Irish language'

The DUP prepare to speak to the media at Stormont this afternoon  
David Young and Michael McHugh, Press Association

DUP leader Arlene Foster has hit out at Sinn Féin, saying they are playing politics with the Irish language instead of "looking at the real issues that are there" for those that speak the language.

Speaking at Stormont today, Ms Foster said she has been prepared to deal with the issue of Irish language rights in a way that speakers "would have been satisfied with - however that is not enough for Sinn Féin."

Earlier today Sinn Féin said a deal to restore powersharing at Stormont is unlikely to materialise in the short term, given heightened tensions around the summer marching season.

Ahead of a British government statement on the way ahead for the faltering negotiations at Stormont, Sinn Féin negotiator Conor Murphy again accused the DUP of refusing to budge on a series of outstanding disputes.

The republican party is demanding DUP movement on a proposed Irish Language Act; a Bill of Rights for the region; legalisation of same sex marriage; and around measures dealing with the legacy of the Troubles.

DUP leader Arlene Foster responds to question on an Irish language act

The DUP has characterised Sinn Féin's demands as excessive, accusing the party of wanting a "10-nil win" in negotiations.

Secretary of State James Brokenshire will give a statement to the House of Commons late Monday afternoon after the latest deadline to reach agreement fell by the wayside last Thursday.

Mr Murphy said: "We don't see any urgency in terms of the DUP approach to this and we don't expect and don't think it is likely that there will be a deal in the short term because there is that lack of urgency."

Reflecting on the upcoming Twelfth of July, the mainstay of the loyal order marching season, he added: "We are in the bizarre situation, I'm sure it's unique to here, that over the summer time we have to break because the atmosphere becomes too hostile for political negotiations."

DUP leader Arlene Foster pictured at speaking to the assembled media at Stormont 

Mr Murphy continued: "Now we find ourselves up against the Twelfth of July where the atmosphere becomes so hostile that the DUP are even less likely to move on some of these issues."

Options open to Mr Brokenshire include setting another deadline for a talks process which began in March, calling this year's second snap assembly election or re-imposing some form of direct rule from Westminster.

The devolved institutions imploded in January when DUP leader Arlene Foster was forced from office after Sinn Féin's then deputy first minister, the late Martin McGuinness, quit.

That was in protest at the DUP's handling of the renewable heat incentive (RHI), a scheme that left the administration facing a £490 million overspend.

One of the main current sticking points is over Sinn Féin's call for an act officially protecting the Irish language.

The DUP is prepared to legislate, but only if there are reciprocal protections for Ulster-Scots speakers.

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