Northern Ireland news

Foster adamant about Irish language act despite leaked details of draft deal

DUP leader Arlene Foster and deputy leader Nigel Dodds. Picture by Yui Mok/PA Wire

ARLENE Foster was adamant last night that her party never intended to sign up to an Irish language act and is not contemplating such a move - despite leaked documents suggesting otherwise.

The DUP leader's comments, which came as it emerged her party has not met Sinn Féin since negotiations between them collapsed last week, signal that there is little prospect of the Stormont institutions returning any time soon.

Mrs Foster was speaking in London after she and Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald held separate meetings with British Prime Minister Theresa May.

The meetings came as a copy of a draft Stormont deal leaked to journalist Eamonn Mallie fuelled speculation about what the DUP was prepared to sign up to before its rank and file is thought to have scotched the plan.

The documents included proposals for an Irish language act, a corresponding Ulster Scots act and legislation on respecting language and diversity.

However, Mrs Foster told reporters yesterday: "We were not contemplating bringing in an Irish language act and I could not be clearer in relation to that.

“If you look at the so-called draft agreement that is only one of a number of documents that were circulated and put out and about, and I think the important thing is that we now reflect on where we got to in relation to all of those issues, we have a budget put in place, I think that is important for the people of Northern Ireland and that we move forward."

Ms McDonald claimed the British government had no viable plan for restoring the power-sharing institutions.

She said she feared "entrenchment and drift" and accused Mrs May's government of engaging in a period of reflection which could create a dangerous political vacuum.

"We can only surmise from the meeting with the British prime minister that the government does not have a plan, there is not a viable plan for carving a path to the restoration of the institutions," the new Sinn Féin leader said.

Earlier, SDLP leader Colum Eastwood claimed Stormont could be mothballed for five years.

The Foyle MLA ws speaking at Westminster, where he was giving evidence to the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee.

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