Leading article

Foster's Irish language move to be welcomed

IN the context of the rhetoric we have come to expect from the DUP when it ventures to offer a view on the Irish language, Arlene Foster's announcement that she intends to meet Gaeilgeoirí is to be welcomed as a positive move.

Speaking as the pause button was pressed on the latest phase of talks at Stormont, the DUP leader said she wished "to listen and to engage with those from the Gaelic/Irish background".

There will be some surprise that a figure as senior and as experienced as Mrs Foster has yet to meet such people in the course of her many years of public service; that seeking them out is regarded as a pioneering experience for the DUP says much about its engagement with these issues thus far.

However, in the wake of Mrs Foster's own 'crocodile' comment and various other contributions - ranging from the unhelpful to insulting - from colleagues such as Gregory Campbell, Nelson McCausland and Sammy Wilson, any sign that the DUP is taking the Irish language seriously has some significance.

It has never been the case that the Irish language community is synonymous with Sinn Féin, and it is regrettable that it has taken Mrs Foster and her party so long to make that distinction, though she stresses that she wishes to meet only those who don't use the language as a "political weapon".

It is premature to suggest that Mrs Foster's planned gesture makes DUP support for an Irish Language Act inevitable, or if similar legislation for Ulster-Scots is now also likely.

But against the background of a lacklustre talks process at Stormont, any steps towards greater mutual understanding should be encouraged.

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