Northern Ireland news

Poll shows DUP voters 'entrenched' on Irish language act opposition

Conradh Na Gaeilge's draft version of an Irish language act. Picture by Mark Marlow

DUP voters are "entrenched" in their opposition to an Irish language act with nearly two-thirds unwilling to accept it as a necessary compromise to restore devolution, a new opinion poll shows.

A LucidTalk survey of those who have cast their vote for Arlene Foster's party at any time in the past five years shows 64.5 per cent are totally opposed to an Irish language act, while a further 17.3 would begrudgingly accept standalone legislation if it meant a return to Stormont.

The Irish language act has been identified as one of the main sticking points in the current negotiations aimed at restoring the devolved institutions.

In a related question put to around 1,000 DUP voters, 40.1 per cent said they would be "totally against" an Irish language act even if the party adopted the policy, with a further 19.6 per cent saying they wouldn't support it.

However, 34.4 per cent of DUP voters surveyed would accept an Irish language act, though more than two-thirds of that figure said "reluctantly".

Notably, Sinn Féin voters appear less strident on the issue with less than half (49.3 per cent) believing the party should accept nothing short of a standalone Irish language act, while 42.6 per cent support legislation "but negotiate on some parts of it to ensure the success of the negotiations".

One-third (33.8 per cent) of Sinn Féin would totally oppose the party conceding on an Irish language act, while a further third (33.3 per cent) wouldn't support that approach.

Only 10.5 per cent, in a survey with a 3.9 per cent margin of error, would fully support backing down on an Irish language act, while 18.6 per cent would reluctantly accept the policy.

LucidTalk's Bill White said the poll, which was conducted earlier this week, confirmed that DUP voters were overwhelming averse to concessions on an Irish language act, which is widely believed to be the issue that thwarted a deal in February 2018.

"The results show DUP voters are entrenched when it comes to an Irish language act and confirms Gregory Campbell's assertion earlier this week that his party cannot sell standalone legislation to its supporters," he said.

"Sinn Féin voters appear more flexible on the issue, like they're trying to hold out the hand of friendship."

Meanwhile LucidTalk asked both sets of voters about what they deemed the best form of government for Northern Ireland. More than two-thirds of Sinn Féin voters support a return to devolution, conditional on an Irish language act and reform of the petition of concern, while one quarter (25.7 per cent) advocate joint authority.

Contrastingly, just over a quarter of DUP voters (26.8 per cent) support a return to Stormont with an Irish language act and reform of the petition of concern, whereas a greater proportion (38.6 per cent) believe in a temporary period of direct rule and 34.4 per cent advocate permanent rule from London.

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