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Sir Jeffrey Donaldson again warns of instability if British government presses ahead with Irish language legislation

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson repeated his warning that legislating for the Irish language would lead to instability

SIR Jeffrey Donaldson has warned the British government that the Stormont institutions are "at risk" if it presses ahead with plans to legislate for the Irish language.

His remarks come after The Irish News revealed that Westminster will pass the long-awaited Identity and Language (Northern Ireland) Bill, which includes provisions for the Irish language and Ulster Scots, before the end of this month.

Secretary of State Brandon Lewis pledged to bring the bill forward last June if the DUP continued to thwart the implementation of a cultural package agreed as part of the New Decade New Approach deal two years ago.

In recent days, officials from the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) have provided Stormont's main parties with what is thought to be a final briefing on legislation before it is laid before parliament.

The NIO has been saying since October that it is "taking the necessary steps to introduce legislation as soon as parliamentary time allows". However, it is understood that efforts to secure the necessary slot in the House of Commons have intensified since the new year.

The bill includes measures that would see the creation of commissioners for both the Irish language and Ulster Scots, as well as the establishment of an Office of Identity and Cultural Expression. It will also see the repeal of a 280-year-old law which specifies that all proceedings in the north’s courts must be in English.

But the DUP leader yesterday repeated his warning that legislating for the Irish language would lead to instability.

In September, Sir Jeffrey threatened to collapse the Stormont institutions if the British government pushed the cultural package through Westminster while his party’s concerns about the protocol remained unresolved.

The Lagan Valley MP told The Irish News last night that all elements of New Decade New Approach "should be implemented without cherry picking".

"Pressing ahead in some areas whilst ignoring others only serves to undermine devolution," he said.

"This is particularly the case when the government is seeking to legislate on devolved matters whilst ignoring their own clear commitment to introduce legislation to restore Northern Ireland's place within the UK internal market."

While not making specific reference to the Identity and Language (Northern Ireland) Bill, he warned the secretary of state about implementing the January 2020 deal that saw Stormont restored NDNA "in an unbalanced way".

"He will be making a choice that undermines devolution and puts the stability of the political institutions at risk," Sir Jeffrey said.

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