Northern Ireland

Newspaper review: Language politics grips headlines

Belfast News Letter Image copyright Belfast News Letter

"Tony Blair duped SF over Irish language: Robinson" is the front page headline in the Belfast Telegraph.

The claim by former first minister and DUP leader Peter Robinson comes as the political talks in Stormont seem stuck fast with the language question dividing the nationalist and unionist parties.

Mr Robinson said that the late Ian Paisley had warned Tony Blair's government's "deception" would lead to problems down the line once Sinn Féin realised that the St Andrew's Agreement commitment was not a genuine one.

The Telegraph's editorial column identifies the Irish language as being "at the heart of the paralysis at Stormont" and agrees with Mr Robinson's assessment.

'Adams an obstacle to united Ireland'

Staying with politics, the former SDLP MLA Alban Maginness, has an opinion piece in the same paper pointing the finger at Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams as being the single biggest obstacle to any united Ireland.

Also in the Telegraph, the strange story of how ex-Celtic player Joe Miller has been forced to issue an apology after a story he related to the Daily Record newspaper about his experiences playing Linfield in the 1990s was shown to be both "inaccurate" and indeed "impossible" in a number of areas.

Following the article the Belfast club issued a statement on Tuesday comprehensively refuting the claims made in the article.

Mr Miller has now said that "his memory let him down" and he understands the events he recalled did not happen in Windsor Park or during a friendly match against Linfield.

Irish compromise?

In contrast to the Belfast Telegraph's reading of the current political situation, the Belfast News Letter has a different take on comments from Peter Robinson.

"Robinson signals OK to Irish language law," is their front page headline.

Mr Robinson seems to have said that some sort of legislation on the Irish language may be acceptable if balanced by legislation on "Ulster-Scots culture" is the News Letter's reading of the talks situation.

A number of articles in the News Letter's inside pages also focus on language issues - the paper's political editor Sam McBride writes that "it has become increasingly clear that the DUP is prepared to make significant compromises on the Irish language in order to get back into Stormont".

The News Letter has spoken to 10 DUP councillors, asking how the party's grassroots would respond to compromise on an language act, none of them was prepared to comment on the issue.

'Ulster-Scots not enough'

The News Letter's editorial sets out the papers view that an Ulster-Scots element would "not be enough to offset an Irish Language Act" and warns against compromise on the issue as that would "concede the necessity" of such legislation.

The News Letter contends that the language is in fact "well supported" in Northern Ireland in spite of protests from language activists.

In contrast to the Belfast News Letter and the Belfast Telegraph, the nationalist leaning Irish News takes a more general look at the Stormont impasse.

The papers lead story, "Final push for Stormont as hopes fade", takes a more general look at the talks situation rather that focusing on language legislation, Peter Robinson's intervention does not appear in the Irish News until page four.

'Chilling murder'

Again in contrast to the unionist papers, the Irish News editorial does not trouble itself with politics, focusing instead on the "chilling murder" of businessman Nelson Cheung following the sentencing of his killers on Tuesday.

In other news, the second story on the Irish News' front page, says that Belfast City Council is refusing to say whether its chief executive, Suzanne Wylie, knew of an arrangement where the council would store pallets on behalf of Twelfth Nigh Bonfire builders.

The front page of the Northern Ireland edition of the Daily Mirror avoids politics and instead features the sentencing of Nelson Cheung's murderers.

Mr Cheung's daughter told the court in an impact statement that her father's killers had robbed her of her father and she had given up hope that she would ever wake from her nightmare.

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