Northern Ireland

DUP MLA Edwin Poots addresses gathering in Irish

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Media captionEdwin Poots addresses gathering in Irish

Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) MLA Edwin Poots has addressed a gathering in County Donegal in Irish.

He was speaking at a discussion at the MacGill Summer School in Glenties about north-south relationships on Wednesday.

Mr Poots also said he was" not opposed in principle" to legislative support for the Irish language.

Demands for an Irish Language Act were understood to have been a sticking point for parties during power sharing talks in June.

In April, DUP party leader Arlene Foster said thank you in Irish during a visit to a school.

At the end of the speech Mr Poots said: "Maireann an chraobh ar an bhfál ach ní mhaireann an lámh do chuir.

"Forgive my broken Irish, but for those of you who, like me, are not fluent it translates to: 'The branch lives on the hedge though the hand that planted it be dead.'

Image caption Edwin Poots shared a stage with Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald

"It's an old Irish saying reminding us of our mortality and that our actions today will live long after we are gone.

"May we work together both north-south and east-west to ensure the best for all these British Isles."

He said: "Anyone who speaks and loves the Irish language is as much a part of Northern Ireland life as a collarette-wearing Orangeman.

"I want them to feel at home and feel respected and part of society."

Edwin Poots also spelt out his opposition to bilingual road signs, a quota for Irish speaking civil servants or a commissioner with powers to sanction public authorities.

When asked if the DUP's position on a stand alone Irish language act had changed, Mr Poots said it was a question of balance.

"We will not have one culture denigrated and another culture elevated, we need to move forward together," he said.

'Ugliest side of sectarianism'

Mr Poots told the BBC that the DUP would work to "ensure all cultures are respected" but that he suspected the "Irish Language Act is an excuse because Sinn Féin didn't want to do governance in Northern Ireland".

"They're afraid of making hard decisions on welfare reform for example, and they're afraid to make hard decisions around Brexit and be laboured with that.

"They are after other things, but the Irish language is a useful tool to them," he added.

Sinn Féin's deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald also addressed the event and talked about the need to restore the power sharing institutions.

The Dublin Central TD also hit out at "effigies of Martin McGuinness" that were "burnt on unionist bonfires" on the Eleventh Night.

"Unionist leaders were silent," she said.

"Posters of Sinn Féin and SDLP assembly members were all set alight, as were those from the Alliance Party.

"We need to call out these actions for what they are - this is not colourful pageantry; it is the ugliest side of sectarianism.

"It is a hate crime, and it sucks the hope of future generations," she said.

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