N. Ireland Politics

TUV: DUP 'genuflecting to the Irish Language brigade'

Irish on a wall

The TUV leader, Jim Allister, has accused the DUP of "genuflecting to the Irish Language brigade".

His comments came as the DUP met a number of Irish language groups at Stormont on Thursday as part of its move to learn more about the language.

Mr Allister said the DUP was "preparing to pay Sinn Fein's price for the return to office".

In a statement, the DUP said Mrs Foster is engaged in a listening exercise. The engagement so far has been useful."

In February, Arlene Foster said her party would never support an Irish language act.

Mrs Foster told her party during the Northern Ireland Assembly election campaign that she would not "capitulate" to demands from republicans for legislation to give official status to the language.

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Media captionDUP leader Arlene Foster says thank you in Irish during a visit to a school in Newry

The Irish Language group, POBAL, met the DUP to discuss its campaign for an Irish Language Act which is seen as one of the main stumbling blocks in the talks process.

Speaking to reporters afterwards, Janet Muller, POBAL's director, said Arlene Foster was "very open " and engaged in a very "positive way".

Mrs Muller said she sensed there had been a "genuine conversation going on" between her group and Mrs Foster and DUP colleagues, including Edwin Poots.

"We're not, by any means, of one mind, but I think there was a genuine sense there that people were listening to each other," she added.

The DUP also met Conradh na Gaeilge, one of the oldest Irish language groups, founded in 1893 by Douglas Hyde.

Spokesman Ciarán Mac Giolla Bhéin described the meeting as "positive and friendly" and said it was a "worthwhile and useful exercise ".

He said that the DUP had confirmed "they were looking at content and legislative provision for the Irish Language.

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Image caption Pobal's Janet Muller said there was a "genuine conversation" between her group and the DUP

"In terms of what it looks like we have yet to see," he added.

TUV leader Jim Allister, who opposes an Irish Language Act, said: "The DUP's genuflecting to the Irish Language brigade should serve as a warning to all who oppose the de-Britishisation of Northern Ireland that Arlene Foster is preparing to pay Sinn Fein's price for the return to office."

On Wednesday, Mrs Foster said thank you in Irish during a visit to a school in County Down.

She used the Irish phrase "go raibh maith agat" after meeting staff and pupils at Our Lady's Grammar School in Newry.

Seeing Irish language students perform songs and drama had "uplifted" her, she added.

The DUP said Mrs Foster had "met a wide range of groups and individuals from throughout the British Isles".

"There are a wide range of opinions on how the language should be supported in the future. Whilst Jim feels threatened by engagement, we do not."

Last week, Sinn Féin's Máirtín Ó Muilleoir said Mrs Foster's decision to plan meetings with Irish speakers was a "positive move".

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