N. Ireland Politics

Arlene Foster says Brexit has not weakened NI's place in union

Arlene Foster

The DUP leader, Arlene Foster, says she does not accept that Brexit has weakened Northern Ireland's place in the union.

Mrs Foster told the BBC's Inside Politics she wants the negotiations with the EU to adopt a flexible innovative approach to Northern Ireland's circumstances.

However, she argued that Northern Ireland would have a much stronger platform in relation to the Brexit negotiations if there was a devolved executive at Stormont.

Questioned about whether meeting Irish language activists had changed her position on ruling out an Irish language act under her watch, Mrs Foster said few people other than political activists had told her they wanted such an act.

The DUP leader said the Irish language should not be in the political arena, adding that one language or one culture should not be elevated above another and there should be respect and tolerance for each other's culture.

Image copyright Press Eye
Image caption Arlene Foster visited Our Lady's Grammar School in Newry recently to speak to people who "genuinely love" the Irish language

Asked what extra legal provision might be made for the Irish language, Mrs Foster said this was a matter for the negotiations due after the general election.

She hopes that Sinn Féin will show the same level of respect towards the Ulster Scots, Orange and British heritage of unionists as they are asking to be extended towards those who cherish their Irish culture.

Mrs Foster argued that the scandal over the Renewable Heat Incentive Scheme had been the excuse for the March assembly election, not the cause.

She claimed that since the Assembly election there has been no dialogue about RHI at all, it has all "gone by the wayside" but was used in an attempt to get rid of her and damage her party.

On legacy matters, the DUP leader said she was glad there were now attempts to rebalance what she regards as a tainted disproportionate way of looking at the past.

Image caption On unionist cooperation, Mrs Foster said she would continue to work with the UUP leader, Robin Swann

However, Mrs Foster indicated opposition to any move to extend a statute of limitations which would end Troubles-related prosecutions beyond the ranks of the military and police.

The DUP leader said that in cases where people had never been investigated properly it was important to maintain the hope of justice for victims.

On unionist cooperation, Mrs Foster said she would continue to work with the UUP leader, Robin Swann.

She denied taking too tough a line early on in their discussions about a wider unionist pact.

On the decision of key DUP adviser Richard Bullick to take a job in public relations, Mrs Foster said Mr Bullick has been out of a job since January and it was wrong to expect him to continue working for no wage.

She said Mr Bullick would continue to support the DUP and she wished him well in his new career.

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