Northern Ireland

Michelle O'Neill 'open to Ulster-Scots legal protection'

Michelle O'Neill Image copyright PA
Image caption Michelle O'Neill wants official status given to the Irish language

Sinn Féin's northern leader has said she would be open to legal protection for Ulster-Scots as well as the Irish language.

Michelle O'Neill said she was willing to protect the interests of Ulster-Scots if there was demand for it.

In an interview for BBC One's The View, Ms O'Neill said the best way to protect all people's rights was through legislation in the NI Assembly.

Sinn Féin wants official status given to the Irish language.

The Democratic Unionist Party said in February that it would never support such a move but its leader Arlene Foster has since said that she had ruled out an Irish Language Act "in the context of nothing else happening in terms of culture and language".

She emphasised the need to respect all cultures in Northern Ireland, including "the Ulster Scots, the Orange and British cultural identity".

On Thursday, Ms O'Neill told the BBC: "Ulster Scots belongs to everybody, the Irish language belongs to everybody.

"Let's respect people's rights. Let's make sure they are enshrined in legislation so we cannot have ministers taking bigoted decisions about one section or the other."

The Irish language has been a major stumbling block in the talks to restore power sharing at Stormont.

The political deadlock in Northern Ireland came after a snap election on 2 March brought an end to Stormont's unionist majority and the Democrat Unionist Party's lead over Sinn Féin was cut from 10 seats to one.

The talks are now on hold until the general election on 8 June is over.

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