Agreement is possible in talks on Irish language, insists Alliance

Speaking ahead of a statement to the UK Parliament by the Northern Ireland Secretary of State, James Brokenshire, on the next steps for talks and devolution, Alliance Party Deputy Leader Stephen Farry, has stressed that an overall deal, including a sensible and proportionate approach on Irish Language is achievable but that the DUP and Sinn Fein had negotiated themselves into an impasse.

Stephen Farry said: “It is increasingly clear that the talks are at a complete impasse, primarily around the matter of an Irish Language Act.

“The consequences of this impact are the absence of devolved government, and untold damage to our economy and public services. This impasse comes at a time when Northern Ireland urgently needs its own voice in Brexit negotiations.

“It seems that the DUP and Sinn Fein have negotiated themselves into a dead-end over the Irish Language issue, with a major concession from one or other being the only means to find a way forward. But it doesn’t need to be that way.

“Alliance is clear that we do need to see an Irish Language Act. This is both important in its own right and as a political necessity to establish mutual trust and confidence. But equally, the content of any Act needs to be sensible, reasonable and proportionate. There can be no blank cheques in that regard.

“The purpose of an Irish Language Act would be to recognise the cultural and linguistic significance of the language to our society, and to ensure a standard approach across government. This should provide a common approach, proportionate to the business needs of customers of any particular service, and ensure that no public body is failing in its responsibilities nor overreaching.

“Considerations such as quotas in the public sector, changing all road signs, and giving Draconian powers to a Language Commissioner are all not appropriate.

“In terms of costs, even the most wildly far-reaching estimate would be less than the ongoing financial and economic cost that Northern Ireland is experiencing from this crisis.

“It is not too late for parties to step back from the brink and reconsider their positions, including finding that realistic way forward on language issues.”

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