Statement by TUV leader Jim Allister:
“There has been a subtle but significant shift in language by the DUP around legislative provision for Irish. Even in Arlene Foster’s comments at the weekend which were interpreted as a toughening of the DUP line she said:
“We have failed to be convinced that there is a need for a free-standing Irish language act.”
It is not the title but the content of legislation which matters most. Anything – whether under the guise of a Culture Act, or any other title – which makes Irish an Official language in Northern Ireland on a par with English in our courts, councils and assembly, as well as on our signs and in our public service, advances the Sinn Fein goal of making Unionists feel alienated in their own land and disadvantaged in terms of public service jobs.
“So, for those flirting with linguistic semantics, what would an Irish Language Act which wasn’t “free standing” or “stand alone” include? That is the question they need to answer with absolute clarity. If it delivers the hollowing out of our Britishness, as demanded by Sinn Fein, then, it is an Irish Language Act by another name.
“We have heard suggestions of additional funding for Ulster Scots but the idea that Ulster Scots can be used as a fig leaf to cover provision for Irish language legislation simply will not wash.
“An Act which sees Irish language speakers at an advantage when it comes to applying for jobs in the public sector or the courts will be seriously discriminatory and have major ramifications for the Unionist community regardless of whether or not there is some reference to Ulster-Scots thrown in for the optics. Having a few classes about Ulster Scots history, culture and dialect in school won’t compensate for not being able to get that job because you don’t have Irish.
“There have been many Unionists who have welcomed the Grand Master’s comments on the current political situation and demands for Irish language legislation. Tellingly, however, there has been a failure to highlight their agreement with the key sentence of his article:
“Any legislation, no matter what it’s called or how its packaged, which underpins the Irish language in a legal framework will have massive implications for local government, the courts, the civil service, schools and everyday life in Northern Ireland.”
“It is incumbent upon all Unionists to make it clear that promotion of the politicised Irish language is not on, under any guise. This is a defining issue on which there can be no compromise.”