Simon Coveney says Britain will implement Irish language act in NI, despite implosion of DUP

Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney said the UK Government will implement the Irish language act in Northern Ireland if Stormont doesn’t pass it. 

esterday, DUP leader Edwin Poots resigned just three weeks after securing the position. 

This occurred after the overwhelming majority of MLAs and MPs in the party turned against him as he agreed to nominate Paul Givan as First Minister, despite the UK government pledging to introduce Irish language legislation at Westminster in October if it didn’t pass in Northern Ireland. 

Minister Coveney said every party except the DUP has accepted the language legislation that was agreed by the British Government 15 years ago. 

“Brandon Lewis did the right thing here by committing to, if necessary, passing legislation in Westminster to deal with language and culture as committed to 18 months ago …and as the British government agreed to do 15 years ago,” he said on RTÉ Radio One’s Morning Ireland. 

“The hope was that wouldn’t be necessary and the Executive and the Assembly in Northern Ireland would be able to pass that legislation.

“We agreed to draft what legislation would look like 18 months ago, there’s nothing new here. This is following through on a commitment that is the basis of reestablishing the Executive.”

Mr Coveney added that “despite what many people might think” he has a good relationship with the Northern Ireland Secretary of State.

It was pointed out to the Foreign Affairs Minister that due to Mr Poots’ resignation the concessions of this language package would still have to be looked at by the new DUP leader, to which he said “that’s true”. 

However, he added: “There’s a written agreement from the Secretary of State and the British government on that issue so I don’t expect that’s going to change.

“All of the other parties accepted that, even the UUP Joe Beaty is saying ‘look we should be legislating in the assembly for language that includes scots as well as the Irish language.’

“This is a balanced package on language and culture. I think it’s the correct thing to do to legislate and manage that issue within Northern Ireland without having to outsource to Westminster.

“But what Brandon Lewis is saying, and he’s correct, is that if they are unable to do that we’ve got to put a timeline or a backstop in place to ensure if it doesn’t happen in the assembly then the British Government will effectively follow through on the commitment that has been made.”

Minister Coveney said the last thing politics in Northern Ireland needs right now is for the largest party to be in a “very divided and uncertain place, which is where the DUP are at the moment.”

He added: “This is a party that doesn’t change its leader very often, they’ve only ever had four leaders. It’s not used to managing that and it’s a time of real pressure and polarisation and uncertainty in Northern Ireland.”

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