AN IRISH Language Act (ILA) must be delivered in line with the commitments of the New Decade, New Approach (NDNA) Agreement, according to a local Sinn Féin MLA.

On Monday, March 22, it was claimed on BBC Radio Ulster’s Nolan Show that the DUP would block the introduction of the ILA unless the NI Protocol was scrapped.

The failure to bring in legislation around the Irish language was one of the main reasons powersharing collapsed in Northern Ireland. A commitment to introduce an act in the NDNA was central to the restoration of powersharing.

Education Minister Peter Weir dismissed the claim and said the DUP was focused on powersharing, and that collapsing Stormont would be “counterproductive”.

Mr. Weir moved to distance the party from the suggestion it would not honour its NDNA commitments.

“We’re committed to devolution; we’re committed to NDNA,” he told PA.

“We’re actually here about making Northern Ireland work and that means both in terms of ensuring that devolution itself continues on, but also that we have good north/south, east/west links.

“That’s one of the reasons why we believe the protocol needs to change, needs to go –to ensure actually that we can actually have things which are beneficial to all of Northern Ireland.

“You know, we’re somewhat bemused by some of the reports, and I’m not going to get too much into some of the comments that are unattributable comments,” said Minister Weir.

Responding to the claim about the ILA, Fermanagh South Tyrone MLA, Sean Lynch – who is a fluent Irish speaker – said: “The ILA was negotiated as part of NDNA agreement.

“All the parties in the Executive, and both governments, have signed up to the Act, and it must be honoured and delivered. Sinn Féin are adamant that there will be no renegotiation and backsliding on commitments made.”

He continued: “The Irish language does not belong to any one party, nor any one community within the north of Ireland.

“Irish language [speakers] are a varied and diverse group, that come from many different backgrounds. The rights of the Irish language community must be respected.

‘Politicial football’

“The Irish Protocol and Brexit has absolutely nothing to do with the ILA and it can not be used as a political football in the disaster that is the Tory and DUP Brexit.

“This commitment must be delivered on.”

SDLP Councillor Adam Gannon, who sits on Fermanagh and Omagh District Council’s language steering groups, said the latest claims “demonstrate idiocy on the part of the DUP if they are even considering this”.

He continued: “The Irish language isn’t a political tool to be abused by some to try and score points, as is being reportedly considered by the DUP.

“This is a deeply misguided attempt to damage the Brexit protocol – a protocol that is an international treaty, which has absolutely no connection to the Irish language, and Irish speakers will not be victim to DUP intolerance again.”

Councillor Gannon added: “The DUP supported Brexit, they chose the path we’re on, it’s time for them to come to terms with what they wished for.”