Statement by TUV leader Jim Allister:
“Comments by NIO Minister Conor Burns indicating that Irish language legislation will be introduced at Westminster before the Stormont elections will leave many Unionists questioning the point of devolution. Why should Unionists accept a form of devolution which gifts a party committed to the destruction of Northern Ireland places in government as of right when the supposed protections which we enjoy can be dispensed with so easily?
“The supposedly sacrosanct text of the Belfast Agreement has been tampered with in order to remove the need for Unionist consent to the Protocol. Some of the most liberal abortion legislation in the world has been introduced over the heads of the Assembly. Now, Irish language is to be imposed on us without the Assembly having any say.
“Sinn Fein can use their veto power to stop so much as a stone being erected or a rose bush being planted at Stormont to mark 100 years of Northern Ireland’s existence yet when it comes to the highly controversial issue of Irish language legislation the Unionist veto does not apply.
“What’s the point of devolution from a Unionist perspective if it offers us no protections?
“That said, the DUP cannot wash their hands of this.
“Part of the deal which saw Paul Givan appointed as First Minister conceded the principle that if Irish language legislation did not get though the Assembly then Westminster would act over the heads of MLAs.
“It is also important to remember that it was the New Decade New Approach Agreement between the DUP and Sinn Fein which promised the introduction of Irish language legislation. We don’t have to wonder about what will be in the legislation Mr Burns says will be past in Westminster because the draft Bill is already published for all to read in the DUP’s deal with Sinn Fein of January 2020.
“Unionists should not forget that when we have official recognition of Irish, a Commissioner who has the main function to “protect and enhance” the development of Irish and the potential for the door to be pushed wider over time with Commissioner having power to review standards of delivery at any time and an obligation to do so every five years this had all been agreed by the DUP.
“Westminster should leave this matter alone but Unionists should also remember two crucial points – the content of the legislation was agreed by the DUP in January 2020 and even the idea of Westminster acting to bring it in over the heads of MLAs was conceded by the then DUP leader in 2021.”