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DUP rebuffs claim it will block Irish language legislation in protest over NI Protocol

A senior party rep also rejected a suggestion the DUP is considering collapsing power-sharing over the NI Protocol.
DUP rebuffs claim it will block Irish language legislation in protest over NI Protocol
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The DUP has distanced itself from claims the party will block the passage of Irish language legislation in protest over Brexit’s Irish Sea trading border.

A senior party representative also rejected a suggestion the DUP is considering collapsing power-sharing over the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Education Minister Peter Weir said he was “bemused” by both claims.

The DUP and other unionists have been demanding the removal of the protocol, which governs trade between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK post-Brexit.

It ensures an open land border with the Republic but has resulted in new regulatory and customs checks and processes on goods moving from Great Britain into Northern Ireland.

A pledge to legislate on Irish language was a key part of the ‘New Decade, New Approach’ (NDNA) deal that restored devolution in January 2020 following a three-year impasse.

First Minister and DUP leader Arlene Foster this month told MLAs they intended to bring forward the legislation before the end of the current mandate.

But a DUP source told the BBC’s Nolan Show the party would not allow the legislation while the protocol remains in place.

Mr Weir told PA: "We’re committed to devolution, we’re committed to NDNA.

"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.”

A DUP statement also said “dialogue and political discussion” were the ways to resolve concerns with the protocol.

“The DUP is committed to the balanced upholding of all aspects of the devolution settlement,” it said.

"Each strand can only fully function when the others are working properly. They are all interdependent.

"We have seen the erection of barriers between GB and NI on trade and the application of laws governing our country as well as blatant disrespect for the unionist identity.

“We remain committed to New Decade, New Approach. All of these issues must be addressed and resolved along with the NDNA commitments if we are to achieve stability for Northern Ireland. The way forward is through dialogue and political discussion.”

Responding to the report about Irish language legislation, Deputy First Minister and Sinn Fein vice-president Michelle O’Neill tweeted: “The Irish language act negotiated as part of NDNA must be honoured and delivered by the parties in the Executive and both governments. There will be no renegotiation or backsliding on commitments.”

Conchúr Ó Muadaigh, advocacy manager of Irish language group Conradh na Gaeilge, said they have written to the First and Deputy First Ministers to seek “immediate clarity”.

“Any attempt to continue to block the agreed language legislation in the New Decade New Approach agreement would lead to a new crisis of public confidence in the capacity of the institutions to finally deliver language rights,” he said.

At the weekend David Campbell, chairman of the Loyalist Communities Council (LCC), an umbrella group representing loyalist paramilitary groups, suggested the DUP was contemplating pulling down Stormont.

Mr Campbell claimed Mrs Foster had told the LCC that collapsing the Executive was within her party’s “thinking”, but only after all other avenues to ditch the protocol had been exhausted.

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