It would appear that the Irish Language Act could become legislation by October, following meetings with the Northern Ireland Secretary of State yesterday evening.
Sinn Fein President Mary Lou McDonald tweeted after midnight that: “The British Govt has tonight agreed to legislate for Acht Gaeilge (Irish Language Act). This is the only way to break the cycle of DUP obstruction of rights.”
Mrs McDonald also appeared to confirm in the early morning tweet that: “Sinn Féin will nominate (Michelle O’Neill) as Deputy First Minister. We have important work ahead.”
Secretary of State Brandon Lewis had been having meetings with representatives from the DUP and Sinn Fein yesterday after arriving in Northern Ireland earlier in the day, in an attempt to prevent the collapse of Executive and power-sharing.
The DUP left their meeting earlier without making a statement but the Sinn Fein President – following her earlier Tweet – went on to make a full statement which read:
“Tonight the British government has agreed to legislate for Acht na Gaeilge and the cultural package at Westminster. This will happen in October with Commissioners appointed by March 2022.
“We told the British government that this is the only viable option to deliver these rights as the DUP were unwilling and incapable of delivering on their commitments. It is deeply regrettable that the DUP chose to block rights in this way for so long.
“Tonight we have broken through all of that.
“Irish speakers have been waiting for fifteen years for basic rights and recognition to be delivered. This is important for Irish language speakers and for wider society because power sharing is based on inclusion, respect and equality.
“There is an important responsibility on the Irish and British government to ensure no further delay.
“On this basis of what has been agreed I am happy to confirm that Sinn Féin will nominate Michelle O’Neill as Deputy First Minister and will participate fully in the five party executive.
“We have a huge amount of work ahead of us as we come out of Covid and as we continue to rebuild the economy, get people back to work and tackle hospital waiting lists.”
Mr Lewis speaking to the media after late-night negotiations confirmed that should the N.I. Assembly fail to bring in cultural and language legislation as set out in the New Decade New Approach deal, the UK government would do so by the end of September.
“I can confirm that if the executive has not progressed legislation by the end of September, the UK government will take the legislation through Parliament in Westminster,”
The N.I. Secretary of State also announces via a Tweet that both Sinn Fein and the DUP had agreed to nominate a First & Deputy First Minister.
“I am pleased to announce that I have secured commitments from the DUP and Sinn Féin on the nomination of a First Minister and deputy First Minister. I now expect this to happen at the earliest opportunity – later this morning!”
These nominations are expected later on Thursday ahead of a possible Executive meeting, which can’t go ahead until both positions have been filled and agreed upon.