Sinn Fein ‘will not capitulate’ on Irish language act for Northern Ireland

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DUP leader Arlene Foster with Sin Fein’s Mary Lou McDonald and Michelle O’Neill before the funeral service for murdered journalist Lyra McKee at St Anne’s Cathedral (Brian Lawless/PA Wire)

Sinn Fein will not “capitulate” on an Irish language act for Northern Ireland in a bid to resolve the political impasse, party leader Mary Lou McDonald has said.

She said there was nothing trivial about insisting on equality and rights for every citizen in region.

It comes as DUP leader Arlene Foster repeated her call to get talks on restoring the devolved institutions back up and running again as soon as possible.

During Lyra McKee’s funeral on Wednesday, Fr Martin Magill challenged politicians as to why it had taken the death of the 29-year-old to unite them.

Ms McDonald told RTE Radio One’s Today with Miriam programme that Fr Magill “hit the nail on the head” when he spoke at her funeral.

“He articulated in the clearest and most uncompromising way the fact that politicians, myself included, need to roll up our sleeves and we need to get cracking,” she said.

Lyra McKee funeral
Politicians came together for Lyra McKee’s funeral (Liam McBurney/PA)

Ms McDonald added: “Fr Magill laid down a very, very serious challenge, a challenge not just to talk, not to tick boxes, but to get powersharing up and running.

The Sinn Fein leader described Ms McKee’s funeral as “incredibly moving” and “harrowing at many levels”.

She added that people across the island had been deeply affected by Mc McKee’s death and that there was “anger” and “revulsion” over her killing.

But asked whether she was holding out for marriage equality for same sex couples and the introduction of a stand alone Irish language act, which were not acceptable to the DUP, she said that the issues at play were not trivial.

“I’m sure you didn’t miss the fact that those saying goodbye to Lyra were carrying the rainbow flag,” she said.

“I’m sure you haven’t missed the fact that Lyra herself was a very passionate and very effective advocate for marriage equality.”

The Dublin Central TD added: “There is nothing trivial in a society that’s has been fractured by conflict, in a society where we need sustainable powersharing, there’s nothing trivial at all on insisting on equality and rights for every citizen.”

“We stand by the Good Friday Agreement and we are not going to resile from that position.”

Pressed as to whether Sinn Fein was willing to compromise on the issue of a standalone Irish act in a bid to resolve the impasse, Ms McDonald replied: “If you’re asking me are we going to capitulate on behalf of citizens in the north to people who wish to hold back progress in every form, to people who do not wish to make room for others in an open democratic society, then the answer to that is no.

“We will not capitulate on that.”

Ms McDonald added that it was her view, before and after having listened to Fr Magill’s words at Miss McKee’s funeral, that the British and Irish governments needed to step in to resolve the stalemate on the issues of marriage equality and the Irish language act.

“Given that the DUP aren’t prepared to lift these issues and resolve these issues with us, the governments now need to step in,” she said.

“They need to meet urgently, I believe, in the form of the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference and they need to map out the answers to these questions.”

Speaking in Dublin, Sinn Fein TD Louise O’Reilly said that her party had already made compromises in terms of talks in Northern Ireland.

“There was an agreement in place less than 15 months ago, that represented a stretch and compromise for republicans,” she said.

“It’s not true to say there haven’t been compromises, the international agreements we refer to are all made up of compromises.

“We need to see governments come forward and convene real and meaningful talks, talks that deliver on the equality agenda for people living in the north.”

On whether Sinn Fein would be willing to compromise on marriage equality, Ms O’Reilly refused to be drawn.

“I don’t think we need to get hung up on this red line and that red line, but what we need to do is focus on where we can convene the talks and get in and start discussions,” she said.

“Everybody knows that Sinn Fein stands with the LGBTI community. We make no apology for that, we stand with our brothers and sisters in the north who want equal marriage. It’s not fair that if you live in the 26 counties, you can marry who you love and in the six counties you cannot.”

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