A letter by the DUP leader Ian Paisley promising to block legislation aimed at preserving the Irish language in the North of Ireland has been condemned by Sinn Féin.
Sinn Féin Party whip Caral Ni Chuilin has said that a letter written by Paisley outlining his intention to halt support for the language are not in line with the St Andrews Agreement.
In the two-page letter, written to mark the first 100 days of the Stormont executive, the new First Minister assures party members that the DUP will oppose any legislation that would strengthen the native language.
“Under DUP stewardship, unionists are now confident that the Union is secure,” the North Antrim MP said.
“We have transformed the political landscape despite many of our opponents saying it was impossible. Some even attempt to rubbish the significant gains we have made but we have defeated terrorist objectives and safeguarded unionist interests.”
He added: “The DUP will not support the creation of any such legislation.
“This was a proposal made by the two Governments (British and Irish at the St Andrews talks) and was never agreed to or even discussed with us.
“As a result of the changes we secured on the decision-making process in the Assembly, the Irish language legislation would require unionist support in the Executive.”
But Ms Ni Chuilin said the revival of the Irish language had been “a cultural success story”.
“More and more people are using Irish,” she said.
“Young children in particular are being educated in increasing numbers through the medium of Irish and it is their future and their rights that must be secured through legislation.
She called on Mr Paisley, as First Minister, to recognise the obligation to make provisions for those Irish speaking children and all Irish speakers in general.
“The Irish language is not the property of one section of our people. It belongs to everyone. It threatens no-one.
“It provides Sinn Féin and the DUP with a unique opportunity to move forward. It provides Ian Paisley with a unique opportunity to move forward.
“There is an opportunity now the Irish language and give ownership to all our people - Unionist, Republican, dissenter and the ‘new Irish’.”