by Jamie Bryson
On Sunday afternoon rumours began to filter out that the outline of a deal had been agreed by the DUP and Sinn Fein.
It is understood the outline deal, which was presented to DUP members at a 10am summit this morning (Monday), includes legislative provision for Irish language ‘rights’. The DUP negotiating team had planned to sell this a victory by claiming the legislation was only copper fastening areas of Irish in the public sphere that were already in use. In other words the message to the grassroots was going to be ‘we are only copper fastening what they already have anyway’.
This spin, however, will not fool many within unionism. Any further Irish language provision will act as nothing more than a staging post for further demands. Rather than closing the issue, further legislative provision will only open the door to an expansive and aggressive agenda designed to force the parameters of any agreed provisions.
On today’s Stephen Nolan show the Irish language lobby outlined the ultimate trajectory of their agenda when their spokesperson confirmed that as part of a ‘phased’ approach Irish language signs should be forced on areas such as east Belfast and the Shankill Road. This astonishing admission has heaped further pressure on the DUP negotiating team, who have been- pardon the pun- caught in the act trying to slip a convoluted legislative compromise in the back-door.
DUP MLAs and MPs, who had not been fully briefed on the detail of the deal, confidently predicted that it would never pass the triple-lock of DUP MLAs, MPs and the Party Executive. It was also made clear that the DUP are not minded to give up the petition of concern.
The party negotiators had suggested that “Gerry Adams was shifting on around three issues per day last week” and that Sinn Fein had made significant concessions in relation to legacy matters, including the right of the British Government to exercise their national security veto. This, however, is a basic right of any state and hardly something to be sold as a victory for unionism.
Some DUP MLAs, who were keen to push a deal, had blamed North Belfast MLA William Humphrey for being “awkward” and had named David Simpson MP and a female MLA as being the most vocal in DUP group meetings discussing the progress of the talks.
It is clear from the grassroots unionist reaction over the past 24 hours, that any further Irish language provision is unacceptable. That is a very clear message being sent to the DUP negotiating team, and it is understood it is a message that will be re-enforced by strong personalities within the party.