Tony Blair did ‘side deal’ with Gerry Adams over Irish language, says DUP MLA

DUP MLA Edwin Poots

DUP MLA Edwin Poots

The DUP never agreed to introduce an Irish Language Act at St Andrews, a senior party member has claimed.

The landmark St Andrews Agreement, which was signed by the DUP, Sinn Fein and both the British and Irish Governments in 2006, pledged “Government would introduce an Irish Language Act reflecting on the experience of Wales and Ireland and work with the incoming Executive to enhance and protect the development of the Irish language”.

But speaking on BBC’s Nolan Show this morning, DUP MLA Edwin Poots claimed the then Prime Minister Tony Blair had done a “side deal” with Gerry Adams regarding the Irish language issue.

He added: : “We (the DUP) never agreed to an Irish Language Act. What happened at St Andrews was that at the last moment, Gerry Adams pressed for the Irish language (Act) to be inserted, Tony Blair inserted it.

“So if Sinn Fein want to call someone in for promising something on the Irish Language Act, call Tony Blair in. It is not a matter for the DUP.”

Mr Poots said his party had honoured “everything they agreed to do” at the St Andrews negotiations, describing the insertion of the clause as a “dishonourable act” carried out by Tony Blair and Gerry Adams.

He added: “The government being referred to here is the British Government. We have done nothing dishonourable.

“The UK Government made a commitment to Sinn Fein, and the UK Government did not honour that commitment.”

Mr Poots also claimed that Sinn Fein “could not cope” with the DUP, adding: “We are too strong for them and they want a weaker brand of unionism to negotiate with.”

Sinn Fein’s Conor Murphy said the comments by Mr Poots indicated “the problem of doing business with the DUP” and they had been “hitting their heads against a brick wall for a long time”.