The News Letter, which seems to wish to focus more and more on an exclusively Ulster Protestant/Loyalist readership, worked itself into a lather about the fact that Gordon Brown had agreed to give £6milion to the Irish Language Broadcast Fund. The newspaper’s headline said that there was ‘Fury’ at the announcement.
According to the News Letter, Ulster Unionist peer Lord Laird ‘blasted news of the pledge as “disgusting and despicable”.’ There is little evidence that the vast bulk of the population took any notice at all of the announcement. Nelson McCausland – who is not adverse to the odd provocative sound bite, seemed remarkably relaxed describing it as a ‘fig-leaf’ for Sinn Féin in light of their failure to deliver an Irish Language Act.
One thing is for sure, it has further politicised the issue of the Irish language – if that was possible. The £6 million was given at Sinn Féin’s request so voters are invited to draw the conclusion that if you want to advance the Irish language agenda you should vote SF not SDLP or any other party. In reality, this approach puts off any possibility of movement on the issue.
It is worth noting that the Welsh Language Act of 1993 was introduced by the Conservatives and the issue has cross party support in Wales – it is hard to envisage that happening in Northern Ireland.