Westminster has agreed to introduce an Irish Language Act in Northern Ireland if Stormont fails to do so.
The British Government’s move should prevent the dispute from blocking the Northern Ireland Executive from getting back up and running.
Announcing the decision yesterday evening, the UKs Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis said the legislation would be passed through Westminster if the Executive had not progressed it by the end of September.
He said Sinn Féin and the DUP would now nominate first ministers at the earliest opportunity.
Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald last night welcomed the progress on the Irish Language Act.
“This isn’t just significant for Irish speakers,” she said. “This is significant for all of society because of course, power-sharing is based fundamentally on inclusion, on recognition and on respect.”
Sinn Féin had refused to return to the Executive without a firm commitment on the Irish language; however, the DUP had refused to offer firm timetable.
Westminster agreed to go over the Executive’s head on the matter at Sinn Fin’s request.
Deputy McDonald said it was “the only way to break the cycle of DUP obstruction of rights.”
The Irish Language Act was promised as part of the St Andrew’s Agreement, which saw Sinn Féin recognising the PSNI and returning to power-sharing in 2007.
It is expected to see Irish used by public bodies, the courts, on street signs and in the Stormont Assembly.
The DUP’s Paul Givan will now replace Arlene Foster as First Minister, while Sinn Féin’s Michelle O’Neill will resume her position as Deputy First Minister.
The parties will make their nominations later today.
The Taoiseach has welcomed the news noting that the stability of the Executive and the full operation of all the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement are critical for peace and progress.