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£14,000 Irish Language Act consultation spend condemned

Published 12/01/2016

Sinn Fein's Caral Ni Chuilin defended the consultation
Sinn Fein's Caral Ni Chuilin defended the consultation

A £14,000 spend on an Irish Language Act public consultation was a waste of money, the Assembly has been told.

Of the 13,000 responses received during the 12-week consultation, the overwhelming majority (95%) were in favour of new legislation, Culture Minister Caral Ni Chuilin has revealed.

But the expenditure was slammed by the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which said the proposed Bill would not receive cross-community support.

DUP MLA Gordon Lyons said: "Can the minister not see that this consultation was a poor use of resources?

"Because when you consider the political reality it is that such a Bill would require cross-community support, and my party has made it very clear that we will not be supporting any Act like this because, not only (because) of how divisive it will be, but because of the cost of implementing the use of Irish in courts, of Irish in the Assembly, the Irish language commissioner...

"Surely she should face up to political reality?"

An Irish Language Act would include the requirement for Stormont business to be translated and for courts to be heard in Irish as well as the development of specific Gaeltacht areas and the provision of place names in Irish.

An Irish language commissioner would be appointed and Irish would be used by public bodies.

The figures were revealed during an occasionally heated Question Time session.

Defending her department's spend, Ms Ni Chuilin hit back with a stinging attack on the DUP.

She said: "When it comes to equality, the member (Mr Lyons) and his party have a very very poor record, in implementing what were lodged, cited, recorded (and) repeated in internationally bound agreements.

"The Irish Language Act was in the Good Friday Agreement, it's in St Andrews and it is in subsequent (papers) after that.

"I know the member (Mr Lyons) is intelligent and I can't understand how he fails to see that 13,000 responses, 95% of which are supportive... I would suggest that the community out there again are way ahead of where you and some of your party are at.

"Other members of the unionist community who responded to this consultation in a very positive way have nothing to fear from an Irish Language Act; have absolutely nothing to fear from the Irish language.

"I would suggest, if you are up for it: talk to some of those people who could maybe allay some of the fears that you may have. But I suspect this is something more fundamental: t hat you are just anti-Irish language, and I have to say that is nothing short of pathetic."

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