DUP quiet over claim Poots said Irish language Act costs 'reasonable'
The DUP has said it isn't going to get into whether one of its MLAs described proposed costings for an Irish Language Act as "reasonable".
The party refused to confirm or deny claims by an Irish language advocacy group that Edwin Poots made the comment at a meeting in April.
Conradh na Gaeilge said Mr Poots made the remark when the group met with a DUP delegation that also included party leader Arlene Foster and South Belfast MLA Christopher Stalford on April 27 at Stormont.
Conradh na Gaeilge released a discussion document that costs a language Act at £2 million a year, with an additional one-off cost of £9m needed to build the basic infrastructure to support its practical implementation.
Over an estimated five-year Assembly lifespan, that would work out at a total cost of £19m, averaging £3.8m a year, and should decrease over time if implemented correctly, Conradh na Gaeilge said. Its president, Dr Niall Comer, said: "When we met with the DUP in April we were told that there would be legislative provisions for the Irish language.
"The meeting was largely focused on the Conradh na Gaeilge discussion document that includes detailed costings of the Irish-language Act. DUP representative Edwin Poots also acknowledged, significantly, that our costings were "reasonable".
"We see this as a considerable development, considering the public statements previously made by the DUP in which cost was used as the main obstacle to progressing legislation."
Last night a DUP spokesman refused to confirm if Mr Poots had made the comments, saying: "Our views are well-known and documented. We want to see mutual respect for all languages and cultures in Northern Ireland, but not one elevated above all others."
The plans propose an 11-section Irish Language Act, including provisions that cover the official status of the language; Irish in the Assembly; in local government; the role of a Language Commissioner, and place names.
Ciaran Mac Giolla Bhein, advocacy manager at Conradh na Gaeilge, said: "If the DUP are content that our costings are 'reasonable' and therefore achievable, we would query the basis of the continued public opposition by certain members of their party to an Irish Language Act, especially on the grounds of cost.
"Fears expressed by some members of the DUP around the potential excessive costs of an Irish Language Act have been consistently used as a reason to prevent the introduction of legislation that was promised over 10 years ago at St Andrews, specifically in the period of 'difficult economic circumstances' in which we find ourselves.
"We would hope therefore that significant progress can be made during the ongoing talks given the DUP's acceptance that our proposals are reasonable, alongside the additional support of a majority of MLAs (50/90) who have previously and publicly supported the campaign for an Irish Language Act."