Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland taxpayers foot huge bill for translation services

BY ANNA MAGUIRE

The Assembly continues to spend hundreds of thousands of pounds on Irish and Ulster Scots translation services, amid the biggest economic downturn in living memory.

Between July 2009 and June this year, £270,000 of taxpayers' money was used to pay for an Irish translation service for all Stormont departments.

The contract, worth £67,500 annually, expired in June and it was replaced with an interpretation and text translation service for at least two years.

The Department of Finance and Personnel would not confirm the annual cost of the service, which does not have an Ulster Scots equivalent. The figure given is just scratching the surface.

An interpreter regularly checks the translation of speeches in Irish during the Assembly's plenary sittings.

MLAs who give speeches in Irish will usually translate what they are saying, but an Assembly employee still has to verify that the translation is correct.

That service is provided by a permanent member of the Assembly's Hansard staff, who translates, as well as other reporting and editorial services, during the Assembly sittings.

A spokeswoman said it was not possible to calculate the exact costs associated solely with this work. However, agency workers are also used for long sittings.

In each of the 2010/11 and 2011/12 cycles, just over £17,000 was paid to agency staff for translation services, with a further £18,000 paid out in 2012/13.

Ulster Scots interpreting services are provided for plenary sittings when necessary but no service provision has been made since October 2010.

The translation of documents has also cost taxpayers tens of thousands of pounds.

In 2009, it emerged that the Northern Ireland Executive had spent almost £70,000 in two years translating documents into Irish and Ulster Scots. The Department of Agriculture splashed out £1,471 on Ulster Scots translations in two years, while the Department of Finance spent £999.

But the bulk was spent by the Department of Education, under former minister Caitriona Ruane, which shelled out £49,808 on Irish translation services – necessary to communicate with Irish-medium primary schools, it said.

An Assembly question in 2011 revealed the department spent £110,000 on Irish language translation services in 2010/11.

The Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment also shelled out just over £598,000 translating and publishing documents in Irish during the same period.

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