Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 17 April 2014

Language funding lost in translation

Even by the standards of the Assembly, the spending of more than £500,000 on the translation of Irish and Ulster-Scots in the last four years is a scandalous waste of scarce public resources. There can barely be a person in Northern Ireland who relies solely on either language or who could not understand the same information in English. Instead the languages are simply cultural totems which are waved by either community as the public's expense.

It is often argued by supporters of the Irish and Ulster-Scots language that preservation of the respective cultures are vital. There probably is a valid argument for supporting cultural activities associated with either language, but that should not extend to the level of translating all sorts of documents into those languages or hiring people to translate the mutterings of MLAs who decide to conduct part of their debates in a language that only a minority of people understand.

Would this money not be better spent in the provision of facilities and resources in Irish medium schools, for example, rather than in printing material which is already accessible in a language that everyone understands. Supporters of both languages feel they should have identical resources financed from the public purse, even if that need cannot be demonstrated, as with the farcical Ulster-Scots voicemail service at Stormont which has never been used.

In a province where waste in the public service is commonplace, it has taken a certain amount of ingenuity to find a new way of spending money with no discernible return. Perhaps those ministers responsible for the expenditure on these two languages would like to publicly justify it, especially at a time when the health service and education need more money or when welfare payments to the worst off in the community are being slashed. They would find it very difficult to put forward a compelling argument. It is time they stopped spending money on projects which feed nothing but the vanity of those involved.

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