Belfast Telegraph

DUP claims Irish Language act would cost £100m a year - as McCausland reiterates party did not agree to 'detail' of St Andrews Agreement

The DUP's Nelson McCausland has claimed an Irish language act in Northern Ireland would cost £100m a year - as he reignites the debate around the party's commitment to the St Andrews Agreement.

Signed by the DUP, Sinn Fein and the British and Irish Governments in 2006, the St Andrews Agreement pledged "Government would introduce an Irish Language Act reflecting on the experience of Wales and Ireland and work with the incoming Executive to enhance and protect the development of the Irish language".

In January of this year Edwin Poots told the Nolan show that was inserted as part of a "side deal" between Gerry Adams and the then British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

On Tuesday the DUP's Nelson McCausland was speaking about the Irish language act after party leader Arlene Foster said she would never implement it.

Mrs Foster said if there was to be an Irish language act, there should be a Polish language act because more people in Northern Ireland speak Polish than Irish.

Read more:

Foster dismisses Irish Language Act as she claims a Sinn Fein First Minister would push Adams' agenda 

Mr McCausland told the BBC Nolan show: "An Irish language act of the type that is being proposed by Sinn Fein would be extremely expensive for Northern Ireland.

"Sinn Fein were challenged to produce figures for the cost, our estimate is it would be around £100m a year. That is based on the figures from Wales where there is a Welsh language act, the cost to each individual council, hospital, public body, PSNI, housing executive. The cost across all government would be around £100m a year and it grows.

"It would be extremely contentious and diviise. It's a contentious issue."

Ex-Sinn Fein MLA Daithi McKay disputed the costs branding it "fake news".

"The cost aspect that Nelson refers to in terms of this costing 100m in one year, that is fake news.

"He made reference to the fact this headline figure came from Wales, the BBC wales report in which the figure was contained featured an apology because the tally was inaccurate and followed a number of apologies about the inaccuracies of the report.

"There will not be a significant cost."

"We can't get down to the details cost until the principals are agreed", he added.

"And to accommodate what would in reality be very few Irish language speakers availing of a court service through the medium of Irish - isn't that big of an ask."

Mr McCausland disputed this and said he had worked out the figures by comparing councils and public bodies costs in Wales and Northern Ireland.

He said: "I didn't pick up any figure from a BBC website in Wales."

When quizzed on the St Andrews Agreement Mr McCausland said it was an agreement "reached between governments".

He said: "The agreement was an agreement between two governments in Dublin and london.

"The detail of that no, we did not sign up to.

He added: "While there is a reference to an Irish language act in the St Andrew's Agreement it was not signed up to."

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