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MP: Irish language academy plans are a waste of money

Plans for Northern Ireland's first Irish language academy have been blasted as a "waste of money" by unionists.

Culture, Arts and Leisure Minister Caral Ni Chuilin has announced proposals to build the academy to "meet the increased demand" for those wanting to learn Irish.

There has been no indication of how much it might cost, although Ms Ni Chuilin said the Executive had committed itself to supporting the Irish language.

The full plans also include an academy for Ulster-Scots.

DUP MP Gregory Campbell claimed the move was sop after an Irish Language Act failed to happen. He also expressed concerns about the costs.

"Sinn Fein has waxed lyrical for many years about an Irish Language Act. I remember when I was Culture Minister eight years ago, Gerry Adams assured me that there would be an Irish Language Act, and I said to him there won't be," he said.

"They know there isn't going to be an Irish Language Act, so is this a poor man's offering? My view is that we should have a minority languages strategy; languages are important and so is cultural outlook. But all these things cost money. Now we have Irish language bodies and the Ulster-Scots movement. Those are getting funding at the moment. If the minister is planning to widen out the remit by the introduction of academies, it may well cost millions."

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Protestant Irish language campaigner Linda Ervine also expressed reservations about an academy. "Rather than an academy, I would like a place where people can be immersed in the language," the east Belfast activist said.

"I feel there is a lot already available and that an academy would just replicate this."

Speaking on Radio Ulster yesterday, Ms Ni Chuilin denied the academy would result in a duplication of services.

"One of the purposes of an Irish language academy is really to make sure that standard of teaching does not rely on what class you are going to," she said.

"So you try and get a template, a model that can be taught anywhere. So you could literally lift it and go to any class dependent what level you are at."

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