Northern Ireland Assembly spending almost £20k a year on Irish translation
The Northern Ireland Assembly spends almost £20,000 a year translating a handful of Irish language contributions into English, it can be revealed.
Over the last five years, the Assembly spent around £18,000 annually on translating MLAs' contributions in the chamber for the Speaker, as well as translating the small sections in Hansard, the official report of proceedings, from Irish into English.
That figure dropped to just under £10,000 for the 2016/17 financial year following the collapse of the Assembly in January.
The Assembly Commission also spent £1,387 translating a leaflet relating to tours of Stormont in 2014/15 into 11 languages, including Polish, Lithuanian, Irish, Portuguese, Slovak, Mandarin, German, Italian, French, Spanish and Ulster Scots.
The sums have emerged following an Assembly Question asked by Ulster Unionist MLA Andy Allen.
A spokesperson for the Commission clarified to the Belfast Telegraph that the costs related to a "limited interpretation service" provided to the Speaker and clerks during sittings, as well as for Hansard.
SDLP MLA Patsy McGlone is among those who makes some of his contributions in Irish and he defended the costs. "It's not a large amount of money - and it's really all about respect. It's a courtesy so that others know what you're saying," he said.
An Assembly spokesperson said: "The costs relating to Hansard that were provided in the response to Mr Allen are in respect of the provision of a limited interpretation service to the Speaker and Clerks at Table, and the subsequent reporting in the Official Report, of any Irish used in the Chamber.
"If a Member should speak in Irish, the contribution is translated into English and relayed to the Speaker and Clerks at Table. In addition, the words that the Member spoke in Irish are reported in that language in the Official Report of that sitting.
"The service is provided by a permanent member of Assembly staff and agency workers.
"The permanent member of staff is not employed full-time on the interpreting/translation services and provides other editorial services during plenary sittings and non-sitting days."
The revelation comes as Stormont remains suspended following the resignation of then Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness.
Several rounds of talks have taken place between the political parties since then but so far have failed to reach a resolution.
One of the major sticking points has been over an Irish Language Act for Northern Ireland, with the DUP refusing to back Sinn Fein's repeated calls for one.
Such an act is expected to include the recognition of Irish as an official language in Northern Ireland, which may include wider use in the Assembly.
The Irish language previously sparked controversy in 2014 when DUP MLA Gregory Campbell started a speech with "Curry my yoghurt" as a way of mocking MLAs who start their speeches in Irish.
He was barred from addressing the Assembly for a day for failing to apologise.