Sinn Fein’s demands for legislation to protect Irish have been labelled “a complete fallacy”, after it emerged that almost £200m has been spent on the language over the past seven years.
The News Letter has seen figures which show that the amount of public money being pumped into Irish has grown steadily year-on-year since 2010.
The research, carried out by the by the Flags, Identity, Culture and Tradition (FICT) commission, reveals that Stormont departments have spent £190.6m on resources for the minority language.
The Department of Education accounts for the lion’s share of the funds, with £150m going to Irish-medium schools.
The annual amount allocated to Irish-medium education has doubled in that seven-year period, from £15.6m in 2010 to £31.45m last year.
DUP MP Gregory Campbell said the figures “prove” that Sinn Fein’s campaign for language equality is “built on a deception”.
He told the News Letter: “These figures bear out in stark detail the point that many have been making in recent years.
“Not only is Irish not disadvantaged or discriminated against, as Sinn Fein have claimed, it is in fact receiving vast sums of public money, far more than any other minority language in Northern Ireland.”
TUV leader Jim Allister said the figures make a mockery of Sinn Fein’s calls for equality for the Irish language.
“I have long maintained that the Irish language sector has been over-generously provided for, and these figures confirm that,” he said.
“Given the enormous amount of public money that has gone into the language in recent years, it is simply ludicrous to suggest that we should add another tier of unending spending on top of all this.”
Talks to restore devolution collapsed last Wednesday, with Sinn Fein claiming the DUP torpedoed a draft deal. According to Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald, it would have included an Irish language commissioner, official recognition of the minority language, and the repeal of the ban on Irish in the courts.
Last year, DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds uncovered information which revealed that from 2011/12 to 2015/16, £171m in public funds was provided for the language. This new figure is official data covering a slightly longer period.
The FICT commission, which carried out the latest review into spending on Irish, was formed in 2016 under the Fresh Start agreement.
Their findings are in four categories; ‘People’, ‘Capital’, ‘Programmes’ and ‘Translation/Interpretation’.
Out of the £190.6m spent from 2010 to 2017, £153m was allocated to ‘People’, including funding for Irish-medium schools and staff training. Almost £29m was spent on capital projects and programmes accounted for £8.2m.
Translation services made up a fraction of the overall spend, coming in at £142,000.
The FICT commission was due to publish a report last year on flags and bonfires. The findings will not be published until considered by ministers.
The commission is made up of seven political appointees and eight non-political, including joint chairs Dominic Bryan and Neville Armstrong.
Political appointees are ex-DUP MLAs Nelson McCausland, Ian McCrea, UUP MLA Doug Beattie, SDLP appointee Carl Whyte, ex Alliance Party advisor Richard Good, ex Sinn Fein councillor Tom Hartley and ex Bogside residents’ spokesman Donncha Mac Niallais. Non-political appointees are Prof Thomas Hennessey, ex Orange Order worker David Hume, Katy Radford, David Robinson, Mukesh Sharma and ex-DUP representative Ian Crozier.