Irish language phone service has never been used in 11 years

Belfast City Hall
Belfast City Hall

An Irish language telephone service set up by Belfast City Council over a decade ago has not been used once since its inception, the News Letter has learned.

The revelation comes after City Hall decided to hire two new language officers, one focusing purely on Irish and the other for Ulster Scots and minority languages.

But figures obtained by the News Letter show that no one has used the council’s Irish language voicemail services since it was set up in September 2006.

It allows members of the public to leave enquiries in Irish, which are then passed on to the council’s translation service for response.

We have also learned that on the council website’s Google Translate service, Irish is the eighth most popular after languages such as Chinese, Spanish, German and Polish.

UUP Cllr Chris McGimpsey said it was “utterly ridiculous” that an officer focused solely to Irish would be appointed, while another officer would be responsible for all other languages.

He added: “The decision to hire an Irish language officer flies in the face of evidence, which indicates that there is little demand for Irish language services.

“Sinn Fein is only interested in using Irish as a political tool.”

The decision is subject to ratification at the council’s next monthly meeting.