New translation service for Irish and Ulster Scots at Assembly backed by majority of MLAs

A new translation service for Irish and Ulster Scots at the Northern Ireland Assembly has been backed by a majority of MLAs.

Wednesday, 16th June 2021, 5:00 am
Robbis Butler MLA speaks in a Stormont debate on Irish language translations of the assembly business. Tuesday June 15 2021. Screengrab from niassemblytv
Robbis Butler MLA speaks in a Stormont debate on Irish language translations of the assembly business. Tuesday June 15 2021. Screengrab from niassemblytv

Currently, MLAs are entitled to speak in English, Irish or Ulster Scots but are required to provide their own translation of words spoken in anything other than English.

A motion directing the Assembly Commission to “provide a simultaneous and passive system for interpretation” was passed by 58 votes to 27 last night.

But an amendment put forward by the UUP’s Robbie Butler means the translation service will be subject to a review after six months and — unlike previous proposals — will only be used “where there is appropriate demand”.

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The original proposal could have cost the public purse as much as £150,000 per year.

Mr Butler stressed that MLAs are “custodians of the public purse” and the need to keep costs down as he explained the reason for his amendment.

“We have a fiscal and moral obligation to make sure that we can stand over every penny of our spending commitment,” he added.

The amendment was agreed by 44 votes for and 41 against.

The original motion also noted a “provision” in the New Decade New Approach (NDNA) deal for language services.

DUP MLA Tom Buchanan said during the debate that his party is committed to the agreement “as a complete package”.

Mr Buchanan said: “We have a motion that is reflective of only one political perspective. I want to say to the party opposite: if we are serious about NDNA delivering, we must see that it delivers on all commitments as a collective package and not just those that satisfy individual perspectives.”

He added: “We cannot cherry-pick bits here and there just to satisfy our political ideology. If we are serious, we must see NDNA delivered in all of its aspects as one package.”