TUV anger after unionists fail to block new Stormont Irish language translation service

The TUV has bemoaned the failure of fellow unionists to use a cross-community veto to block an Irish language Stormont translation service used for the first time on Friday.

The first speech given entirely in the Irish language was made at the Northern Ireland Assembly by the newly elected Sinn Fein MLA Aisling Reilly.

A live translation was provided through headphones available in the Assembly chamber, as well as online, thanks to a new ‘translation hub’ approved by MLAs last year.

A majority of MLAs backed proposals for the new translation service in June 2021.

Jim Allister criticised the ‘abysmal failure’ of other unionist MLAs to act

Previously, MLAs had been entitled to speak in English, Irish or Ulster-Scots but were required to provide their own translation of words spoken in anything other than English.

The new service also offers translations for those who choose to speak in Ulster-Scots.

The TUV, meanwhile, has criticised the new policy as an example of the “squander” of public funds.

A party spokesperson yesterday referred to a statement issued by the leader Jim Allister last year when asked for the TUV’s views on the new service.

“This is preposterous and deliberate squander where every member speaks English,” Mr Allister said.

The statement also referred to the failure of other unionists to support the TUV MLA’s calls for the cross-community veto known as the ‘petition of concern’ to be used to block the translation service.

“No-one should be in any doubt about the fact that their unionist representatives had it within their power to block these proposals,” Mr Allister said. “They chose not to do so.”

He continued: “The aggressive promotion of the Irish language and the lavish expenditure of public money on it displayed in this move is but a taster of what lies ahead should an Irish language act be imposed on the people of Northern Ireland.

“The abysmal failure of unionists to effectively oppose this squander amounts to a shameful capitulation and will doubtless leave many questioning what their local unionist MLA is doing.”

In her speech, West Belfast MLA Ms Reilly described the availability of the translation service as “a very important day for all those who love the Irish language and who have fought to protect rights for Irish language users”.

She insisted Irish is not a “threat to any member of society”.