Two recent news stories will be of interest to anyone who is following the debate regarding the perceived need for an Irish language act in Northern Ireland.
Firstly, the cost of Irish translation in the European Parliament is almost twice the average rate for all other languages should set a few alarm bells ringing. Irish costs €43 per page rather than the average cost of €22.
Indeed, the cost of Irish translation is deemed to be the reason why the European Parliament’s budget for translators is estimated to be €3.7 million by the end of the year and has already required a bail-out.
Secondly, we have learned that the Bank of Ireland has removed the Irish language option from its ATMs because fewer than 1% of customers choose to compete transactions in Irish.
This confirms two facts. Irish – in the EU at any rate – is an expensive item.
Furthermore, the actual use of Irish in the Republic in terms of daily life and business is miniscule – less than 1%.
Almost a century ago the founders of the new Irish Free State sought to promote a Gaelic revival, including making the language compulsory in schools and for public sector jobs.
One hundred years on, with millions of pounds, punts and euro spent, and millions of teaching hours devoted to millions of children being forced to learn the language, its fair and reasonable to assess that the impact has been a failure in terms of reviving the language as a common tongue.
Furthermore, the Irish language is already respected and recognised in Northern Ireland.
It is freely taught in those schools where there is demand for it and already receives generous public funding.
According to the 2011 UK Census, in Northern Ireland 10.65% claim to have some knowledge of Irish, 6.05% claim they can speak the language to varying degrees but only 0.2% use Irish as their main home language.
With all this in mind, Gerry Adams – and the Alliance and Green parties for that matter – need to explain why Northern Ireland needs an act to promote the Irish language and why there will be no return to devolution if there is no Irish language act.
They need to explain what exactly are they trying to achieve.
With our health service and education system currently being forced to make unexpected cutbacks, is it really worth stopping the restoration of devolution for this?
Nicholas Trimble, UUP councillor Lisburn & Castlereagh