Northern Ireland

Cost of Irish translation rises

The Department of Education's spending on Irish language translation services has risen significantly since 2006.

In answer to a question from the DUP's Mervyn Storey, Education Minister John O'Dowd revealed that more than £110,000 was spent in 2010/11, compared to £68,000 the year before.

The exams body CCEA has also spent more on translating and publishing documents in Irish.

In 2006/07 it spent £98,028, in 2010/11 the cost was £598,828.

In 2006/07 £5,361 was spent on translating and publishing Department of Education documents in Irish.

Mr O'Dowd said the department began employing Irish language officers in 2008 and has an obligation under the Good Friday and St Andrews agreements to promote and protect the Irish language.

He also cited duties under the European charger for Regional and Minority languages.

There are 81 Irish language medium schools in Northern Ireland, teaching 4,000 pupils from nursery to secondary level.

Mr Storey said the spend was a "misappropriation of public funds".

"These figures indicate that this process has got completely out of control," he said.

"It needs to be brought under control given the fact that schools have been given notification from the minister that there is a 5% cut in their budget and there are teachers losing their jobs because of it."

However, Sinn Fein education spokesperson said the department was obligated to "encourage and facilitate" the Irish medium sector.

"I think it is absolutely wrong to try and argue that the fact that Irish language pupils are having exams and documents translated for them is somehow a waste of money," he said.

"If you look at the Irish Language sector, pupils are increasing year after year.

"If you look at the nursery unit sector the figures from 2003 to 2011 have increased by 400%. This is a sector which is in growth."