Northern Ireland

SDLP opposes Irish language funding model

A proposed new funding model for promoting the Irish language throughout Ireland has been opposed in an SDLP motion.

The motion challenged the effects that the model proposed by Foras na Gaeilge would have on Irish language organisations.

The SDLP's Dominic Bradley said the new model, which he claimed was a result of funding being "severely cut", could be detrimental to the Irish language sector.

"Under Foras na Gaeilge's current proposals, the new funding model will mean most of these organisations will cease to exist as they will be disqualified from applying for core funding," he said.

"The new funding model is opposed by not only the Irish language voluntary sector, but also by eminent linguistic scholars, the Dail committees and by the Irish language media."

At one point Mr Bradley interrupted Culture Minister Caral Ni Chuilin's address to the assembly.

She replied: "No I've heard enough Dominic, thanks very much and I've a lot to get through. I've heard enough from you."

The DUP's Jim Wells raised a point of order saying: "That was an absolutely disgraceful remark made by the minister for culture arts and leisure to someone who's making a very valid point.

"I would ask that she should consider her comments and withdraw them."

Ms Ni Chuilin replied: "I've a lot to get through and Dominic, in fairness, has had several interventions from other members and at this stage I'm not prepared to take an intervention.

"And I'll certainly not be reminded about the manners or the courtesy of this house by someone like Jim Wells either."

Speaking in Irish

Earlier, the DUP's Gregory Campbell challenged Mr Bradley on whether he believed he was advancing his cause by speaking in Irish when many in the house could not understand what he was saying.

Mr Bradley said he had translated everything in accordance with the standing orders of the house.

Culture committee chair Michelle McIlveen of the DUP said, "the committee continues to take an interest in this area".

Trevor Lunn of Alliance Party said, as an outsider who did not speak Irish, he welcomed a review of funding model.

"My impression is that the organisation has been allowed to do its own thing with funding coming from both governments with perhaps precious little supervision or accountability," he said.

Image caption Dominic Bradley said the new funding model would see some organisations disqualified from applying for core funding

"As an outsider, I like the look of the new structure proposed by Foras na Gaeilge.

"It seems to me to be more modern, more active and reactive and the organisation will hopefully be more accountable to its funders and taxpayers north and south."

However, he did not vote against the motion.

Ulster Unionist Michael McGimpsey said there was a need to approach the subject carefully.

"We have to tread with caution if we are going to change this," he said.

Sinn Fein's Cathal O hOisin said he had some concerns over the motion as be believed it to be "pre-emptive" and "slightly premature"

"We are discussing this much too early," he said.

In response, Ms Ni Chuilin said she welcomed the debate although she too felt it was premature.

She said it was a "very important subject" which would be brought forward at the next North South Ministerial Council (NSMC) meeting.

The motion was passed on an oral vote.