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Sinn Féin challenge DUP's opposition to Irish language funding

17 June, 2005

Sinn Féin South Down Assembly Member Caitriona Ruane responded today to the DUP's Jim Allister who has criticised the awarding of £12 million from the European Commission to the Irish Language Broadcast Fund in the north. Describing Mr McAllister's comments as an "attempt to obstruct the phenomenal growth of the Irish language in the six counties‚" Ms Ruane said:

"This funding of £12 million from the EU is for the period 2005 - 2009 and will support the production of television and film output in the Irish language.

"Mr Allister's comments are typical of a party that is fundamentally opposed to the promotion of anything Irish and it seems he is attempting to hinder the thousands of people, of all ages, who are learning their native language in ever increasing numbers.

"The EU has an obligation to spend money on cultural development, as has the British Government, and data from the 2001 census available from the BBC shows there are 167,490 (10.4%) people with some knowledge of Irish. In Down District that figure is 5,999 (9.97%) and a number of these people are from Irish speaking, bilingual families.

"I would remind the DUP that Irish speakers also pay their TV licenses and whether Jim Allister likes it or not they are entitled to expect a proper service. The DUP are not worried about funding being directed away from education - if they were maybe they would call for a reduction in the thousands of Loyalist parades that take place in the six counties throughout the year and which cost millions of pounds to police. Of course he would argue this is a legitimate expression of Unionist culture yet at the same time he believes investing money in the development of the Irish language, which enriches the lives of many, is a waste of money.

"The Good Friday Agreement of 1998 contains a commitment to 'seek more effective ways to encourage and provide financial support for Irish language film and television production in Northern Ireland.' This funding is long over due and should be matched by the British Government who must also invest more money in Irish speaking schools throughout the north." ENDS

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