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Friday, November 09, 2007
FINE GAEL TD John Deasy launched a scathing attack on the Government’s Irish-language policy yesterday, following an Irish Examiner story revealing tens of thousands of euro are being spent on translations of documents nobody reads.
Mr Deasy said this amounted to "blatant waste" of money that could be better spent on crucial health services. His criticism in the Dáil led to a heated row with Gaeltacht Minister Eamon Ó Cuiv.
On Monday, this paper reported how Cork County Council spent almost €90,000 having local development plans translated, but did not receive a single request for a copy in Irish.
Similarly, in Waterford, an Irish version of the county development plan cost €26,000, and again, there were no requests to see it.
Translation costs for councils are set to rise in the next few years as most county development and local area plans come up for renewal, bringing them for the first time under the remit of the Official Languages Act, which requires an Irish translation. The act also applies to Government departments and state agencies.
Citing the Irish Examiner report, Mr Deasy told the Dáil yesterday that the act was a "useless, harebrained policy" and had become "one of the worst unfunded mandates in the country.
"I still maintain that [Community Minister Éamon Ó Cuív’s] department had no clue as to how much it would cost when the bill was drafted. It will cost tens of millions. Instead of preventing waste, department spokespeople are saying that that amounts to a public service. Effectively they are saying that wasting money is a public service."
Mr Deasy said that in the North, the Minister for Health, Social Services and Public Safety, Michael McGimpsey, recently stopped issuing advertisements and other documents in Irish and Ulster-Scots.
"[Mr McGimpsey] said that the cost over five years had been €216,000 and that a translation service would still be made available on request," said Mr Deasy.
"Here is the interesting bit. He told a colleague in the Northern Ireland Assembly that the savings realised would be returned to the health and social services budget.
"If I made the practical suggestion that the money we are wasting in this area could be put into the health services, I know I would be met with derision by Mr Ó Cuív."
But Mr Ó Cuív said Mr Deasy’s own party had voted with the Government to bring the act into law. He also said that county councils and other organisations were not required to publish hard copies of the Irish translations.
"The law does not require printing," he said. "We told them thousands of times... They can simply put them on the web."
When Mr Deasy interrupted him, Mr Ó Cuív said in Irish: "There’s nothing worse than the person who wants to be deaf to the explanation given to him."
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