SF 'wins concession on Irish language funding'

Sinn Féin says it has won a concession from the British government that means continued funding for the Irish Language Broadcast Fund.

Party president Gerry Adams says it took intense negotiations with British prime minister Gordon Brown to secure the extra money.

He says new finance will now be available to continue when the original funding expires in March next year.

A spokeswoman from the Northern Ireland Office confirmed that Brown had agreed to release the funding.

“The prime minister has decided that additional money will be provided to continue the ILBF beyond its current end date of 2009 to the end of the CSR (Comprehensive Spending Review) period (2011),” she said.

Mr Adams said the issue had been part of negotiations with Mr Brown in London aimed at convincing Sinn Fein to accept Peter Robinson as the new First Minister at Stormont.

However, he denied the funding commitment was the price tag the prime minister had paid to secure his party’s agreement to re-nominate Martin McGuinness as Deputy First Minister.

He confirmed that the issue of water charges was also discussed at Downing Street.

Flanked by Sinn Féin spokesman on the Irish language Francie Brolly, Mr Adams warned if new Culture Minister Gregory Campbell did not proceed with an Irish Language Act his party would press the UK secretary of state to introduce a bill at Westminster to bypass unionist intransigents in the Assembly.

“It would be far better if Gregory as the new minister responsible does it himself,” he said. “People shouldn’t take up these ministries if they aren’t prepared to fulfil the briefs they are given.

“If there’s some reason in terms of budgetary constraints or some other problem that’s fair enough, we can only do what we can, we can only do our best.

“But people shouldn’t take up positions to stop the remit they have been charged with.”

Janet Muller, the chief executive of Irish language umbrella organisation POBAL, welcomed the cash injection.

“Irish language broadcasting has been very successful and has achieved much of what it set out to do,” she said.

“Based on performance, there should never have been any doubt about the future of the Irish Language Broadcasting Fund.”

“Without an Irish Language Act which includes significant rights in the area of broadcasting, and unless we have a Minister for Culture, Arts and Leisure that is capable of rising above narrow, sectarian attacks on Irish language provision, there is the very real danger that within two years the fund will be back in the same position.”

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