O’Muilleoir promises that a “Irish Language Act would cost £3.5 Million or less…”

Very probing questioning from Will Crawley who probes Mairtin O Muilleoir on the matter of a cap which the former Finance Minister seems to answer and then not. This is based on a broad extrapolation of £6.1 million from Scotland’s Gaelic Language Act.

He mentions three million down from Foras na Gaeilge that’s already being spent on the language already, doubling the budget to £6.5 million. Now I know we like big scary numbers, but six million is not one of them.

What’s interesting is his unwillingness to explicitly accept a cap. This is hardly surprising since this Scottish model is not what the party had promised the Irish language movement.

It lays out schematic areas of spending which are largely discretionary. Appeals from activists are effectively routed back to government departments which can either act or not, depending on the ministerial policy.

The Welsh model is rights-based legislation with several sets of statutory instruments. It comes with a Commissioners office which the law (unlike many of our current commissioners) gives teeth to implement policy.

This is one reason why activists and advocates have been so keen to push for the Welsh model. But Wales has a broad pro language stretching from rightist Tories, through Lib Dems, Labour and Plaid.

The Scottish Bord na Gaidlig has a duty to produce a plan every five years, and the act codifies provisions already passed. That’s pretty much it. It would prevent the sort of petty politicking that saw Liofa funding withdrawn, but little else.

It’s a climb down on behalf of Sinn Fein. Two years ago SF’s preferred model included a Commissioner, street names:

…included proposals for Irish to be used in the courts, the translation of Stormont business and designated Gaeltacht areas across the north.

It might get them (and the DUP) off a hook. Question is what will the wider movement make of it? Mairtin’s reluctance to accept a cap when challenged by Crawley may be treated as the thin end of a very long wedge by their once and putative partners in government.

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty