The Irish Language Act: Real costs revealed by Conradh na Gaeilge

It’s finally here, the bill for the proposed Irish Language Act.  This is the estimated cost from Conradh na Gaeilge, the umbrella group for Irish language speakers and organisations advocating for legislation to protect the Irish language from capricious political attacks and to promote it resolutely as per the Good Friday Agreement and The St Andrews accord.

The good news is that this estimate, put together by the organisation advocating for the legislation is a fraction of the price tags previously attached to the Act by different sources in the DUP. Nelson McCausland was on the airwaves and in print claiming it would cost £100m per year.   Arlene Foster attached the more modest but still exorbitant figure of £30m per year to the legislation committed to in the St Andrews Agreement which paved the way for powersharing between the DUP and SF.

According to Conradh na Gaeilge, which has put together an ambitious package of practical measures which would support the Irish language, the Irish Language Act would cost approximately £2m per year over five years plus £9m over the same period which would be a one off investment to cover initial set up of infrastructure.    This amounts to £19m over five years or approximately £3.8m per year of a five year term for an Executive.

What this money would pay for is set out in Conradh na Gaeilge’s executive summary to their detailed document:

It is suggested that there would be 11 sections as part of the Irish Language Act. Included in this are provisions which concern the Official status of the language; Irish in the Assembly, in Local Government, and in Public Companies; Irish and the BBC; Irish in the Department of Education; a Language Commissioner; and Place-Names.

£9m is the one off cost, The Irish Language Act would be started over a five-year period. This would be spent on the appropriate demands within that period of time, as opposed to directly at the beginning. An average of £1.8m a year.

The annual cost of the Irish Language Act would be £2m, with an understanding that this cost could be kept reasonable and workable if the Act was put in place properly with good will. This would add up to £10m of expenditure over a five-year period.

It is estimated also that there would be an additional £8m extra spending yearly in the economy in the north when the BBC fulfils its obligations to Irish language programming. This would add up to £40 of extra income over a five- year period.

One example of the practical workable suggestions to implement provisions at low cost regards bilingual stationary in government departments. It is suggested that stationary should be updated when the current stock has run out- therefore this incurs no extra cost, and the cost would be the normal cost of ordering updated stationary. This document contains a considerable number of suggestions like this.

There will be some cost involved in implementing an Irish Language Act. What is shown again and again in this document is that it is not an unfeasible and unreasonable cost that would be involved- an allegation which is often made without the facts to back it up. Contrary to this, it is a reasonable cost, and a cost that would be practical. More importantly, it would represent an investment in the people of the North in general.

Before we go on any further the BBC is mentioned in the Executive Summary but the annual £1om cost of extra programming and online provision by the broadcaster would be met from the licence fee fund.    During one of his regular appearances on Stephen Nolan’s radio show this morning, Nelson pointed his cost cutting finger to this figure and said it discredited the entire document. He lamented the affect it would have on other programming and claimed that it would only serve a small audience anyhow.   He hasn’t looked across the water to ‘mainland’ UK where the BBC spends around £8m per year on BBC Alba (added to £13.5m annually from the Scottish Government) as well as figures vastly in excess of those on S4C and Welsh language programming on BBC Wales.   Seemingly Nelson is happiest when Irish language speakers and enthusiasts in Northern Ireland are treated as second class viewers and licence payers in comparison to those in other UK nations.

Also not included in these costs is the amount spent on Irish Medium Education which according to Nigel Dodds was approximately £88m per year between 2010-15.   A large sum, of course, but still nowhere near bringing our annual total close to the £100m bill proposed by Nelson.   Of course, these children who attend Irish medium education, approximately 6000 in NI, have to be educated whatever the medium of education so it’s fair to assume that the vast bulk of this £88m would have to be spent anyhow.

When it comes down to it, it appears that the DUP has no interest in supporting the Irish language, despite the commitments contained in the agreements they signed up to.   The party is being led by those who consider Irish speakers unworthy of respect or equality of treatment.    Maybe there are more reasonable voices in the DUP than those of Nelson McCausland or Arlene Foster, maybe they should come to the fore and test the Conradh na Gaeilge proposal.    Get accountants to run the rule over it – while they’re at it, they should get the same accountants to look at the figures offered by Nelson because they were never tested either.   We will then see which is the real figure – and which is the fake news figure.

It strikes me, an Irish speaker, that if the bill comes in far less than that which was estimated by Nelson and others, that they should be delighted they’re getting something of value, buy in to the concept of Northern Ireland, for far less than originally envisaged.   Without mentioning NAMA, Red Sky or RHI, the party of prudence and careful goverment, as they like to portray themselves, should continue to be vigilant about the costs of an Irish Language Act but if cost is truly their objection, then this proposal by Conradh na Gaeilge, merits serious consideration and not the knee jerk rejection we heard from Nelson McCausland this morning.

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  • Jollyraj

    But…this is the 21st century. We all speak English here now.

    Times change.

  • grumpy oul man

    My confusion comes from the fact that you seem to be generic British,
    Your not Irish,Scots,Welsh, English, Manx , these are the five parts of the Uk that have goverments.
    Your inabilty to use the word Irish ( even with Northern before it) seemingly you believe that you cannot be both Irish (in any form) and be British!
    If this is so then in the event of a border poll how could you possibly persuade those omwho identify culturally as Irish to vote remain as you dont think that its possible to be both Irish and British as for example it is possible to be Welch and British.

  • Jollyraj

    “My confusion comes from the fact that you seem to be generic British”

    I’ve told you that I’m British and from Northern Ireland. In your terms that makes me ‘Northern Irish British’ – which makes me wonder whether you insist also on calling other people born in the UK Jamaican British, Pakistani British or Chinese British?

    “Your not Irish,Scots,Welsh, English, Manx , these are the five parts of the Uk that have goverments.”

    Indeed. In NI we are currently between elections, though up until about a fortnight ago we had a devolved government and will soon have one again – or if not then a second election and subsequent Direct Rule (after all we can’t really allow Sinn Fein to refuse to enter government because they didn’t win the election).

  • LordSummerisle

    I look forward to speaking Irish to my non exsistant GP.

  • grumpy oul man

    Between goverments, how is that relevent.
    The other stuff about Jamaicans and Pakistanis thats not relevent unless you can show a Jamaican or Pakistani part of the uk with a elected assembly.
    Of course SF being in goverment is highly relevent to the subject.
    So when you filter out the waffle and the obligatory ref to the danger of themmuns , we have a inabilty to admit to what you are.

  • Jollyraj

    As I’ve said, repeatedly, “I’ve told you that I’m British and from Northern Ireland. In your terms that makes me ‘Northern Irish British’ ”

    You don’t read so well, do you GOM?

  • grumpy oul man

    I do read well.perhaps you could point in our exchange on this point you have used the phrase Northern Irish with or eithout the British bit.
    You cant expect me to read it if you dont post it!

  • Jollyraj

    I’m not quite sure what you’re after here. You want me to declare myself Northern Irish? You’re unhappy that I’m British now?

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Right Kevin

    We evidently have different understandings of said laws.

    I refer to the legislation that made English the law of the courts, mainly at the expense of Latin and French, which law do you refer to?

  • Concubhar O Liathain

    Amazingly enough in Wales where Welsh speakers go to their GP or in Scotland Gaidhlig speakers go to the doctors, they have no problem accessing medical care.The notion that a civilised society can’t provide miniscule resources to the Irish language without threatening the viability of the stateis laughable. It’s this antipathy towards indigenous cultures and languages in regions/nations of the UK which is threatening the unity of the UK.

  • Kevin Breslin

    I used common nouns, and no I don’t see why this law is necessary when they were repealed in England and Wales in were repealed in 1863.

  • Skibo

    Chris Ireland was not known as the land of saints and scholars for nothing and they didn’t need England to attain that title.
    You are prepared to set your sites too low. I believe we can do better but not under a UK government.

  • Am Ghobsmacht


    The penal laws were about religion, these laws were about the language of the courts.

    It’s that simple.

    You’re a logic man, not a MOPE man, please don’t go down that road.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Yeah, I don’t think the law is logical to have in Northern Ireland when they were repealed in England and Wales in were repealed in 1863.

    What purpose does it serve?.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    That’s correct Kevin.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Right, he told me that he learnt some Russian in primary school and his parents even more so.

    But he said polish was the main language for school, Russian was a topic not a medium.

  • Skibo

    AG I stand corrected. I will say however that alot of the people from eastern European countries are from a younger generation than what I am talking about.
    That said Russia tried to do what the English tried but were not as efficient at it.
    All education was through the medium of English for ages until certain groups within Ireland tried to revive the language and stall the anglicising of Ireland.

  • LordSummerisle

    Perhaps it is the playing of the persecution card that I most object to.