No reasonable person can back Irish language act: Swann

Ulster Unionist Party leader Robin Swann
Ulster Unionist Party leader Robin Swann

The leader of the UUP has condemned the idea of a pre-set quota of Irish speakers in the public sector as “totally unacceptable”.

As reported on Tuesday by the News Letter, it is understood Sinn Fein had raised the idea that 10% of the civil service (and perhaps the wider public sector) should be Irish speakers.

Sinn Fein has neither confirmed nor denied this.

Sinn Fein’s ex-culture minister Caral Ni Chuilin had already proposed the idea of “affirmative action” to get more Irish speakers into the public sector, and earlier this year campaign group Conradh na Gaeilge such a quota of 10%.

The DUP was invited to comment on the 10% quota idea, but did not.

Robin Swann said it was just “one example of why any reasonable person could not agree to the proposals for an Irish language act”.

He added: “One can only imagine what kind of expensive scheme Sinn Fein have in mind in order to recruit enough Irish speakers to the civil service to suit them.

“Then no doubt in short order, attention will turn to the police and other public bodies.

“And let us never forget, the 2011 Census told us that some 4,130 people (0.2%) use Irish as their main home language.”

The News Letter had asked the Department of Finance how many civil servants speak Irish.

It said it does not know, because “staff are not required to provide information on the range of languages they speak”.

Given the potential impact upon the courts of the idea of allowing Irish to be used in legal proceedings, the News Letter also asked how many of the roughly 55-plus judges in the Province speak Irish, and whether any of the three coroners do.

Neither the Lord Chief Justice’s Office, nor the Northern Ireland Judicial Appointments Commission, said they hold this information.