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Irish lobby group says counterpart's estimates for cost of legislation are too low

Pobal's Janet Muller. Picture by Niall Carson/PA Wire

IRISH language advocacy group Pobal believes the cost estimates for an act na gaeilge produced by one of its counterparts are "unrealistically low".

Pobal director Janet Muller told The Irish News that her organisation had not speculated publicly about what level of funding a standalone Irish language act would require but that she felt previous estimates did not reflect the true cost.

One of the main planks of unionist opposition to Irish language legislation is its impact on the public purse.

Previously, some unionist politicians have claimed special provisions for Irish could cost as much as £100m a year.

In March, Conradh na Gaeilge produced its own indicative costs for the long-awaited legislation.

According to the Irish language advocacy group, implementing its proposals would require a one-off cost of £9 million to build the infrastructure to support the the legislation, and £2 million a year thereafter – £19m over five years.

Conradh na Gaeilge's proposals include provisions for official status for the language; Irish in the Stormont assembly and local government; Irish and the BBC, placenames, and the role of a language commissioner.

When the group outlined these costs at a meeting with the DUP in April, Lagan Valley MLA Edwin Poots acknowledged the costs were "reasonable" – a claim that is not contested by the DUP.

However, according to fellow Irish language lobby group Pobal, the figures underestimate the cost of legislation.

Ms Muller said the costings published so far were "unrealistically low" and she argued that the figures had failed in reassuring opponents of the legislation that the impact on the public purse would not be substantial.

"The Irish language community needs to take a step back – lowering the bar didn't work," she said.

As reported by The Irish News yesterday, the two groups are opposed to a composite 'culture act' but they differ on the potential for seeing an Irish language act implemented in the near future.

Conradh na Gaeilge is "reasonably confident" that measures would be put in place, citing majority support in the assembly, while Ms Muller said there was "nothing that would give us cause for optimism" in the Stormont talks.

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