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Last Updated: Monday, 14 January 2008, 18:23 GMT
Anger at 'sectarian' Irish remark
Michelle McIlveen
Michelle McIlveen made the comments at Stormont
The education minister has criticised a member of the DUP saying her attitude to the Irish language is "sectarian".

Catriona Ruane said Michelle McIlveen should "move with the times".

Ms McIlveen had asked if it was appropriate to spend money on schools with low enrolments, while slashing other schools' budgets.

Ms Ruane rejected "wasting money". Ulster Unionist David Burnside attacked her "pathetic" attitude to working class pupils over academic selection.

The comments were made during ministerial question time at Stormont on Monday.

Ms McIlveen raised the issue of funding Irish language schools.

Catriona Ruane
Catriona Ruane was angered by the remarks

She said the education minister and department had slashed school maintenance budgets and "proposed the decimation" of the youth service budget, affecting tens of thousands.

Ms McIlveen then asked the education minister: "How can she justify pouring yet more money into a sector which caters for just a few hundred people and financing capital projects for schools with enrolments as little as six?"

Her question prompted an angry response from Ms Ruane.

She said: "Everytime we come in here to talk about Irish language, Ms McIlveen and some, not all, but some of her party colleagues continue along this line.

"I absolutely reject that our department wastes money on Irish language.

"Children who go through the Irish medium system have the same rights as children who go through the English medium. I would ask Ms McIlveen... to move with the times."

Last October, the DUP Culture Minister Edwin Poots said he was opposed to the introduction of an Irish Language Act.

Mr Poots told the Northern Ireland Assembly that "compelling costs" were among the reasons he was against the act.

The Irish Language Act was promised to Sinn Fein by the then Prime Minister Tony Blair at the St Andrew's talks in 2006.

However, the act is now the responsibility of the executive, and requires cross-community consensus.

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