Page last updated at 13:53 GMT, Friday, 13 June 2008 14:53 UK

Civil service 'Irish bias' claim

Irish language graffiti
A row has broken out over alleged bias against the Irish language

The chairman of Irish broadcaster TG4, has accused senior NI civil servants of bias against the Irish language.

It emerged after the publication of transcripts of an Ofcom conference in Belfast last week.

"The issue is a bias against the language at very senior levels in both DCAL and the senior civil service," Peter Quinn said.

However, the permanent secretary of the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure challenged him to produce evidence.

The row centres around 12m of funding for Irish language broadcasting granted by the British government under the Good Friday Agreement of 1998.

The money runs out in March 2009 and has not been renewed in the Programme for Government for the next three years.

Mr Quinn said: "The real problem with the funding for the Irish language lies in the senior ranks of the civil service, in DCAL and in the broader civil service.

However, Peter Sweeney from DCAL, said it was incumbent for "people who make statements like that to back it up with hard factual evidence.

"They should put up and they should shut up, because I think it is irresponsible behaviour."

Meanwhile on Friday, Aodan MacPolin of Irish language group Ultach said it would be hard to prove such bias.

Mr MacPolin said how the bid to renew the funding would be pitched would have been up to the DUP Minister for Culture Arts and Leisure.

He said the decision on whether it would be included in the Programme for Government would have been made by the Minister of Finance, again a DUP member.

"So no matter what the civil servants might have recommended, you would imagine that the DUP, given their track record on their attitude to the Irish language, would have been hostile," he said.

Mr MacPolin said the funding should have been renewed by the British government.

He said the language suffered from "institutional inertia", not institutional bias.

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