Unionist councillors have been slammed by Sinn Fein for not attending Tuesday night’s launch of Magherafelt District Council’s Irish language policy implementation plan.
East Belfast Mission Irish language development officer Linda Ervine - addressed the well attended event in the council offices.
Sinn Fein group leader Sean McPeake later told the full council meeting that it was a pity the unionist members had not attended.
He believed it had been a mistake on their part as it may have helped to clear up a lot of the negativity about the language which had been heard in the chamber.
DUP councillor Paul McLean asked the Chairperson what percentage of the launch had been spoken in Irish.
Councillor Catherine Elattar (SF) replied that she was not a statistician.
“I would suggest that it was mostly in English,” Councillor McLean retorted. “Which shows the hypocrisy of the whole thing.”
After the meeting the DUP council group leader told the MAIL that his main concern was that a huge amount of money had been spent on implementing a language which “most people don’t speak.”
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“Most of the Sinn Fein councillors don’t speak it,” he claimed.
He said that he had heard from a reliable source that 95 per cent of the Irish language policy launch had been in English.
“That shows you the hypocrisy of the whole thing. It just doesn’t stack up and (Irish) has been used as a political tool.”
Councillor McLean argued that money had been wasted and it could have been used to help pensioners, the health service or improving the local infra-structure.
Unionists on the council pulled out of the Irish implementation plan over a year ago, accusing Sinn Fein of ignoring the cultural concerns of the Unionist population.
Mrs Ervine is a development officer at a recently opened Irish language centre in a loyalist area of east Belfast and is married to the former Progressive Unionist Party (PUP) leader, Brian Ervine.
Just last month Ulster Unionist Party members on Down District Council walked out of the council chamber during a presentation on Irish by Mrs Irvine.