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Posted on Thursday, November 11, 2004 - 06:03 am:   Edit Post Print Post

Filmmakers hit out at stretched Irish language budget UTV

The government was today criticised by filmmakers in Northern Ireland of reducing the kitty for Irish language television projects.
Members of the Northern Ireland Film and Television Commission slammed the latest draft budget by Northern Ireland Office Finance Minister Ian Pearson for proposing that £12 million allocated for Irish language programming over three years is spread out over five years.

Chief executive of the Northern Ireland Film and Television Commission Richard Williams claimed the decision meant the Irish language broadcast fund had been effectively reduced.

"The NIFTC is disappointed that it was not consulted over the budgetary reduction despite having been asked to manage and administer the Irish language broadcast fund by the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure," Mr Williams said.

"Since being tasked in June 2004 with the management and administration of the Irish language broadcast fund, we have set up an implementation panel, employed Maire Killoran as the head of the fund, co-opted Peter Quinn to the board of the NIFTC to act as chair of the Irish language broadcast fund and drafted appropriate notification to try and secure the necessary European state aid approval for the fund."

Ms Killoran said she was very disappointed by the government`s draft budget.

The former TG4 reporter said: "I am very disappointed by this cut to the fund but I will continue to do everything I can to have this fund up and running as soon as possible."

Joe Mahon, a member of the NIFTC board, said the reduction in the broadcast fund had come as a complete surprise to people in the industry.

"We have been working hard over the past few months to deliver a strategy for the new fund," he said.

"It is extremely frustrating to then have the decision-making powers as to how the fund is spent taken away from us without consultation and we call upon the Secretary of State (Paul Murphy) to restore the budget and the original timescale that was first announced."

Nationalist SDLP Assembly member and Irish speaker, Dominic Bradley called for intense lobbying of NIO Culture Minister Angela Smith to reverse the decision.

"The funding for Irish Language film was a commitment entered into by the British government as part of the Good Friday Agreement," the Newry and Armagh MLA said.

"This proposed change in the funding period of the Irish Language Film Fund was made without any consultation whatsoever with the stakeholders in Irish language film production.

"Since these figures are estimates, I urge Irish language organisations and groups to write to the minister responsible for Culture Arts and Leisure (Angela Smith) and make their feelings known to her on this issue before the changes become policy.

"The SDLP will be seeking an urgent meeting with the minister to discuss this and other issues relevant to the development of the Irish language."

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