DUP ‘Communities’ Minister accused of hating Irish
DUP ‘Communities’ Minister accused of hating Irish


News that a DUP Minister at Stormont has axed a bursary scheme for children from deprived communities to study Irish has drawn a bitterly hostile reaction from Irish language and equality campaigners.

Sinn Fein, who are the DUP’s partners in government, were among the harshest critics. Caral ni Chuilin, a former Sinn Fein arts minister, described it as “disgraceful” and “a hatred of Irish”.

Sinn Fein chairperson Declan Kearney, who has led Sinn Fein’s “outreach” programme of building links to hardline unionists, said the DUP had “lost the run of themselves”. He compared the amount (50 thousands pounds) distributed by the bursary fund to the scale of the most recent scandal over DUP corruption, the RHI scheme, which could cost in the region of 500 million pounds.

Around 100 people a year received bursaries from the Liofa Gaeltacht scheme to improve their Irish language skills at classes in the Donegal gaeltacht, where Irish is the dominant language. First piloted in 2012, it enabled those on lower incomes to avail of the Gaeltacht experience.

However, the DUP-run ‘Department for Communities’ has now decided to withdraw funding, in a terse email sent to the boards of the gaeltacht colleges yesterday. The department is headed by Paul Givan (pictured, second right), who has recently announced funding for loyalist bonfires and flute bands.

Sent in Irish, its English translation reads: “Because of efficiency savings, the department will not be providing the Liofa bursary scheme in 2017. Happy Christmas and Happy New Year.”

Dr Niall Comer, the president of Comhaltas Uladh, which promotes the Irish language in Ulster, said it was a “blatant act of discrimination”.

“Comhaltas Uladh of Conradh na Gaeilge considers this to be quite simply a deliberate and cynical attack on the Irish language, without any justification nor reason,” he told the BBC.

“Our summer colleges are cross-community and disadvantaged children from both sides of the community have availed of this scholarship scheme.

“This decision will directly impact on hundreds of Irish language learners, from disadvantaged families across the north.”

Mr Comer said that the decision by Communities Minister, the DUP’s Paul Givan, “must be contextualised in terms of recent political events, where we have, this week, seen almost half a billion pounds of public money squandered.”

He said: “Cutting successful schemes aimed at disadvantaged children from both communities is not the answer.”

SDLP Irish Language Spokesperson Patsy McGlone criticised the decision.

Mr McGlone said, “After watching the DUP set fire to 400 million pounds, or 600 million pounds according to the Finance Minister, this announcement will leave a sour taste for the Irish speaking community.

“Without wanting to sound cynical, one has to wonder if Minister Givan hasn’t taken this decision, at this particular time, to reintroduce tribal politics to a public currently focused on the DUP’s many financial scandals.”

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