Irish Republican News · January 13, 2017
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
Irish language rights campaign presses on after DUP u-turn


A DUP decision to re-instate an Irish language bursary scheme has been described by Sinn Fein as “too little, too late”.

DUP ‘Minister for Communities’ Paul Givan sparked outrage after scrapping the Liofa scheme, which enabled around 100 children and adults a year to attend the Donegal gaeltacht with bursary help totalling fifty thousands pounds.

In a tweet on Thursday morning before a major protest was to take place outside his office, Givan said: “My decision on the Liofa Bursary Scheme was not a political decision. I have now identified the necessary funding to advance this scheme.”

However, he later admitted the u-turn was a pre-election stunt. In an interview with the BBC, he said he he didn’t want Sinn Fein to use Liofa money as a “political weapon” in an election. “I took that away from them”, he declared.

Sinn Fein’s Mairtin O Muilleoir, the finance minister, has said the scrapping of the scheme was the “straw that broke the camel’s back” before the collapse of the Executive.

Janet Muller, director of Irish language group POBAL, said: “This is a victory... but it is not enough. Irish speakers are in strength yet again and calling for no return to government without the Irish Language Act. We must not be let down again.”

TUV leader Jim Allister said the announcement was a “humiliating climbdown” by the DUP, while the Ulster Unionists accused the DUP of being “in complete U-turn mode”.

A protest outside the Department of Communities went ahead to demand an Irish Language Act for the north. Politicians from the SDLP, Sinn Fein and People Before Profit joined students and Irish language activists as the crowd held up placards and chanted “Acht na Gaeilge Anois (Irish Language Act now)”.

Following speeches and the releasing of red flares among an estimated crowd of 150 people, a letter calling for Irish language legislation to be introduced was handed into the minister’s office.

Ciaran Mac Giolla Bhein, from An Dream Dearg, the campaign group which organised the protest, said that while they welcomed the minister’s decision to reverse the funding cut, were calling for legislation to ensure the language was legally protected.

Mr Mac Giolla Bhein said that “this is only the beginning of our campaign”.

“The Irish language community are no longer willing to accept being treated as second class citizens,” he said.

“We are not asking for any special concession or privilege but to be treated with respect and dignity. This can only be delivered through enshrined legislation that secures our rights as Irish speakers.

“Any future political negotiations or attempts to achieve agreement on restoring the power-sharing executive must be dependent on the guaranteed delivery of outstanding commitments regarding Irish language rights.”

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