5 April 2017
Youth and language activists take to the streets Thursday against funding cuts
This is being interpreted as another manifestation of ongoing discrimination against the Irish language
IRISH-LANGUAGE ACTIVISTS will be at the Education Authority’s Academy Street headquarters in Belfast on Thursday (3:30pm) to vent their anger at what they see as yet another attack on the Irish language, this time hitting youth provision in west Belfast.
The planned protest was announced during an angry meeting in response to the withdrawal of funding for youth provision in west Belfast, threatening all the area’s Irish-medium projects. The event was attended by hundreds of people in the packed sports hall of the Coláiste Feirste Irish secondary school.
Young people from the various Irish-language youth groups who use the clubs affected by the cuts and support staff spoke of their anger and dismay at the news delivered at the close of business on Friday 31 March.
Sinn Féin MLA Órlaithí Flynn said more than 130 youth workers across the North will lose their jobs as the Education Authority axes its Extended Youth Provision Scheme which funds youth workers and projects in areas ranked in the top 25% of multiple deprivation.
“Thousands of young people will suffer the consequences of the cuts,” said Flynn.
She called on the Education Authority to explain how groups funded on the basis of “objective criteria” are now losing funding “despite the fact that nothing has changed”.
● Irish-language youth worker Orlaith Nic Siacáis addresses the packed Coláiste Feirste meeting
The angry reaction from the west Belfast community stems from the fact that all the Irish-language after-school provision in Cumann Óige Uachtar Chluanaí in Upper Springfield, Club Óige na bhFál on the Falls Road, and Cumann Óige Ghlór an Ghleanna in Andersonstown, as well as Club Óige Mhachaire Bótháin in north Belfast, will be lost.
This is being interpreted as another manifestation of ongoing discrimination against the Irish language.
Feargal Mac Ionnrachtaigh, director of Glór na Móna, the Irish-language umbrella group that organised the meeting, attacked the Education Authority for its axing of funding.
“Our community is reeling at this disgraceful decision that we were only informed of at 4:35pm on Friday afternoon, effectively putting four professionally-qualified youth workers on the dole from Monday onwards.
“The manner in which this devastating news was delivered, informing our staff on Friday that they were unemployed by Monday, merely added insult to injury,” he said.
Sinn Féin west Belfast Assembly member Pat Sheehan outlined to the meeting that he, Fra McCann and Nuala Toman met Education Authority Director Gavin Boyd and raised Sinn Féin’s concerns about the proposed cuts and the manner in which the organisations were notified.
● One of the many young voices heard during the rally
Pat Sheehan described the meeting as “a frank exchange” but he did say:
“We secured a commitment from the Education Authority that the funding applications in west Belfast will be reviewed.”
The protest on Thursday goes ahead to keep the pressure on.
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