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17 Jan 2017

A delegation of Irish language representatives from Armagh City joined a lunchtime protest in Béal Feirste last Friday organised by ‘An Dream Dearg’ outside the offices of outgoing Department for Communities Minister Paul Givan. Delegates from Armagh City based groups CAIRDE Teo and Gael Linn were among the sizeable group of protestors who called on Mr Givan to introduce the Irish Language Act promised in the St Andrew’s Agreement in 2006.

The protestors were joined by civil liberties and gay rights campaigners who were angry at Stormont’s failure to respect the rights of women and minority groupings. The protest came in the wake of the Minister’s decision to axe funding to an Irish language bursary scheme for disadvantaged children immediately before Christmas.

Martin McGuinness said the £50,000 cut was part of the reason for his resignation as Deputy First Minister at Stormont. The scheme, introduced by previous Culture Minister, Carál Ní Chuilín, enabled at least 100 people a year to attend summer courses in the Donegal Gaeltacht.

Communities Minister Paul Givan tweeted on Friday that he had “identified the necessary funding to advance” the Líofa Gaeltacht Bursary Scheme. However, protestors say the cash found for the scheme is not good enough. Speaking to the BBC’s Evening Extra programme about restoring the funding, Mr Givan said: “I was not prepared to allow Sinn Féin to use that £50,000 as a political weapon against us in the upcoming election as tool to rally their troops, and so I’ve taken that away from them.”

Irish language group CAIRDE Teo welcomed the move to restore the funding but said that “such decisions highlight the need for a comprehensive Irish Language Act that will safeguard Irish speaking children and adults from politically motivated attacks. The Irish language belongs to no political party and like many other groups we are working hard to make the language appealing and accessible to all sections of our community in Armagh”.

A spokesperson for, An Dream Dearg, one of the groups involved, said: “The Irish-language community are no longer willing to accept being treated as second class citizens. Eighteen years after the Good Friday Agreement, and more than ten years since the commitment to an Irish language act in the internationally-binding St Andrew’s Agreement of 2006, the Irish-language community are Dearg Le Fearg (red with anger) at the repeated failure of authorities to protect and promote our rights.”