Northern Ireland

Ultach: Cross-community Irish language trust to close

A charitable trust focused on the cross-community promotion of the Irish language is to close because of funding cuts.

Ultach will shut its Belfast office later with four redundancies, after funding cuts by all-island Irish language body Foras na Gaeilge.

Foras said the changes in January were to ensure the language was promoted on an all-island basis.

An Ultach director said the cut meant they had no alternative but to close.

"Our support investment has been demolished. It was inevitable that we would have to close after that," said Aodán Mac Póilin.

"Our point of view is that this closure will mean the loss of an enormous amount of expertise and resources in cross-community promotion of the Irish language."

Cuts

Last year, a rationalisation plan for the funding of Foras na Gaeilge was agreed by the North-South Ministerial Council.

Foras na Gaeilge was set up in the wake of the Good Friday Agreement to promote the language. It is funded by the Irish government and the Northern Ireland Executive. Its own budget has been significantly reduced in recent years.

Under the rationalisation plan, it could only fund six out of 19 Irish language groups.

None of the six organisations chosen by Foras were in Northern Ireland.

Other Irish language groups in Northern Ireland to lose a significant portion of their budgets were Pobal, Forbairt Feirste and Altram.

The new funding arrangements came into effect in July.

'Expertise'

Mr Mac Póilin said that none of the six funded all-island Irish language organisations would be able to fulfil the cross-community remit of Ultach.

"The only thing the Northern Ireland Assembly agrees about when it comes to the Irish language is that it has to be cross-community," he said.

"We have the resources, the expertise and the knowledge of how to do that across Northern Ireland but they have cut off our water.

"The other groups have said they will promote Irish to minority communities, but none have the focus or experience in promoting it to the Protestant community that we have."

Mr Mac Póilin added that Ultach would continue to operate on a voluntary basis, with members giving up their spare time when possible but that it would be "impossible" to replicate the work that was put in as a full-time organisation.

In a statement, Foras na Gaeilge said it invited 13 organisations, including Ultach, to apply to become one of the six organisations but that those chosen were selected to "specialise in each of the six major areas" of Irish language promotion.

It added that one of those organisations, Conradh na Gaeilge, would play a "key, defined role" in promoting the Irish language across communities and had "invested significantly in the north".

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