Northern Ireland

Líofa: Apology over Irish language website security

Carál Nί Chuilίn
Image caption Carál Nί Chuilίn said it was disturbing that personal details of users of the website could be accessed, and said it has been shut down while IT security checks are carried out

Northern Ireland's culture minister has apologised to users of an Irish language website whose personal details could be publicly accessed online.

The Líofa website was launched in February, as part of a campaign to encourage more people to learn Irish.

However, registered users' names, home addresses, email addresses and other personal information could be accessed through the site's search facility.

Minister Carál Nί Chuilίn apologised and the site has been shut temporarily.

She said: "I am very sorry that some participants' names and other information which they had provided could have been found using the website's search facility.

"While it is disturbing that this should have been the case, at this stage there is no evidence that this information has been accessed or misused in any way."

Data protection

The Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure (DCAL) confirmed that the Líofa website did not hold any financial information about its registered users.

DCAL has had "lead responsibility for the website content management" since February, but did not have lead responsibility for data protection until September.

Ms Nί Chuilίn said her department has asked "accredited IT security experts to establish the full extent of the website's vulnerabilities".

"Once we know what the problems are we will address them, and then we must have the website thoroughly checked and accredited before we bring it back online."

SDLP MLA Dominic Bradley, who speaks Irish, said he was "extremely concerned to learn of this breach in data protection".

"People who register and provide information on a government website expect their details to be subject to sound security and protection."

Mr Bradley called on the minister to investigate the matter and report back to the Northern Ireland Assembly.

Controversial

The Líofa (fluent) campaign was launched just over three years ago, with the aim of promoting greater use of the Irish language, and increasing the number of fluent speakers by 2015.

However, the use of Irish in public life in Northern Ireland has often proved controversial.

Earlier this month, former culture minister Gregory Campbell was barred from speaking at the Northern Ireland Assembly for a day, after he parodied the language in the chamber.

The Democratic Unionist Party MLA used the phrase "Curry my yoghurt can coca coalyer".

The phrase was a parody of the Irish sentence "go raibh maith agat, Ceann Comhairle" translates as "thank you, Speaker" and is used by nationalist MLAs in the chamber.

In March, three Ulster Unionist Party councillors walked out of a Down District Council meeting in protest, ahead of a presentation about the Irish language.

A month earlier, a senior member of the Orange Order warned Protestants against learning the Irish language, claiming it was part of the "republican agenda".

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