Irish language youth clubs 'forced to close' over funding
Four Irish language youth clubs in Belfast are said to be facing closure after they were unsuccessful in their latest application for public funds.
More than 60 groups applied to the Education Authority for funding but the EA said "a number" were not approved.
West Belfast MP Paul Maskey said this would "effectively close the doors of some youth clubs, including youth provision through the medium of Irish".
A public meeting about the issue is taking place in west Belfast.
It has been organised by the Irish language youth and community group, Glór na Móna, which said four youth workers were suddenly without a job.
Its director, Feargal Mac Ionnrachtaigh, said: "Our community is reeling at this disgraceful decision that we were only informed by the Education Authority of at 4.35pm [16:35 BST] 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 added: "In total 65 hours per week of youth work practice has been axed, forcing the immediate closure of four Belfast-based clubs."
The clubs said to be facing closure are:
- Cumann Óige Uachtar Chluanaí in Upper Springfield, west Belfast
- Club Óige na bhFál on the Falls Road, west Belfast
- Cumann Óige Ghlór an Ghleanna in Andersonstown, west Belfast
- Club Óige Mhachaire Bótháin in Oldpark, north Belfast
The EA fund is known as the Extended Youth Provision Scheme and its aim is to increase access to youth clubs in disadvantaged areas and interfaces.
"It is targeted at identified providers in areas ranked in the top 25% of multiple deprivation," an EA statement said.
In order to qualify, youth groups must submit a new application each year.
An EA spokeswoman said more than 60 were recently assessed by a multi-agency panel and some were not approved.
She denied the EA was making cuts and said there was "no reduction in the cash allocation" in comparison with last year.
She added: "Although Glór na Móna's application for Extended Provision funding was not successful, EA anticipates that the work of Glór na Móna will continue to be funded."