Northern Ireland

Irish language funding to be investigated

Irish language protesters
Image caption Members of the Irish-language community gathered at the Department of Communities offices when the funding was cut

The Equality Commission is to investigate the Department for Communities' (DFC) handling of an Irish language bursary scheme.

The Liofa scheme allowed at least 100 people a year to attend summer Irish language classes in the Gaeltacht.

The commission is also investigating the DfC's handling of the Community Halls Pilot Programme.

It says the department "may have failed to comply with its approved equality scheme" in making funding decisions.

Image caption Then minister, Paul Givan, withdrew the £50,000 it cost to fund the Liofa programme in December

It will publish a report when its investigation is complete.

Then minister, Paul Givan, withdrew the £50,000 it cost to fund the Liofa programme in December.

However in January, he announced that he had restored the funding.

The Community Halls Pilot Programme, meanwhile, was set up by DfC in 2016 to pay for the maintenance and refurbishment of community halls.

All public authorities in Northern Ireland are required to promote equality of opportunity.

This can be between people of different religious groups, political opinions, racial groups, ages or sexual orientation, for example.

They must also try to promote good relations between people of different political opinions, religious beliefs or racial groups.

The Equality Commission has the power to investigate if it believes a public authority has failed to do this.

Their investigation has been welcomed by the Irish language organisation Conradh na Gaeilge.

Their advocacy manager Ciaran Mac Giolla Bhein said they would study the commission's report regarding the Liofa scheme especially.

"This cross-community means-tested scheme was launched to provide learning opportunities for young people," he said.

"This was not just an attack on the Irish language, but on those people who wished to access funding to facilitate learning opportunities in the Gaeltacht."

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