Irish gaeltacht scheme for young 'cut by £50,000'

By Robbie Meredith
BBC News NI Education Correspondent

image captionThe bursary awards enabled young people to go gaeltact areas such as this one in Donegal

The Department for Communities (DfC) has withdrawn funding for an Irish language bursary scheme.

The Líofa Gaeltacht Bursary Scheme enabled at least 100 people a year to attend summer Irish language classes in the Donegal gaeltacht.

The Líofa programme was set up by former culture minister, Carál Ní Chuilín.

The DfC announced the cut in an email from the Líofa office.

It was sent to the boards of the gaeltacht colleges on 23 December.

image captionThe Líofa programme was set up by former culture minister, Carál Ní Chuilín

It reads: "Mar gheall ar choigilteas éifeachtúlachta ní bheidh an Roinn ag soláthar Scéim Sparánachtaí Líofa i 2017. Nollaig mhaith agus bliain úr faoi mhaise daoibh."

This translates as: "Because of efficiency savings, the department will not be providing the Líofa bursary scheme in 2017. Happy Christmas and Happy New Year."

'Blatant discrimination'

Representatives from the gaeltacht colleges said that the bursary funding was worth about £50,000 per year, and enabled those unable to afford to meet the cost themselves to spend time at colleges in the gaeltacht.

The president of Comhaltas Uladh, Dr Niall Comer called the move a "blatant act of discrimination."

"Comhaltas Uladh of Conradh na Gaeilge considers this to be quite simply a deliberate and cynical attack on the Irish language, without any justification nor reason," he said.

"Our summer colleges are cross-community and disadvantaged children from both sides of the community have availed of this scholarship scheme.

"This decision will directly impact on hundreds of Irish language learners, from disadvantaged families across the north.

"The minister's decision must be contextualised in terms of recent political events, where we have, this week, seen almost half a billion pound of public money squandered."

"Cutting successful schemes aimed at disadvantaged children from both communities is not the answer."

The department for communities confirmed that the programme would not run in 2017 due to the need to find efficiency savings.

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