Council to fully fund Irish language officer as Foras na Gaeilge pulls plug on support scheme

The current Irish officer, P�l � Frighil.
The current Irish officer, P�l � Frighil.

Derry City and Strabane District Council’s Governance and Strategic Planning Committee passed a motion that the local authority fully fund an Irish language officer in the district after Foras na Gaeilge ended co-finance under its Irish Language Officer Scheme in September.

The scheme had enabled the Council to appoint an officer and establish a range of Irish Language services that have helped it to meet its legislative commitments in respect of Irish, the committee was told.

Between 2007 and 2016 the old Derry City Council made three successful applications to the scheme amounting to a total contribution of £136,903 but this support is no longer available.

Sinn Féin Councillor Maolíosa McHugh proposed Council makes necessary provision in the rates estimates to continue to fund an Irish language officer post in the absence of Foras support.

Following a query from DUP Alderman David Ramsey, Chief Executive John Kelpie and Democratic Services and Improvement Officer Ellen Cavanagh explained that while the current officer has responsibility for Irish, Ulster Scots and ethnic minority language programmes, the matter before the committee referred to the end of the Foras na Gaeilge scheme, which dealt with Irish only.

Mr McHugh urged continued support, particularly for the Irish language, suggesting “it’s a window into another sphere” that allows a “greater understanding of who you are.”

SDLP Councillor Brian Tierney said: “We could go on and argue and battle and debate the pros and cons of the Irish language but the point is that this is about the loss of funding for a Council service.”

He asked members not to divide along Orange and Green lines. They didn’t and the motion to make up the Foras shortfall was carried.