Families from Derry and Inishowen whose children go to Gaeltachts in west Donegal have been warned that the 100-year old tradition is under threat due to water charges.
Local parents have now been asked to join a forthcoming meeting and a protest in Letterkenny amid widespread anger over the new government levy on household water usage.
Hundreds of host families across west Donegal will be hit hard when the charges come in and many will no longer be able to offer accommodation as a result, a local councillor has warned.
Independent Councillor Micheal Cholm Mac Giolla Easpaig said that dozens of families in his native Rannafast are among those affected.
“A high percentage of the young people who come here for the Irish language come from the Derry area and there is going to be a major effect on that whole industry,” he said.
“There isn’t much money in the industry as it is, and most people here do it for the love of the language. With the water charges however they are actually going to lose money. There are thousands of children who go to the gaeltachts at Árainn Mhór Island, Rannafast, Gaoth Dobhair, Loch an Iúir, Dún Lúiche, Gleann Cholm Cille, and then the university students from Coleraine and Queens come a number of times during the year as well.
“The gaeltachts are already one of the most socially disadvantaged and deprived areas. People depend on this income to pay their mortgage or send their children to college. With the water tax being introduced, it is actually going to cost them thousands. Most families keep up to 12 kids and they would be doing two to three washes a day, dishes, cooking, showers, flushing toilets, washing hands.
“There will be an off-shoot effect on cafes, garages, bus companies- this has massive implications for the Gaeltacht.”
Sinn Féin Derry Councillor Kevin Campbell called on Irish Water to factor these issues in. He said: “Each year hundreds of young people from Derry attend Irish language summer courses in Gaeltacht areas of Donegal and elsewhere. These young people stay with host families from the local areas while they learn and celebrate our heritage.
“The imposition of water charges will put increased pressure on these host families. Gaeltacht areas have suffered from underinvestment in the past and the annual influx of students attending summer courses is vital to the local economy.”
A meeting about the issue will be held next Thursday, October 23rd, at Station House in Letterkenny at 7.30pm, followed by a county-wide demonstration on Saturday, November 1st at 2pm in Letterkenny town.