Saturday, 12 December 2009

Foras na Gaeilge Safe — For Now

Concubhar Ó Liatháin has a thoughtful analysis of the Irish budget over at iGaeilge. Despite substantial cuts to the money available for TG4 and Údarás na Gaeltachta, Foras na Gaeilge seems to have got off relatively lightly.


"As for Foras na Gaeilge, according to the amount stated on the diagram below, the Language Body has lost only €50,000 for 2010 in comparison with 2009. We do not have an accurate view of the overall budget for [An Foras Teanga] except for the budget for the Boord o' Ulster-Scotch (who have their own problems, it seems). One also has to include a couple of other factors — one being that the allowance from the northern Department will be reduced in proportion with the reduction from the southern Department automatically.

The other factor is the green light that was given to Foras na Gaeilge to recruit 16 more employees, including language engineers, to add to the team in its offices in Dublin, Belfast and the new office in Gweedore. This will surely cost €1m+ each year from now on, and it is not yet known what value will result. This comes at a time when a review has been carried out of the number and effectiveness of the core-funded organisations, with its being stated baldly that an attempt is being made to have one organisation or perhaps two or three instead of 19. Accordingly, the result will be that there will be one organisation or three wholly dependent on the Foras for their funding, and those organisations will have little real independence."

One wonders whether Foras na Gaeilge's recruitment policy might have been influenced by rumours circulating of a more major realignment of Irish-language organisations by the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs. After all, the two cross-border language bodies could not be abolished entirely, since they were set up under the Good Friday Agreement and North/South legislation with the force of an international treaty. Some funding had to go through them.

One way for an agency to keep a budget is to make delivery so costly that substantially cutting the level of funds distributed through it would render its administrative arrangements unacceptably expensive. Complaints are sometimes made about charities' backroom costs, but charities have to raise their own funds, and to keep their costs in proportion. With Foras na Gaeilge, it is the Minister who plays the role of the public. It is also true that job losses at Foras na Gaeilge itself would have played very badly — worse than job losses further down the food chain.

Even if this time the argument about "levering out" funds from the North seems to have been heeded, Irish-language organisations North and South will be worried.

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