Thursday, 24 May 2012

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The BBC reports on an SDLP motion in the Assembly on the samhail nua mhaoinithe or new funding model for Irish-language groups currently being touted — not very successfully, it might be added — by Foras na Gaeilge.

The motion, tabled by Dominic Bradley, asked that the Assembly note "with concern the effects that the new funding model proposed by Foras na Gaeilge will have on Irish language organisations; [express] concern about the nature of the consultation process; and [call] on the Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure to review these proposals in view of her Department's emerging Irish language strategy."

Sinn Féin's Carál Ní Chuilín, who has had to hit the ground running to deal with a model clearly unsuited to the different conditions of the North, appeared riled at both Mr. Bradley and the SDLP, refusing an intervention from him and calling the motion "premature". From this, it appears likely that the funding model will be greatly modified to save West Belfast-based groups such as Pobal.

Comments from other Members were more enlightening about them and their parties than about any funding issues per se, with Gregory Campbell complaining about Mr. Bradley's use of Irish in the Chamber. In response, "Mr Bradley said he had translated everything in accordance with the standing orders of the house." Wrong, Dominic, the Standing Orders say nothing about having to provide a translation, a practice based on Speakers' rulings.

Trevor Lunn of the Alliance Party decided to play the taxpayer card, saying that "As an outsider, I like the look of the new structure proposed by Foras na Gaeilge." However, just as with the question of Irish on signs, Alliance appears sadly out of its depth in dealing with a subject in which few of its members will have much interest. While Sinn Féin may exert itself to save Pobal or Forbairt Feirste, Alliance should be making the case for Ultach Trust, a small, unique and already underfunded organisation with a remit to promote Irish on a cross-community basis, i.e. to Protestants.

As with recent speculation surrounding the future of the Community Relations Council and deals done behind the scenes on housing at Girdwood Barracks, the real danger for Alliance is that its integration agenda will be sidelined — and although Irish may not be much of a theme at dinner parties in the leafier parts of East Belfast, that applies to it too.

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