Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Sinn Féin's New Clothes

The Irish-language community is in shock at the news that no Northern organisation is to receive core funding after June this year. Where once there were 19 such organisations across the island, there will now be only six, all of which are situated south of the border.

In a press statement, Ultach Trust cited bad faith, stating:
"Chuaigh Foras na Gaeilge chuig na sé eagras a roghnaíodh i bhfómhar na bliana 2012 ag [fiafraí] cé acu a bheadh [...] sásta feidhmiú mar cheanneagras ar bhonn uile-oileánda."
The decision means that there will soon be no Irish-language organisation in the North dedicated to cross-community work. In that respect, it seems strange that An tÁisaonad and Raidió Feirste are to be funded on a project basis while no account is taken of the far greater need to tackle the North's yawning sectarian divide and give Unionists the confidence to engage with their heritage.

Neither will the North have any professional advocacy organisation (even if DCAL were to provide replacement funding to Pobal, which has consistently highlighted the lack of an Irish Language Act, it could hardly be considered sufficiently independent of the Executive).

Particularly controversial has been the way in which Sinn Féin welcomed the news, appearing to prioritise the cosmetic aspect of all-island organisations being in charge of language promotion over the more salient one of their effectiveness — a criticism that could arguably be applied to Foras na Gaeilge itself. Veteran Irish-language campaigner Séamus Mac Seáin castigated the party for issuing an English-only press release on the issue.  Another Gaeilgeoir stated that a truly cross-border set-up would have seen at least one Northern organisation being chosen to take the lead on one of Foras na Gaeilge's six themes, while yet another complained of a basic ignorance of the North among Southern activists, with many unaware that Irish was not a compulsory subject in post-primary schools.

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