Friday, 14 February 2014

Economically Correct

The BBC quotes Foras na Gaeilge chief executive Ferdie Mac an Fhailigh as saying that the de-funding of almost all of Northern Ireland's Irish-language voluntary organisations was "economic not political". As no one is seriously suggesting that the cuts were made by people who hate Northerners (Mr. Mac an Fhailigh is one himself), that may seem uncontroversial.

But whether the decision was a completely apolitical one is another matter.

Would a Fianna Fáil-led Government in the South have viewed the need to cut spending on Irish as less urgent than their rivals in Fine Gael? Could some of those working for and sitting on the Foras board have had an unexpressed bias towards the larger part of the island, perhaps influenced by the organisation having its headquarters in Dublin? Might some of them have had limited understanding of, or sympathy with, the experience of the language in the North? Might the Sinn Féin board members have acted on a predictable preference for all-island structures? Might some of them have denigrated Ultach Trust in particular as a creation of the British? And could any Northern party apart from Sinn Féin have got away with such wanton destruction of the sector without engendering a political backlash and perhaps even bringing down the Agreement?

Similarly, one could ask why the successful organisations were canvassed by Foras na Gaeilge before the official selection was made, why the lower cost of Northern salaries was not taken into account when making plans ostensibly aimed at saving money, and why at least one Northern organisation was not chosen on the basis of demographic equity.

Sins of omission can be political too.

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