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Move threatens ‘to kill off Irish language organisations’

February 28, 2012

Irish language experts have warned that changes to how organisations promoting it are funded threaten to put them out of existence and to put staff out of jobs.

A new funding model proposed by Foras na Gaeilge would see money given out for a range of schemes to promote the Irish language. It would replace the current grant system under which €7m of its €18m budget last year was given directly to 19 voluntary sector Irish language organisations. A 2010 review showed half the €8m given to the organisations in 2008 went on salaries and Foras na Gaeilge says the proportion allocated to pay reached 59% last year.

Foras na Gaeilge is the all-island body responsible for promotion of the language and is supported through the North-South Ministerial Council.

But, as a public consultation process on the proposals gets underway, a group of academics has said Foras na Gaeilge has not carried out any review of the effectiveness or efficiency of the groups and the plan goes against the principles of international language planning.

“We believe that the Foras na Gaeilge new funding model is deeply flawed, and will prove detrimental to the development of Irish across the country,” they said.

In a letter published in today’s Irish Examiner, the group, which includes leading academics from Belfast, Dublin, Galway, New Zealand, Scotland and Wales, said the 19 Irish language organisations will cease to exist, their services will be no more and staff will have to be let go. They are supported by a group which represents most of the organisations in the voluntary sector, which has also started an online petition.

A spokesperson for Foras na Gaeilge said while there may be some inevitable job losses, it was no different to other publicly funded sectors.

“Foras na Gaeilge does have an evaluation process for how its money is spent,” she said.

“The new schemes will be open to all of the 19 core-funded organisations to apply and will be funded over three years,” she said.

The headings under which schemes will be funded include education, arts, youth, pre-school and community supports, with funding to be provided on a three-year basis.

The public consultation will include a series of meetings next month, beginning in Tralee on Mar 5 and continuing in Belfast, Galway and Dublin until Mar 14. Details of the proposed funding arrangements can be found online at www.gaeilge.ie/samhail