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Councillors clash over Irish Language Week

Clive Nesbitt

Reporter:

Clive Nesbitt

Email:

clive@alphanewspapers.co.uk

Councillors have clashed yet again over the promotion of Irish Language week.

At the last Council meeting, a letter from Irish language group Conradh na Gaeilge was circulated that asked Council to promote Irish Language Week, which runs from March 1 to March 17, 2019.

The letter also encouraged the Council to engage with the local Irish Language community: "To explore ways to best showcase their celebration of Irish."

TUV Councillor Timothy Gaston proposed Councillors note receipt of the letter and move on, with Independent Councillor Donna Anderson seconding his proposal.

SDLP Councillor Declan O'Loan referred to the controversy surrounding last years Irish Language week, and said: "Given that we are receiving this letter in very good time, I would ask officers to take the request under their notice and come back to us with a report on their proposals for dealing with Seachtain na Gaeilge (Irish Language Week).

“In particular, provide information on the request made by the group that we would support our local groups to recognise Conradh na Gaeilge."

Sinn Fein Councillor James McKeown seconded Cllr O'Loan's proposal.

UUP Councillor Stephen Nicholl said that grant schemes are available and are open to anyone to apply to therefore special circumstances should not be made.

He commented: "We do not make special arrangements for other events."

Sinn Fein Councillor Patrice Hardy asked for clarity, saying: "If this is just noted and we move on, are we saying no to this group?"

Chief Executive Anne Donaghy answered saying the group would be advised of the grants available by Council.

Cllr Hardy warned: "The Council need to be very very careful here about the decision they make, considering the bad press that has been received on the Irish Language so far, and the controversy it's been in over the last year."

UUP Councillor Stephen Nicholl came back in response to Councillor Hardy, saying: “I find it disconcerting that Councillor Hardy would choose to warn Council about it's decision making process.

"Council has made it clear that we have a system of grants applications that are open to all groups and all sections of our society.

"We are not making a differentiation. What we are saying is that we will not raise one section of the community above the others. There are those politicians who have done the Irish Language a great dis-service by politicising it way above what it had to be.

"We're here to make a decision which ensures that all opportunities are open to all our citizens."

Cllr O'Loan concluded the comments by adding: "It looks as if the Council is about to do itself serious damage concerning its image in the broader community.

"Could the Chief Executive give more advice to this Council in terms of it's equality obligations?"

Chief Executive Anne Donaghy said there was adequate funding for grants for any group that applied.

Councillor O'Loan's proposal was voted down by 24 votes to six, and Cllr Gaston's proposal to note and move on was voted for by 24 votes to four, with three abstentions.

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