A DECISION by the DUP minister Paul Givan to reverse the cut to the 50,000 bursary for children to visit Irish-speaking communities, will not quell the sense of anger among the Irish language community in Tyrone.
That was the claim from the Omagh-based Irish Language Development Officer, Michaeline Donnelly who says the controversy has also had the effect of galvanising the campaign for further rights and respect.
In a tweet on Thursday morning, Mr Givan who is the Communities Minister said, “My decision on the Líofa Bursary Scheme was not a political decision. I have now identified the necessary funding to advance this scheme.”
Speaking during a TV debate, Mr Givan went on to say that he reversed the decision to prevent Sinn Féin from using the controversy during their election campaign.
“I was really angry when Mr Givan said that this was not a political decision, when the dogs on the street knew what this was all about,” said Michaeline.
“But then he turns around and says that he reversed the decision so that the issue could not be used by Sinn Féin in the election, so therefore he has made the Irish language political.
“The whole situation at Stormont is complete mess, but the Irish language should never have been dragged into it in this way.
“While I welcome the decision to reverse the funding cut, the damage caused is much greater. What we want now is respect and equality.”
Michaeline attended the An Dream Dearg rally in Belfast on Thursday, a campaign which is calling for an Irish Language Act, the development of a comprehensive Irish medium education system and adequate resources provided for the Irish language community.
She also revealed that an Irish language week – Seachtain na Gaeilge – is being launched in Omagh this year.
“Yes, the whole situation has really helped galvanise all the volunteers who work tirelessly to develop the Irish language, but there are also lots of other people now coming forward to show an interest and lend their support, so maybe something good will come out of all this,” Michaeline added.
West Tyrone MLA, Barry McElduff also gave his reaction to the dramatic U-turn by Mr Givan.
“The decision to cut the Líofa bursary of £50k for disadvantaged children was disgraceful,” said the Sinn Féin assembly member.
“While this reversal is welcome, it is a decision that should never have been taken. The DUP has demonstrated contempt for the Irish Language and that must change. The rights of the Irish language speakers need to be recognised and respected.”