The Irish Language community is shocked and bitterly disappointed at the Education Authority's latest funding decision regarding IM youth work. This latest funding decision impacts significantly and disproportionately upon frontline IM youth services, equating to loss of youth work jobs across the sector, and hundreds of hours of weekly face to face youth work delivery.
The EA has informed local IM youth clubs that specific Irish Medium Youth funding cannot be maintained or integrated into their new funding scheme. This decision involves the removal of historic funding to all 24 local Irish medium youth providers throughout the North resulting in the loss of all of funding for crucial staffing costs.
This funding cut will be felt most acutely in West Belfast, where Upper Springfield Irish Medium youth club Glór na Móna is to have 98% of its youth project funding of circa £88,000 removed from April 1st. If implemented, this funding cut will result in the loss of 5 posts, including a Full-Time Youth Leader in charge, a 25-hour worker and 3 x15 hour part-time workers. Recognised locally and nationally, as the largest and most successful Irish medium youth club in Ireland, Glór na Móna currently opens 5 nights a week and has 160 members who attend the club throughout the week.
These feelings were echoed by Glór na Móna Director Feargal Mac Ionnrachtaigh who stated:
“We are bitterly disappointed at this devastating decision. Practically, this will result in the loss of 5 posts including a full-time leader in charge and effectively puts our 160 local young people out in the street with no alternative youth provision in the area for young Irish speakers. Our local Post-Primary school, Coláiste Feirste has undergone exponential growth over the past 5 years with its number increasing from 650 to 900 and this growth has been mirrored in our Irish Medium primary schools who are now bursting at the seams through the west of the city. Our young people attend our club 5 nights a week and simply have nowhere else to go that provides informal learning opportunities through their own language in a safe, bespoke youth work sanctuary that facilitates social-language use.”
“This decision flies in the face of the Department for Education’s statutory duty to ‘facilitate and encourage the development of IME’ that was enshrined in the Good Friday Agreement. However, our young people, their parents and the wider West Belfast community will not accept this decision and the cavalier disregard shown to the rights of our young people.”
Sixteen-year-old youth volunteer Connlaoi Gillen, who is has been involved in Glór na Móna since he was 7 years old stated:
‘This is a total disgrace. We can’t understand how those in power could make such a decision and close our youth club which is such a big part of all our lives. I've been coming to Glór na Móna since I was 7-year-old and in that time I have seen it develop into the biggest youth club in the area. This was driven by the commitment of volunteers and young people and it’s like a second home to me. In our club, the Irish language comes to life and we use it informally and have the best of craic. Taking this from us is simply so unfair. We can’t take this lying down and need to be part of the fight back.’
A public meeting will take place next Thursday 24 February outside Gaelionad Mhic Goill, Glór na Móna in the Upper Springfield area at 7.30pm. We appeal to you to make every effort to get to this meeting and show those in power that we are united in support of our young people. We are Dearg le Fearg, Rights and Resources are non-negotiable.
An attack on our Irish language youth clubs is an attack on our community. Bigí Linn!
Feargal Mac Ionnrachtaigh
Director of Glór na Móna
Conchúr Ó Muadaigh
Advocacy Manager, Conradh na Gaeilge
Glór na Móna is a youth and community organisation founded in 2004 who work through the medium of Irish and are based in Upper Springfield and promote the language across West Belfast where they are the lead partner in the West Belfast Language planning network. See www.glórnamona.com
Glór na Móna has been funded by the Education Authority, previously the Education and Library board from 2009 to deliver Irish Medium Youth.
Glór na Móna delivers services across Belfast for those who attend Irish medium schools and is an extension of Irish Medium Education. Over the past decade the Department of Education has been taking decisive steps to 'encourage and facilitate' the growth of the Irish-medium education sector. Glór na Móna received annual funding from the EA to deliver youth work 5 nights a week to children and young people aged 8 - 18.
This week the Education Authority informed Glór na Móna that this funding would not be continuing from the 1st of April as a result of budget constraints.