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BallymenaNI News

Irish Language Request : Sinn Fein hits back after council fails to support funding bid

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A request to Mid and East Antrim Borough Council seeking direct financial support for Irish Language Week has been referred to a community grants scheme.

Conradh naGaelige has asked the council to provide a specific fund for local Irish language groups to support them to organise their own events and to “promote and showcase the Irish language within the borough”.

Irish Language Week takes place annually from March 1 until St Patrick’s Day.

Councillors have been told that a community event could include an introductory Irish language session at a community centre or a performance by a traditional Irish music group.

A social media campaign around the Irish language and photocall with the mayor have also been suggested.

An officer’s report to council has proposed that groups are referred to the council’s grants scheme and recommended that the council provides approval to host an event within Covid guidelines.

It was noted that as part of the Good Relations Programme, there is “provision for projects that explore places and culture within the borough”.

The request was supported by Coast Road Sinn Fein Councillor James McKeown and Ballymena SDLP Cllr Eugene Reid who said they were “very happy” to propose and second the recommendation.

Last March, Coast Road Ulster Unionist Councillor Maureen Morrow, councillors and school groups attended an Irish language and music event at Larne Town Hall.

In 2018, DUP Mayor Larne Lough representative Alderman Paul Reid welcomed guests from Irish Language groups and musicians to The Braid in Ballymena.

However, Bannside TUV Cllr Timothy Gaston said that “in the interests of equality for ratepayers”, the council should “signpost the group to the grant process all groups go through on a yearly basis”.

His amendment was seconded by party colleague Braid Councillor Brian Collins.

Larne Lough Councillor Danny Donnelly asked if this would include Ulster Scots groups making requests.

Cllr Gaston’s amendment was carried by 20 votes to 11 against and five abstentions.

At the same meeting, a report presented to councillors seeking support for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee recommended that planning by the local authority should commence for a “range of activity” to mark the anniversary.

Cllr McKeown proposed that any group wanting to “hold something to mark this event should do so by applying through the funding system”.

Larne Lough DUP Councillor Gregg McKeen said: “I agree any group should apply but the council is organising this event”.

Cllr McKeown replied: “In the previous item, the council was to organise an event.”

Carrickfergus DUP Alderman Billy Ashe commented: “Could I suggest we open up a funding stream for groups to celebrate the Queen?”

Bannside Sinn Fein Cllr Ian Friary commented: “Can I second James’s proposal.”

Cllr Gaston asked if the “Sinn Fein member wants to add to the original thing of wanting to open up for grant”.

Cllr McKeown replied: “I do not think the council should be holding an event.”

Chief Executive Anne Donaghy commented: “The Irish Language Week was at the request of Conradh naGaelige but this is at the request of the council.”

Cllr McKeown’s amendment was defeated by 33 votes to three.

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