Members of Causeway Coast & Glens Leisure and Development refused a request from Conradh na Gaeilge asking for council’s help in promoting the Irish language during Seachtain na Gaeilge which runs from March 1 to 17, 2022.
Correspondence received from the group asked the council to consider providing a specific fund to local Irish language community groups to support them in organising their own events during the festival.
Sinn Fein Councillor Sean Bateson raised the matter saying: “I believe this is the third year they have come to council and I know other councils across the region have established a small grants fund for Seachtain na Gaeilge which is a celebration of the Irish language in March.
“I think it would be remiss of us for the third year running not to accept this request which won’t be an awful lot of money, it’s just to establish a small pot or small grants fund for Irish language groups and enthusiasts to celebrate events coming up.
“I propose we establish such a grant fund and I would be happy enough, although it may be too late as Ulster Scots week has ended or is coming to an end, to establish a fund for both so they can run their own events.”
DUP Councillor Phillip Anderson informed the Bann DEA councillor that Ulster Scots week starts on November 23 saying; “Don’t be panicking, you haven’t missed out on it.”
The Coleraine councillor brought up the difference in the funding received by Irish language and Ulster Scots groups adding: “It has been found to be that for every pound that’s awarded to Ulster Scots there is £18 spent on Irish.
“I think asking for more money, even a small pot, considering the amount of money they are getting compared to the Ulster Scots and for someone who quite frequently speaks about equality, this something I would like to see is equality in.
“Whenever the Ulster Scots start getting the same funding then surely that’s something we can start looking at.”
Responding Councillor Bateson said: “That’s specifically what I am proposing. That we establish a grant fund to help both these weeks.”
The DUP councillor asked ‘is Councillor Bateson proposing the Ulster Scots receive 18 times more than the Irish language gets’ to which the Sinn Fein councillor said: “I don’t get what you are asking.”
Councillor Anderson replied: “What I am saying is that for every pound spent on Ulster Scots there is £18 spent on the Irish language. What I’m saying is, are you wanting to level it up? Are you wanting to say for every pound the Irish language gets the Ulster Scots will get £18 more?”
“All I’m asking is for a small pot of money for people to celebrate both weeks,” said Councillor Bateson. “I’m not saying one group should have more money than the other.”
Director of Leisure and Development Richard Baker explained to members there are three grant programmes available from council which both groups are eligible to apply for.
Councillor Bateson’s proposal to fund a grant programme specifically for Seachtain na Gaeilge, a celebration of the Irish language and a celebration of Ulster Scots fell in a recorded vote with six votes for and 10 against.