Sinn Fein has claimed the DUP’s “lack of respect” for the Irish language is one of several key factors which has contributed to the current political crisis at Stormont.
At the weekend, young Irish language speakers from Londonderry expressed anger and frustration over the DUP’s withdrawal of funding from the Liofa bursary scheme.
The group met amid outrage at the decision by Communities Minister Paul Givan last month to cut bursaries worth £50,000 from the Líofa initiative, a means-tested scheme which enabled those on lower incomes to attend summer Irish language classes in a range of locations across Donegal.
Caolán McGinley, chairperson of Sinn Féin Youth in Londonderry, said: “This clearly shows the lack of respect that the DUP have for Irish language speakers.
“The minister should listen to public outcry and restore the bursaries immediately.”
Irish language umbrella organisation Pobal has said it is “taking advice” on the issue.
Director Janet Muller said: “We are very concerned by this. Certain ministers appear to be acting in a very sectarian way over the Irish language.
“Ever since the re-establishment of the Assembly, Irish language has been dragged into the political arena and used as a political football.
“This is damaging to community relations and the only way to deal with this issue is to have proper legal protection for the Irish language.
“We are now asking all right-thinking people to stand with us against this petty attack on people’s birthright.”
Speaking at the weekend, Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams described Mr Givan as an “ignoramus”.
He added: “The DUP has shown a serious disrespect for the Irish language and to those citizens who wish to live their lives through Gaeilge (Irish language).
“The decision on the eve of Christmas to cut funding for the Líofa programme was a very deliberate snub to the Irish language. It was an ignorant decision taken by an ignoramus.
“Of course we will forgive him (Mr Givan) for this. When he restores the funding and treats our teanga (language) with the respect it deserves.”
The Department for Communities said it would not be offering a Gaeltacht bursary scheme in 2017 “due to efficiency savings”.