Councillors vote against Irish language post

Belfast City Hall
Belfast City Hall

Belfast City Council has voted against applying for funding for an Irish language officer for the council.

The application was to Foras na Gaelige for funding of £13,000 to go towards funding an Irish language officer with a salary of £40,000.

However the closing date for the funding was May 31, according to the minutes of a meeting of the Strategic Policy and Resources committee on May 24. A council officer advised that Foras na Gaelige indicated that, whilst they appreciated the Council’s interest in the scheme and understood it might not be able to make an application within the timeframe, it would not be able to extend the closing date beyond Friday May 31.

The application was submitted to the Irish language body prior to this deadline, however it is subject to the approval of the full council.

DUP councillor Lee Reynolds proposed rejecting the plan because the languages policy within the council is currently under review.

“It is bad practise to go looking for money when you don’t know what people are going to do,” he said.

Alderman May Campbell, DUP, seconded this motion.

Sinn Fein councillor Conor Maskey said that an Ulster Scots officer had also been proposed.

He complained that he feels there is an “anti Irish language agenda in this council”.

Mr Maskey also attacked the position of Alliance councillor Tom Ekin on the matter.

Mr Ekin responded saying that he does not mind the Irish language, although as he does not speak it, he appreciates when people repeat what they have said in English so that he can understand it.

He blasted the proposal to apply for funding for an Irish language officer before the languages policy was in place as “ill thought out and not acceptable”.

Alliance group leader on the council Maire Hendron added: “it is all a waste of officer’s time until we have an agreed policy in place that we can all support.”

With the support of the Alliance Party, Mr Reynold’s proposal to stop the application was voted through.

Meanwhile a request by the Orange Order to use Ballysillan Playing Fields as a gathering point on July 12 is expected to be passed at the next meeting.

DUP councillor Gareth McKee said he was disappointed that it had been delayed for equality screening, but that the proposal had passed equality screening and that he expected it to be voted through at the next meeting at the start of July.

Alliance councillor Laura McNamee told the council that now she had more information about the event, she was happy to support it.

There was a small gathering of around 30 protesters in support of the Union flag outside City Hall on Monday evening.