Ulster Unionist Social Development Spokesperson, Roy Beggs MLA, has questioned a proposed 48% increase in funding for Irish language groups at the same time other public bodies are having their funding cut. The East Antrim MLA was speaking after the Sinn Fein DCAL Minister Carál Ní Chuilín announced in the Assembly she was significantly increasing the number and size of grants within the new Irish Language Community Scheme.
Roy Beggs said:
“Most Departments and public bodies have been told they will be facing further spending cuts next year. In DSD alone core business areas such as housing, the Child Maintenance Allowance and Social Security Agency are all being asked to prepare for cuts of at least 5%, and maybe even up to 10%. This makes it all the more galling that the DCAL Minister announced the revised Irish Language Community Scheme with the number of grants rising from 19 to 26 and the maximum grant value rising from €37,000 to €40,000.
“With the Comprehensive Spending Review, and the tightening of the Block Grant, the Social Development Committee has been hearing about the potential reductions to key public services that assist individuals in need of support and wider disadvantaged communities. Great care must be taken to minimise the impact of cuts on vulnerable individuals.
“The new Department for Communities is being created and is proposed to encompass employment and social security, the Child Maintenance Service, housing, the existing Culture, Arts and Leisure responsibilities, community cohesion and regeneration, and the North South bodies. Such fundamental reform will be difficult enough, without having to deliver more with less.
“Given that the discussion on next year’s budget has just commenced I was shocked that the DCAL Minister, in advance of the budget outcomes, approved a massive 48% increase in the Irish Language Community Scheme, which will now run to over €1m a year.”