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Líofa Gaeltacht bursary scheme will open next month

Former Sports Minister Carál Ní Chuilín pictured with GAA President Aogán Ó Fearghaíl, Armagh footballer Charlie Vernon and ex-champion boxer Bernard Dunne at the Lí­ofa launch in Croke Park in 2015

A Gaeltacht bursary scheme which was at the centre of a bitter political row between the DUP and Sinn Féin will open for fresh applications next month.

Former DUP minister Paul Givan provoked anger among Irish language campaigners when he scrapped the Líofa Gaeltacht bursary just days before Christmas last year.

The decision happened amid strained relations between the two parties over the botched Renewable Heat Incentive scheme which contributed to the collapse of power-sharing.

In a U-turn in January, the former communities minister later reinstated the scheme, saying he did not want Sinn Féin to use it as a "political weapon".

The Department for Communities announced yesterday that the 2018 scheme will open for applications from January 3.

The bursary, which includes accommodation and tuition in the Gaeltacht, is open until February 28.

Sinn Féin and the DUP remain at odds over Irish language provision, particularly the nationalist party's insistence on the introduction of a standalone act.

In April it emerged that Stormont officials had warned Mr Givan of the impact of shutting down the Líofa scheme ahead of his decision to close it.

Sinn Féin assembly Maírtín Ó Muilleoir welcomed the opening of next year's scheme.

"Hopefully today's announcement means that discrimination against Irish-speaking children will not be tolerated in the future," he said.

"The Irish language belongs to us all and it is time that an Irish Language Act was introduced so that Irish speakers and learners are afforded the same rights as citizens across these islands."

Application forms can be downloaded from www.liofa.eu or by contacting the scheme on 028 9051 5058.

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