Northern Ireland news

Irish language campaign logo goes viral on social media

Members of An Dream Dearg at a meeting this week in west Belfast's An Chultúrlann centre
Paul Ainsworth

A campaign by Irish language supporters fighting cuts to funding has gone viral online.

An Dream Dearg has encouraged Facebook and Twitter users to adopt their logo as a protest against the decision by DUP communities minister Paul Givan to scrap the Líofa scheme, which offers bursaries for people from low-income backgrounds to study in the Gaeltacht.

The pre-Christmas move was described by Sinn Féin as the “straw that broke the camel’s back” as Martin McGuinness announced his resignation as deputy first minister following the RHI scandal.

An Dream Dearg ('the red movement') is holding a protest in Belfast today at the Bedford Street headquarters of the Department for Communities.

The ‘Bursaries not Boilers’ demonstration – contrasting the £50,000 cost of the Liofa scheme with a potential £490m bill for the RHI fiasco – is the “first in a long line of protests” planned by the group, who also want to an Irish Language Act.

More than 12,000 social media accounts have already adopted the white circle on a red background as a profile image.

The majority of Sinn Féin MLAs, along with MPs and TDs including leader Gerry Adams, have switched to the image, while SDLP representatives and Alliance leader Naomi Long have also posted it.

Outside of politics, the logo has also been made the main image on social media profiles belonging to boxers Paddy Barnes and Michael Conlon.

An Dream Dearg organiser Pádraig Ó Tiarnaigh described it as an “open network” of activists from “all political backgrounds and none”.

He told the Irish News: “The logo that is being shared represents An Fáinne – a circular symbol traditionally worn as a pin to show you speak, or are learning Irish.

“In this case we used a red background to represent anger; anger at what has occurred in recent weeks in regards to funding cuts to Líofa, and also anger at the ongoing discrimination against Irish speakers here.

“We have been blown away at the number of people using the image, and it shows the level of anger out there against the ongoing regressive attitudes we have been seeing.

“This anger is shared among all traditions here – not just nationalists, as we are non-political."

Today’s protest has been backed by Sinn Féin, with senator Niall Ó Donnghaile saying Gaeilgeoirs were “tired of the DUP's complete lack of respect for our language”.

However, Paul Givan has said the fact his department is directing £2.7 million to Irish “nails the myth” he is against the language.

“When you use it as a cultural weapon, which is what Sinn Féin has done repeatedly, that’s what does the damage to the Irish language,” he said.

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