Northern Ireland news

Givan's department confirms reinstatement of Líofa funds

Paul Givan's department confirmed that he plans to reinstate the Líofa bursary funding. Picture by Mal McCann

THE Department for Communities has confirmed plans to re-instate bursaries for Irish language students.

The official confirmation came in a one-line statement 36 hours after minister Paul Givan tweeted that he had found the necessary funds.

The DUP politician sparked widespread anger when he pulled the plug on the £50,000 Líofa bursary scheme in an email just two days before Christmas.

It provides funds to send around 100 disadvantaged children every year to the Donegal Gaeltacht.

Finance minister Máirtín Ó Muilleoir described his executive colleague's move as the "straw that broke the camel's back" after Martin McGuinness resigned as deputy first minister earlier this week.

In his tweet on Thursday morning, Mr Givan insisted his initial decision to withdraw funding was not political.

He has also accused Sinn Féin of damaging Irish by using it as a "cultural weapon" and said the fact his department directs £2.7m to the language "nails the myth" he is against it.

However, Sinn Féin senator Niall Ó Donnghaile claimed the DUP minister has "abused his ministerial position".

"While I am glad that DUP communities minister Paul Givan has reversed his shameful decision to remove funding from the Líofa bursaries scheme, the whole episode has highlighted the DUP's attitude to the Irish language," the former Belfast mayor said.

"The DUP minister initially claimed his decision to cut the funding was not political, then, after his climb-down, made it clear that restoring the funding was a political decision, taken for petty electoral reasons.

"People should be able to have confidence that ministers will act in the best interests of everyone, not out of party political motivations."

SDLP MLA Pasty McGlone gave a cautious welcome to the department's confirmation that the bursary would be reinstated.

"Many in the Irish language community see this as a face-saving exercise and little else," he said.

"The minister's change of direction is welcome but we'll see the colour of his money when a resource allocation for the programme is made."

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