Northern Ireland news

Irish language group Pobal closes after funding cuts

Janet Muller, chief executive of Pobal, pictured during a protest over Stormont's failure to introduce an Irish language strategy. Picture by Niall Carson/PA Wire
Mairead Holland

IRISH language group Pobal is to close at the end of the month due to lack of funding.

The Belfast-based organisation was formed 20 years ago and has been at the forefront of campaigning for an Irish Language Act.

In a statement, chief executive Janet Muller said it had been a "difficult decision" but that staffing had been reduced from six full-time workers to one part-time.

She said the decision to close had been taken "exactly five years after Foras na Gaeilge's decision, under direction from government ministers at Stormont and Leinster House, to end funding to all the organisations based in the six counties...in favour of six Dublin-centric organisations".

Ms Muller added that since then Pobal had continued its programme using a small grant from Belfast City Council and drawing on reserves to cover other costs.

"We have maintained a high profile, particularly in relation to the Irish language act, campaign which we initiated and have spearheaded since 2004," she said.

"We have also carried out ground-breaking research projects, reported to the Council of Europe, influencing the implementation of international instruments such as the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages and the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, and continued to advise and support the Irish speaking community according to their needs and aspirations.

"We should like to thank all those who have supported us over the last 20 years and we send best wishes for the future to all our members."

It is hoped that the group's websites will remain operational until March 2020 for downloading of information only.

Irish language activists have stepped up their campaign in recent times calling for the implementation of an Irish language strategy. Picture by Hugh Russell.

Meanwhile, Belfast-based group Place, which designs and delivers architecture-related projects for the community, has spoken of its "disappointment and shock" that the Arts Council of NI is to discontinue funding.

Place said it was notified "without warning" of the decision on Wednesday and given three months' notice, putting it "at immediate risk of closure".

The group, which has three employees and a number of freelance staff and volunteers, is calling for support from anyone who has benefitted from its programmes.

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