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Irish bursary axing criticised

THE Department for Communities announced on Friday night that it was withdrawing funding from a scheme which awarded bursaries which enabled lower income people to improve their Irish language skills with visits to the Gaeltacht.

There was instant condemnation of the move by the department headed by DUP minister Paul Givan with critics pointing out the "efficiency savings" move came after it was revealed that the same party had overseen the implementation of the Renewable Heating Incentive scheme which it is thought could cost the public purse anywhere between £400-£600million. It is estimated the cancelling of the bursary scheme will save something like £50,000.

It is debatable what efficiency is being saved by depriving up to 100 lower income individuals who are benefitting from such a relatively small amount, while public money is quite literally going up in smoke.

In October the same minister announced – at an Orange Hall – a £500,000 fund for "community halls".

The same department was also criticised for providing in July a £200,000 fund to provide musical instruments for marching bands.

Another £100,000 for the same scheme was announced later in the year.

These decisions led to criticism from nationalists that only one section of the community might benefit from this scheme.

To put it in context, a Special Advisor at Stormont can earn up to £90,000 and our Assembly has significantly more Spads than any of the other regional assemblies.

There was also anger that the announcement was made late on Friday, apparently without consultation and when most individuals and organisations had their minds set on Christmas, not an unexpected negative announcement like this.

Much has been said about the credibility of an institution which can preside over such costly ineptitude as the RHI scandal. Depriving a lower-income section of the community with this small amount of money will not help repair damage to that credibility.

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