Northern Ireland news

High Street voucher scheme Irish language concerns

Sinn Féin councillor Barry McElduff
Connla Young

Concerns have been raised after it emerged that people who use the Irish language version of their names have faced difficulties accessing the high street voucher scheme.

The deadline for using the £100 Spend Local cards was extended last week after it emerged that thousands of people are still waiting to receive them.

It has now emerged that people who use the Irish version of their Christian name have also encountered problems accessing the scheme.

Earlier this week Fermanagh and Omagh Sinn Féin councillor Barry McElduff wrote to the Department for Economy to highlight his concerns.

Mr McElduff last night said the experience of people applying for the voucher and being forced to provide personal details for verification has been "cumbersome and demanding".

He also said that to date some people, including the elderly, have missed out on applying.

Mr McElduff added that a particular problem arises with people whose names are registered in English on their birth certificates and driving licences, but who use the Irish version day-to-day.

Common examples include using the name Sean instead of John and Cathal in place of Charles.

"There is another particular problem with regard to the verification process and which impacts on people who have used the Irish version of their names throughout their lives, including for their bank accounts, but whose name appears in English language format on their birth certificates and subsequently their driving licences," Mr McElduff said.

"This is really impractical for our society, our particular culture and circumstances.

"This is a huge problem facing many local people.

"It's not about people setting out to be contrary, Gaelic names are in common usage."

Mr McElduff said he has urged economy minister Gordon Lyons and his department to "introduce greater flexibility and common sense to this scheme".

"It also includes acceptance of Gaelic names being used even when at variance from their birth certificate records," he said.

"This is a life-long reality for many local people.

"It is part and parcel of our cultural identity in this society."

A spokesman for the department said it is "applying maximum flexibility on the information that can be provided to confirm an applicant is eligible for a Spend Local card.

"Where there is a genuine attempt to provide information, there is a clear link between the application and the documents provided and a reasonable level of confidence that the person is eligible, they should be verified.”

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