Councillors hit out at decision not to participate in Irish Language Week

Sinn Fein councillor Patrice Hardy
Sinn Fein councillor Patrice Hardy

Mid and East Antrim Borough Council has been accused of being “anti-Irish to the core” and failing to “represent everyone in the borough”.

Councillor Patrice Hardy made the comments after a move to have the local authority participate in Irish Language Week was rejected following a vote at Monday night’s monthly meeting of council.

SDLP Councillor Declan O'Loan.

SDLP Councillor Declan O'Loan.

The Sinn Fein rep said that at the meeting, council rejected funding 25% towards holding a small event to mark Irish Language Week which Chonradh na Gaeilge are assisting with.

“Since the formation of council four years ago they have only spent £335 on Irish Culture - and that was to pay for a finger buffet to feed members at one event,” Cllr. Hardy said.

She added: “Mid & East Antrim Council is continually presenting itself as anti-Irish to the core. It does not represent everyone in the borough, failing many of its citizens.

“Thousands of pounds is spent every year on armed forces, the monarchy and Ulster Scots. Unionists are entitled to remember their dead and celebrate their culture - we have no problem with this. However this is never reciprocated.”

Her comments were echoed by SDLP Councillor Declan O’Loan, who said the proposed event would have focused on local contributions to the Irish language, and would have included music from a local Comhaltas group.

“The TUV proposed that Conradh na Gaeilge, who had written to the council about Irish Language Week, instead be invited to apply to the council’s grant scheme if they wanted to run an event,” Cllr. O’Loan said.

He added: “The DUP supported this proposal which won by 20 votes to 14. SDLP, Sinn Fein, Ulster Unionists, and Alliance voted against this proposal.

“This was a further one-sided decision by Mid and East Antrim Council.

“That the DUP could vote this way at this critical moment in the Stormont talks, when a key issue for nationalists is whether they actually have any respect for Irish culture, language and history, is shocking.

“This result may well be a significant factor in how the talks proceed.”

A spokesperson for Mid and East Antrim Borough Council said: “Last night (Monday) it was noted that Council had received correspondence from Conradh na Gaeilge regarding Irish Language Week, and it was agreed by Elected Members to signpost the group to Council’s grants scheme.

“Council promotes and delivers grant funding for a wide range of community initiatives and projects.

“The Mayor is committed to hosting an event to mark Irish Language Week in Mid and East Antrim, similar to last year’s event.