Belfast Telegraph

Equality probe into Irish language grants and community halls funding decisions

By Adrian Rutherford

Two controversial spending decisions by a Stormont department are to be investigated by a watchdog.

The Equality Commission is probing the Department for Communities over the Community Halls Pilot Programme and the Liofa Gaeltacht Bursary Scheme.

The £1.9m hall grant scheme had drawn criticism, with Sinn Fein claiming it "appeared to be directed to one side of the community".

In December around £50,000 in funding was withdrawn from the Liofa scheme, which offers Irish language scholarships to young people. The decision was later reversed.

At the time DUP MLA Paul Givan was Communities Minister.

The Equality Commission's investigation will consider if the department complied with its equality scheme commitments relating to screening and equality impact assessment.

The commission said: "The investigation is under paragraph 11 of Schedule 9 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998, which empowers the Equality Commission to conduct an investigation where it believes that a public authority may have failed to comply with its approved equality scheme."

Irish Language group Conradh na Gaeilge said it highlighted the need for rights-based legislative protection for the Irish language.

The Department for Communities said: "The department received notification on May 2 from the Equality Commission of its intention to conduct an investigation in relation to the Liofa Gaeltacht Bursary Scheme and the Community Halls Pilot Programme.

"It would inappropriate to make any further comment until the investigation is complete."

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