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Donations flood in for Belfast Irish nursery targeted in ‘social media hate campaign’

Naiscoil na Seolta had planned to operate from Braniel Primary School but the idea was attacked on social media

More than £3,000 was donated to an Irish language nursery last night after it was revealed that a social media hate campaign had forced it to ditch plans to open in an east Belfast school.

Naiscoil na Seolta easily exceeded its £10,000 target in an online fundraising campaign after the story broke yesterday afternoon.

One of the 361 donors made an individual donation of £500.

Another donor Paul Brannigan wrote beside his uk.virginmoneygiving.com donation: “Hate should never be allowed to win.”

And on Twitter, Ash Stronge wrote: “Everytime I check that @NaiscoilSeolta fundraiser & see all the new donations, it makes me realise that maybe we aren’t as hopeless as it looked earlier.

“The way the whole (cross-)community has banded together to help that school be realised is inspiring.”

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Linda Ervine, Irish language development officer of Turas, the language organisation which has been running Irish classes for adults at the Skainos centre in east Belfast for a number of years, is among those behind Naiscoil na Seolta.

On Twitter, Ms Ervine wrote last night: “We’ve been overwhelmed by the messages of support we have received from the staff, governors and parents of @BranielPS and from the east Belfast community.”

Naiscoil na Seolta also tweeted that it had been “overwhelmed by the support shown to us”.

“We do however feel it is important to emphasise that this issue involved a small number of individuals and is no way reflective of the East Belfast community,” it added.

“People have reached out from all aspects of the community. Thank you all.”

The nursery was due to open to 16 children at Braniel Primary School in September, as the first Irish language school in the east of the city.

The pre-school would have been separate from Braniel PS but was to be housed in a classroom on the site.

But it said that “due to an ongoing social media hate campaign against some individuals and the integrated Naiscoil na Seolta, it is with great sadness that it is choosing to relocate to an alternative location”.

“A social media campaign was started and fuelled by those who are not connected to the school, nor are parents of our school and who are clearly not interested in facts and truth, who allowed disgusting comments to be posted that were littered with unfounded erroneous allegations about certain individuals and the Naiscoil.”

Braniel Primary principal Diane Dawson said: “I am saddened, I am sickened, I am angry, I am in despair about how we move Northern Ireland forward.

“What upsets me most is that my heart is for children. Why any child would be a threat on any school site is beyond me.”

She told the BBC: “My board of governors, my school community, my parents and my staff all welcomed and were excited to have the Naiscoil rent a premises on our school site.

“Those who have politicised it need to take a long, hard look at themselves.

“I am a unionist and not one word of the Irish language spoken undermines or weakens my unionism, and certainly not two-year-olds learning how to say colours on the Braniel school site.”

The nursery is now set to move to an alternative site in east Belfast.

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