Following the Irish Medium youth services protest at EA Headquarters last Tuesday (1-3-22), Education Authority Chairperson, Barry Mulholland, and its Director of Children and Young People Services, Una Turbitt, invited a delegation to a meeting to discuss the funding impasse. In attendance were representatives from Glór na Móna, including two youth club members. Also in attendance was Orliath Mhic Leannáin, Director of Irish Medium Regional Voluntary Youth Organisation, Fóram na nÓg, the representative body for the IM youth sector.
Speaking following the meeting, Glór na Móna Director, Feargal Mac Ionnrachtaigh stated:
‘We made a strong case for the retention of our youth services and the crucial importance of ensuring that 5 staff and 160 young people don’t find themselves out on the street from April 1. We asked for transitional funding support in the short term to ensure that we can stay open and also urged EA to return to the agreed Irish Medium funding specification for West Belfast which would enable us to find a long-term and sustainable means to support our Irish medium youth service into the future. EA responded positively to our proposals and have since been in touch to arrange a meeting on March 15, where we can hopefully find a concrete resolution to the current impasse.’
As one of the young people in attendance at the meeting, 16-year-old Katie Irvine stated:
‘I spoke about how Glór na Móna is really a second home to me. I’ve been attending since I was an 8-year-old and now volunteer in the junior club and have begun training as a youth worker. It breaks my heart to think that this second home and all the opportunities is has given me could be taken away from my community. I pleaded for EA to see sense and provide us with the funding we need to stay open and grow in the future and also to find a long-term solution so that we are not placed in this scenario again.
Director Fóram na nÓg, Orliath Mhic Leannáin also commented:
‘Fóram na nÓg attended the meeting and outlined how the potential losses to our largest unit, Glór na Móna, will also be experienced by other units in local communities across the north. We argued that the removal of Irish Medium Scheme funding, without the provision of viable and adequate alternative arrangements to cover staff costs, means that all 24 of our groups will be unable to open their doors. It will also amount to a loss of recognition and status regarding the unique nature of immersive Irish Medium youth work. In our ongoing representative work and lobbying work with EA, we have raised this danger repeatedly and will continue to do so. We will attend the upcoming meeting with EA and wish to continue to work in partnership to find a long-term solution that ensures the continuing growth of our developing sector.’