My gut reaction on reading this article was “Oh the Independent is so biased about the Irish Language!” As I thought about it further I decided that I think it is good that somebody is questioning how Foras na Gaeilge distribute their funds. I presume the reporter has evidence to back up such comments as “Foras na Gaeilge has a budget of around €15m of Irish taxpayers’ money, which it disburses to Irish language groups mainly in the North, several of which have Sinn Fein associations and pay salaries to ex-IRA prisoners.” and “Foras disburses around €20m a year to groups some of which are Sinn Fein fronts.” In relation to the second statement, personally I wouldn’t make it unless I was absolutely positive it was true. In relation to the first statement it was my understanding that the majority of the EUR15m that comes from the Irish Government goes to initiatives to promote the Irish Language in the Republic and generally outside Gaeltacht regions. Proportionately maybe more of it goes to North but it is important to be clear about this: otherwise it is irresponsible and misleading. There are also reasons for the disproportionate spend in the North which I would hope are beyond the political leanings of the Board members.
Statements like “Last month, Mac Cormaic was appointed deputy chariman of the board — although at the first meeting of the board last Friday some members expressed a view privately that no such position as “deputy chairman” existed.” would lead one to think that the Board of Foras na Gaeilge is a little leaky, a state that can only engender ridicule and mistrust. Coupled with the lack of transparency in relation to their funding decisions these kind of articles are inevitable. I’m only sorry we don’t see more of them. I do think it is important that someone question the gross lack of transparency in Foras na Gaeilge’s funding decisions: how they score applications, who evaluates them, why successful applications succeed and why others don’t. I think applicants should declare any relations to the funders, professional and personal. All of this information should be available to any citizen on any part of the island. As long as this kind of information goes unrecorded and unreported we will continue to see articles such as this one which ultimately undermines any good work that Foras na Gaeilge might be doing in community building and language promotion.